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Plenty of Houston-Area Schools are Among Texas's Worst, According to TEA List

Well, the Texas Education Agency's annual list of worst-performing schools is out, and unfortunately, the results for Houston area school districts are less than stellar.

This year, the state added about 400 Texas schools to the TEA's so-called Public Education Grant list. That means the number of under-performing Texas schools shot up from 892 last year to 1,199 this year. The number of schools on the TEA's list stood at 456 in 2012.

Currently, there are 86 Houston ISD campuses on the TEA's worst-schools list, about 30 percent of the schools in the district.

Students who are zoned to schools on the list are allowed under state policy to try and transfer to another school or district. But that's an option few in HISD or other under-performing districts are able to take advantage of, since overcrowding and transportation -- which is not provided under the law, should a student want to transfer -- can present problems.

Schools like the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center, Yates and Wheatley were on the TEA's list this year. HISD officials say the district has made an effort to turn around schools on the state's list with its controversial Apollo 20 pilot project which began in 2010 and ended in spring 2013 although aspects of that program are continuing at those schools and others with longer school days at some and continued math tutoring. Still, more than half of the district's Apollo schools were on this year's worst-schools list.

Thirteen of the district's original 20 Apollo schools made the state's list. But HISD superintendent Terry Grier told the Chron there's a silver lining to the TEA's list: Few of the Apollo schools were on the list because of poor math scores, proof, Grier insisted, that the program's small-group math tutoring has indeed been effective.

See also: Rewriting History: Apollo 20's Legacy as it is Now, Was Once and What it was Supposed to Be

Grier also spoke to the Chron about his concerns with "stagnant reading performance" across the district, citing HISD's launching of a new literacy program that focuses on students reading at the proper difficulty level for their skills as an effort to close the gap.

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But when it comes to that list of iffy Texas schools, locally, HISD is not alone. One of the worst-ranking local districts is Galveston ISD, which ended up with about half of its campuses on the TEA's list.

Spring Branch also has five schools on the list; Aldine has 24 schools on the list -- including two of the five ninth grade centers in the district -- and Alief has seven schools on the list. Pasadena ISD has eight on the list; Fort Bend ISD has three; Spring ISD has seven; and Cy-Fair has one.

But luckily, while the list certainly does single out areas for improvement, it isn't completely limited to schools that are the worst of the worst. Along with the TEA's annual accountability ratings, schools are in danger of earning a spot should they be tagged as "improvement required" in 2014 or 2015, or if their standardized test scores are low.

So while things could definitely use some improvement, perhaps it's not all bad, right? And you could just head out to Katy ISD, which -- unlike HISD -- had a big fat zero for schools put on the worst list this year.

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