WSJ Renewal | Texas Removes Houston Schools’ Leadership

WSJ Renewal Texas Removes Houston Schools’ Leadership bloombergsubscription

WSJ Renewal speaks about the tension between the district and state officials dating back to late 2019 when TEA raised concerns over a high school with persistent issues and misbehavior by some Houston school board members.

A lawsuit brought by the district halted TEA’s takeover plans at that time, but a ruling this year cleared the way for the action to move forward.

Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II said Wednesday it will be “education as usual” for students and families during the transition. Mr. House took on the superintendent job in 2021 knowing a takeover could happen.

“The intervention I am ordering is focused on ensuring the Houston ISD governing team is better supporting its students,” Mike Morath, the Texas commissioner of education, wrote in a letter to the district Wednesday.

In recent years, Houston has also struggled to provide timely services to students with disabilities.

“which harms their academic progress,” Mr. Morath said in the letter.

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Houston ISD, the largest district in Texas, has a B rating in a statewide accountability system. The state hasn’t cited any widespread problems in the district.

Many of the problems originally described in the 2019 takeover attempt have been improved or resolved, public records show. Several Houston school employees and the former school board president pleaded guilty or were indicted in a federal corruption probe into bribes exchanged for district contracts.

Much of the focus in 2019 was on Wheatley High School, one of Houston’s 274 campuses, which for several years received what the state described as unacceptable ratings.

Wheatley earned an acceptable rating in the 2021-2022 school year.

Also Mr. House has said that since he joined the district, 40 of 50 district schools rated by the state as a D or F improved and have been removed from the list of underperforming schools.

“Today’s announcement does not discount the gains we have made districtwide,” Mr. House said.

The new school district leaders won’t be named before June, Mr. Morath said to WSJ Renewal.

A group of state politicians gathered Wednesday to speak in opposition to the takeover, saying students were being caught in the crosshairs of partisan politics.

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Ron Reynolds, a Democratic state representative and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said he viewed it as a power grab and attempt to push school vouchers and charter schools.

“Many Black and brown communities will really suffer because of this,” he said to WSJ Renewal.

Houston’s students are economically disadvantaged. Its student population is 62% Hispanic, 22% Black, about 4% Asian, and just under 10% white.

As can be seen, some research has cast doubt on the value of states running public school districts. State takeovers from 2011 to 2016 generated no academic benefit on average, according to one study from researchers at Brown University and the University of Virginia, among the nation’s 78 largest urban school districts, Houston joins Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island in being under state control, according to the Council of the Great City Schools. Last year, the mayor of Boston reached an agreement with the Massachusetts education department to avert a state takeover of Boston Public Schools.

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