40% of Houston schools are failing, with D or F rankings

(The Center Square) – Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in Texas, has a 40% failure rate, with 111 of its schools with D or F ratings, its new superintendent…

(The Center Square) – Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in Texas, has a 40% failure rate, with 111 of its schools with D or F ratings, its new superintendent said.

HISD serves over 190,000 students at 274 campuses. The majority of students are overwhelmingly Black, followed by Hispanic, according to district data.

At a news conference, HISD Superintendent Mike Miles said his team performed an analysis of raw school data for the 2022-2023 school year. Miles announced an unofficial Assessment Accountability and Compliance rating based on new methodology proposed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

“This is not a big surprise, but the numbers are much higher than they were in the past,” Miles said. “Based on the raw data, we calculate that HISD has 52 F-rated campuses and 59 D-rated campuses.” The district also has 64 C-rated campuses, 58 B-rated, and 35 A-rated, according to his staff’s analysis.

“We have a lot of work to do, is the main message,” he said. “We have a lot of schools that are struggling. We went into this year knowing we would have a lot of work to do especially around the quality of instruction, which is the leading indicator of academic achievement, and hence, accountability.”

The data supports “the need for full-scale, systemic reform, something different,” he said. “We can’t continue to do the things we’ve always done. This confirms the distance we have to travel and the need for doing bold, innovative transformation.”

The results are “unofficial until TEA, if ever, are able to report it, but they’re accurately based on the raw data, which we have,” he added.

The Texas Education Association is currently embroiled in a lawsuit after it announced earlier this year that it was changing the methodology used to assess school district accountability ratings. Over 200 school districts expressed opposition, including HISD. They wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott, TEA and others that the change would “have drastic impacts to school ratings across Texas.”

Several school districts sued to stop the assessment change from going into effect. In October, a Travis County District judge granted a temporary injunction and prohibited the TEA “from assigning A-F performance ratings for the 2022-23 school year until this Court issues a final judgment.” A trial is scheduled for Feb. 12 in the case.

With TEA’s hands tied, Miles’ team assessed HISD’s A-F performance and accountability ratings themselves based on HISD data. Earlier this year, he estimated failing schools would be around 80, he said, but after the assessment, they totaled 111.

Miles was appointed HISD superintendent by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath after the TEA took over HISD in March. The TEA first tried to take it over in 2019 after it assessed that nearly 50 schools had D or F ratings and HISD board of trustee members had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and laws relating to contracting.

As failing grades continued to be reported, HISD was also plagued with corruption charges. In 2020, the FBI raided HISD’s administrative building and its former COO’s home. In 2021, the former COO was indicted and five HISD officials, including a former board of education president, pleaded guilty in an historic corruption case that cost taxpayers $6 million.

HISD sued to fight the state takeover, a lengthy court battle ensued, and the Texas Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the TEA in March.

In July, Miles announced he was implementing a New Education System plan to improve educational outcomes. This included eliminating at least 500 administrative positions and requiring teachers at 29 schools to reapply for their jobs within the NES.

Of the 111 schools that received D and F ratings, more than half are in the NES.

One primary focus of NES schools, Chief Academic Officer Kristen Hole said at the news conference, was to provide access to high-quality curriculum and “access to staffing, professional development, and on-the-job coaching for our teachers and our administrators. Those two things together really get at the heart of what a student is doing every day in the classroom.”

“The message we want to communicate is the same,” she said. “We need to focus on high-quality instruction in every classroom, in every campus. That’s what our students need and that’s what our students deserve.”

Miles said he plans to release the raw data to HISD schools in January.