Sometimes, Christmas comes early. That appears to be the case for the Houston Independent School District which, for the second time was awarded the Board Prize for Urban Education. The award is in recognition of the district's overall performance and reduction of achievement gaps among poor and minority students. And it's not just a leg lamp we're talking about, the prize comes with $550,000 in college scholarships for graduating seniors.
"Change is tough. Improvement is hard," said HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier according to a release. "If we have a singular purpose with young people as our north star, anything is possible."
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The prize is awarded each year to one of the nation's 75 largest school districts. The three other finalists, none of which included any other Texas districts, were the Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County, California, Cumberland County Schools, North Carolina and the San Diego Unified School District.
According to a release, HISD topped the list because:
HISD has the highest SAT participation rate among other urban districts for all students and specifically Hispanic and African-American students. Last year, 87 percent of Houston's students participated in the SAT, and 84 percent of Hispanic and 80 percent of African-American students took the exam. Even with a poverty rate 60 percent higher than the state average, HISD's SAT participation rate is about two-thirds higher than the state's average participation rate.
The increases in participation in Advanced Placement exams for all students and specifically for Hispanic students were the highest among other urban districts. Specifically, between 2009 and 2012, the average annual increase in the AP participation rate by Houston's Hispanic students was five times greater than the average among the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts.
HISD's overall graduation rate improved twice as fast as other urban districts around the country. HISD's graduation rate, as shown by the average of three nationally recognized graduate rate estimation methods, increased 12 percentage points between 2006 and 2009, compared to an average 6 percent increase for the 75 Broad Prize-eligible districts over the same period.
Houston narrowed low-income and Hispanic student achievement gaps. In recent years, HISD narrowed the achievement gap between low-income students and the state's non-low-income students and between HISD's Hispanic students and the state's white students in elementary, middle and high school reading and math.
It's not every day our school system has something to cheer about. It's no leg lamp, but it is indeed a major award.