UPDATED: More Than 4,000 Students Leave the Tougher Apollo 20 Schools

What's not to like about a longer school year, longer school day, more rigor in the classroom and having your parents more involved in your education?

Well, it may be coincidence or it may not be everyone's idea of heaven because more than 4,000 students have transferred out of the nine schools that are the first phase of the Apollo 20 project in the Houston ISD since the start of the year.

At the same time, 648 students from other schools transferred in to one of the Apollo 20 schools which set tougher schedules in an attempt to raise student standardized test scores and the education level at these traditionally low-performing schools. So that's basically, six times as many kids left as came in.

Hair Balls obtained the information through a Texas Open Records Act request. The nine Apollo 20 schools are Attucks, Dowling, Fondren, Key and Ryan middle schools and Kashmere, Jones, Lee and Sharpstown high schools and the data was pulled on September 10 by HISD personnel.

These schools were selected for the program after years of low performance as judged by the Texas Education Agency. The idea, shepherded by Superintendent Terry Grier, is that by emulating many of the tactics employed by schools like KIPP and Yes Academy, with longer hours and more individualized attention, the schools will be able to better educate these children.

Of the 4,212 students who opted out of the Apollo 20 high and middle schools: 1,354 left Lee, 1,292 left Sharpstown, 885 left Jones and 681 left Kashmere. At the middle school level: 731 left Dowling, 534 left Fondren, 448 left Attucks, 363 left Ryan and 324 left Key.

And where did they go?

Well they went all over the district, but the biggest high school influx was handled at Westside High with 502, Lamar High with 496, the Barbara Jordan High School for Careers at 414, The International School at Sharpstown with 317, Bellaire with 219 and Milby with 218.

In terms of middle schools, the influx leaders were Johnston with 356, Pershing with 221, Rice with 162, Welch with 151, Gregory-Lincoln with 113 and Pin Oak with 108.

Some of the transfers in to the Apollo schools were from other Apollo schools such as 63 students who transferred from Sharpstown to Lee balanced by 62 who went from Lee to Sharpstown.

Otherwise, the biggest number of transfers included Kashmere getting 33 students from Wheatley and 40 from "out of district," Jones getting 33 from Sterling and Sharpstown getting 57 students from Westbury.

While most people laud the idea of the Apollo 20 program, questions have been raised about what happens to the children who transfer to other schools. The ones who aren't doing well in school won't be the beneficiaries of the extra time, money and attention students at the Apollo schools are getting. The extra money stays with the schools; it does not follow the students.

And it remains to be seen how the receiving schools are going to handle their extra students.

Update: HISD spokesman Norm Uhl just called us to point out that in a school district of choice such as Houston's, there are a lot of student transfers every year. He pointed out that although 1,200 some odd kids transferring out of Sharpstown sounds like a lot, that last year another 1,200 transferred out -- and that was long before Apollo 20 began.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing