Get the facts! HISD wants the community to have accurate, up-to-date information about its programs and operations. This page is dedicated to clarifying misinformation or rumors that are circulating in the district and community. Send comments or questions to info@houstonisd.org.


November 19, 2012

NEW!

MYTH: Student academic performance will not be used to evaluate HISD teachers during the 2012-2013 school year.

FACT:  Student academic performance will be one of the factors included in the annual appraisals of at least 3,500 HISD teachers during the 2012-2013 school year. These are teachers in core subject areas such as math, science, social studies, and English language arts. HISD’s goal is to include two measures of student academic performance as a component of the appraisal and development system for all 13,000 teachers. The district will expand the assignment of teacher ratings for student performance as more consistent and rigorous measures are identified and as the technology systems so support the appraisal system are developed. You can read more about HISD’s teacher appraisal and development system here: http://hisdeffectiveteachers.org/key-strategies/appraisal-and-development/.


December 02, 2011

The Truth About the District’s Graduation Rate

MYTH: The advocacy group Children at Risk says HISD’s six-year graduation rate is 60.2 percent. This means the official HISD four-year graduation rate of 74.3 percent reported by the Texas Education Agency must be wrong.

FACT: Children at Risk uses a different methodology for calculating graduation rates. That formula does not account for students who leave Texas, return to their home countries, enroll in private school, or choose homeschooling. Those students are instead counted as “dropouts.”

HISD’s 74.3 percent graduation rate is based on the formula adopted by the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), the primary federal entity charged with collecting and analyzing data related to education.  It is the official methodology that the Texas Education Agency requires all school districts to use. This data shows HISD’s high school graduation rate has never been higher, and this is true for students in every racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic group.

The Houston Independent School District has much respect for Children at Risk’s advocacy work on behalf of our city’s most vulnerable children. The organization’s efforts to draw attention to child nutrition issues, child sex trafficking, and the critical need for all of our children to have access to great schools is invaluable.

HISD also agrees with Children at Risk that schools in Houston and throughout Texas face a serious dropout crisis. This is why HISD is addressing the problem with an array of interventions and strategies that target specific risk factors at the student, family, school, and community levels. HISD believes that effective principals and teachers, rigorous standards, and strategic support systems are the keys to student success.

HISD is far from solving the dropout problem, but the most inclusive data tells us the district is making real progress.

In summary, HISD is keeping its promise to make restoring cuts to classroom funding its top budget priority.

Read on for a more detailed description of how high school graduation rates are calculated.

The four-year high school completion status, including the four-year graduation rates, for all HISD high schools are calculated using a methodology adopted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The NCES is the primary federal entity charged with collecting and analyzing data related to education. NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. Data collected by the NCES is relied upon by the United States Congress, state governments throughout the country, and researchers at the nation’s most prestigious universities. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) mandated that all school districts begin using the NCES’s widely accepted and rigorous completion status calculation methodology beginning in the 2005-2006 school year.

The official state-produced graduation rate represents the percentage of students who finished high school within the standard four years.

For this calculation, some students, based on ‘leaver codes’, are not included if they leave the public school system.  Students removed from the calculation are those who have left the public school system to enroll elsewhere: those who leave to attend private school, a school outside Texas, or to be homeschooled.  In addition, students who leave to return to their home country, who are expelled, or die are removed.  In addition to leavers, TEA also removes students from the calculations for whom TEA cannot find records in their system.  Since TEA is unable to tell how many underreported students are dropouts, TEA reports them separately from graduation, completion or dropout rates. For context, in 2009-2010, HISD only had 122 underreported students in grades 7-12 which represents 0.15 percent of the grades 7-12 enrollment for the district.

HISD’s most recent graduation rate using the NCES methodology is 74.3 percent, which is the highest rate HISD has ever recorded. In addition, the current NCES graduation rates for all HISD students, regardless of racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group, are the highest since Texas adopted this more stringent completion status calculation method.

By contrast, the Houston-based advocacy group Children at Risk uses its own method for calculating a school’s graduation rate. It is a unique method that is not used by any governmental entity in America for reporting purposes.

Their methodology tracks first-time freshmen (those enrolled in ninth grade for the first time) to determine whether the cohort of students graduated from any Texas public school within six years. This measure relies on the state’s ability to track individual students anywhere in the Texas public school system. This is a simple formula that takes the number of students who went on to graduate from any public high school in Texas divided by the total number of first-time freshmen minus students who died before graduating from high school. By using this simple formula, Children at Risk’s methodology labels students who returned to their home country, moved to another state, enrolled in private school, or left high school to be homeschooled, as dropouts.

Regardless of which graduation rate methodology is used, everyone agrees that too few students in HISD and in other school districts across Texas are earning diplomas. There is a dropout crisis in Houston, in Texas, and across the nation.

HISD is committed to aggressively addressing the challenge of school dropouts by utilizing an array of interventions and strategies that target specific risk factors at the student, family, school, and community levels. In recognition of the fact that students drop out of school for multiple reasons and often have multiple and overlapping risk factors, HISD staff draw from a wide menu of interventions and actions to target specific risk factors in a timely fashion, and at appropriate “dosage” levels. Using a modified public health approach to the problem, HISD engages in a variety of community partners to coordinate a unified and strategic response. Specific activities and actions include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Collaborative Partnerships

a. HISD partners with community organizations to bring resources and public awareness to bear on the issue of dropout prevention.

b. Grads within Reach is a highly visible example of district-community partnership to reach out to dropouts and those at risk of dropping out. Each fall HISD staff and volunteers personally visit the homes of students who did not return to school, offering them resources that will help them transition back to school.

c. HISD’s involvement with the America’s Promise Alliance is another prominent collaboration that has brought the district formal recognition as a 100 Best Communities for Children city for four years in a row.

d. Additional partnerships with organizations such as the Intercultural Development and Research Association (IDRA), the United Way of Houston, Child Protective Services, the Department of Family Protective Services, Harris County and municipal courts and others each serve to target specific student needs and risk factors.

2. Personnel

a. The position of Director of Dropout Prevention was created and filled in January of 2011, brining leadership and strategic focus to HISD dropout prevention efforts.

b. The Director is developing targeted training and professional development sessions to educate district staff on effective, research-based dropout prevention strategies. Training will be made available to key constituencies such as student caseworkers, Grad Lab Coaches, social workers, campus administrators, and teachers.

3. Data Analysis and Monitoring

a.The Director and staff regularly review campus and district indicators related to the dropout and graduation rates, identifying trends and challenges, and using data to drive decision-making and planning.

b. A Campus Consultation Team, comprised of the Director, the Manager of Student Engagement, a student caseworker, and campus staff are available to  conduct (on request) a comprehensive review and needs assessment of campus actions, develop a report with specific recommendations, and then support the campus in implementing recommended strategies and actions. This process has been taking place on multiple campuses and is an on-going project of the Departments of Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement.

4. Early Warning

a. A new report has been developed within the Chancery computer system to facilitate the early identification of students who are off-track for on-time graduation. The Dropout Prevention Early Warning (DPEW) report allows administrators to identify and sort students based on predictive risk factors such as grades, attendance, and behavioral problems that result in out-of-class placement.

b. Based on data in the DPEW report and other sources of information, campus staff are being trained (via High School Office DRIP meetings and campus meetings) and directed to intervene as early as possible at the first signs of a student being off-track. This means intervening rapidly with any student who is absent more than 10% during the first 20 days of school, who exhibits low or failing grades at the first progress reporting period, and/or who are placed in in-school suspension or suspended from school.

5. Targeted Programs

  • 40 Developmental Assets
  • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • City of Houston Municipal Court Truancy Prevention Program
  • Coca Cola Valued Youth Program
  • Communities In Schools
  • Harris County Absent Student Assistance Program
  • Multi-Age Looping Pilot
  • Project GRAD
  • Upward Bound
  • Grads Within Reach
  • AIM Truancy Solutions

6. Alternative and Charter Schools

a. The Director and staff are collaborating with the Alternative and Charter School Improvement Officers (SIO) to identify areas of support and to raise internal and public awareness of the role and offerings of HISD charter schools and alternative schools of choice.

7. APEX/Virtual School

a. The Director collaborates with the Manager of Digital Curriculum to expand access to APEX and other online curriculum delivery systems.

b. Access to APEX is being expanded to include middle schools. APEX middle school coursework includes remedial support for the core academic classes, as well as opportunities to accelerate and earn high school credit.

c. The Director has collaborated with staff at Furr High School, the North Shore Community Fellowship of Faith Church, and district staff to open a “homework help” lab in the church. This lab is staffed by HISD tutors on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and students have access to the APEX digital curriculum during these times in addition to having tutors available for direct assistance.


August 8, 2011

Keeping Promises Regarding Per-Student Funding

MYTH: When the HISD Board of Education voted in March to reduce per-student funding that schools receive by $275 in anticipation of state budget cuts, the district promised than any extra money could be used to rehire teachers who were laid off. Now, HISD is breaking that promise.

FACT: HISD funds schools based on enrollment, giving each campus a certain amount of money per student, called the per-unit allocation, or PUA. The PUA covers most expenses on every HISD campus, including salaries, instructional materials, computer equipment, staff training, and other items.

When the Board of Education approved the reduction in PUA, it was not yet clear how much the Texas Legislature would cut public education funding. The Board and the Superintendent agreed at the time that restoring some of the funds cut from the PUA would be the first priority, if the state’s two-year budget cuts ended up being less than anticipated. When the state finally adopted a two-year budget , the cut to HISD was $77.4 million in 2011–2012 and $122.8 million in 2012–2013.

The budget adopted by the HISD Board of Education for 2011–2012 reduces spending by nearly $100 million. This cut is roughly $18.5 million more than was necessary to offset the decline in state spending for the upcoming school year. But HISD anticipates that the additional cut in state funding in 2012-2013, coupled with increasing fixed costs such as gasoline, employee healthcare, and utilities, will require an additional $41 million cut in 2012–2013.

It is important to note that HISD has already rehired 312 of the 724 teachers who were laid off for budgetary reasons last spring. These rehires replaced teachers who voluntarily left the district for reasons such as retirement.

Under the proposal that the Board of Education will consider at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 11, principals would have the ability to spend the additional money to hire teachers. However, principals must make their spending decisions knowing that there is a strong possibility that they will have less money for salaries in 2012–2013 because of the additional state budget cuts taking effect that year. Under the proposal, principals could also spend the one-time additional money on technology, instructional materials, tutors, staff training, or anything else their students need.

In summary, HISD is keeping its promise to make restoring cuts to classroom funding its top budget priority.


May 10, 2011

Teacher Layoffs

MYTH: Because HISD is seeking to fill some teaching job vacancies, that must mean HISD mistakenly laid off too many teachers in response to the projected state funding cuts.

FACT: HISD is unlike most other school districts in that campus principals make their own staffing decisions. Because of an anticipated loss of $160 million in annual state funding, principals are receiving $275 per student less in 2011-2012 than they received this school year. As a result, the principals of HISD’s 300 schools notified more than 700 teachers earlier this spring that their positions were being eliminated because the principals no longer had enough funding to pay their salaries. At the same time, some principals have teaching vacancies to fill, particularly in hard-to-staff positions such as secondary math and science, and bilingual teaching jobs. Many of these vacancies were created because of voluntary resignations and retirements, not layoffs. HISD continues to receive notices from teachers who plan to resign or retire, even though the district has finished with layoffs.

Principals who have vacancies for 2011-2012 have been asked to give first consideration to teachers who were laid off as part of the budget cuts. On April 30, HISD conducted a job fair seeking to match teachers who were laid off with principals who have job openings. Throughout the spring, HISD has been providing career guidance through workshops for displaced teachers. Some of those teachers will likely be rehired to work in other schools. Many will not, particularly if they are not certified to teach in the areas where there is the most need. Ultimately, these rehiring decisions are being made by principals because HISD central administration does not tell principals which teachers to hire.


March 11, 2011

HISD Budget Crisis

MYTH: HISD employs far more administrators than teachers.

FACT: 63.2 percent of HISD's workforce is made up of people who work directly with students in schools. These individuals include teachers, teacher's aides, principals, assistant principals, special education service providers, psychologists, social workers, librarians, nurses, and counselors.

An additional 36.5 percent of the total employee base is made up of auxiliary staff — people who support students in other important ways: custodians who clean schools, maintenance workers who make sure buildings are in good condition, police officers who protect students and staff, transportation employees who make sure children get to school safely and on time. This group also includes school secretaries, campus clerks, non-instructional aides, accountants, as well as employees in the purchasing, technology, academic services and payroll departments. Central administrators make up less than 0.4 percent of the HISD workforce.

Texas school finance experts Moak, Casey & Associates conducted a similar statewide review of school district personnel. The group says, "Though Texas employs a large number of staff that are not classified as classroom teachers, these individuals are largely not administrative staff. Most are providing services to students and are not easily expendable, particularly if current service levels are to be maintained and compliance with federal and state requirements is to be met."

MYTH: By eliminating HISD's First Class Breakfast program, the district could use the money it saves to offset the anticipated $171 million shortfall.

FACT: HISD's First Class Breakfast Program is paid for with federal reimbursement funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, which sponsors and manages the Breakfast in the Classroom program. At the end of every month, HISD Food Services submits to the U.S.D.A. the actual number of breakfasts served to students. The U.S.D.A. then deposits a certain dollar amount per breakfast into the HISD Food Services Enterprise Fund. By federal law, these funds and any funds generated by a school food services department cannot be moved into a school district's general operating fund.

MYTH: HISD is rushing the district's budget without knowing what the Legislature is going to do and should wait until the state has approved its own budget.

FACT: By state law, HISD must adopt a budget for 2011-2012 no later than June 30, 2011. The district must meet this deadline even if the Legislature has not passed an appropriations bill by then. Some predict that the Legislature may not adopt a budget until late spring/early summer and may even have to enter a special session. Regardless, HISD must continue with its review and planning efforts in order to have a budget approved by the state imposed deadline. The district's budget will more than likely be amended after the final state appropriations bill is adopted.

MYTH: The 250 central office staff members recommended for elimination will be rehired in the district's professional development department.

FACT: HISD's Office of Budget and Financial Planning has identified 286 professional and support staff positions at the central office that can be eliminated. Of those positions, 95 are currently vacant. The jobs up for elimination are from various departments including transportation, facility and construction services, budgeting, accounting, benefits, superintendent's office, academic departments, media relations, grants office, etc. Efforts will be made to assist displaced employees with their resumes and job search efforts, but individuals will not be given "new jobs" in the district's professional development office.

MYTH: HISD is taking funds from other schools and using them on the Apollo 20 program.

FACT: The current budget for the Apollo 20 campuses does not take any funds from school allocations. There are three sources of funds for the Apollo 20 program for the 2010–11 school year. Those include state grants, federal grants, and private funds.

MYTH: There is a bill filed in Austin to change the teacher retirement annuity service multiplier from 2.3 percent to 2.0 percent.

FACT: The Board of the TRS or Teacher Retirement System of Texas has no plans to change the multiplier. Currently the standard service retirement annuity is an amount computed on the basis of the member's average annual compensation for 5 years of service in which the member receives the highest compensation, times 2.3 percent for each year of service credit in the retirement system. The HISD government relations department is tracking any and all legislation that pertains to teacher retirement and the district's benefits team will notify teachers of any legislative proposals that may affect their benefits.


January 24, 2011

2011–12 Budget and State Shortfall

MYTH: HISD has nearly $150 million in unspent federal funds that can be carried over and used to offset anticipated cuts in state funding for the 2011–12 school year.

FACT: In 2009, HISD received nearly $250 million in stimulus dollars from the federal government in the form of Title I, Title II, Title XIV and IDEA B grants. These funds came with an expiration date of September 2011. The district decided to distribute the stimulus funds over the course of the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 school year budgets. This meant that nearly half of the total stimulus dollars the district received in 2009 were carried over and budgeted for the 2010–2011 school year budget. A good portion of the remaining stimulus funds have already been spent and the rest will be spent over the course of the next several months. Part of the unspent funds are tied up in salaries that are paid every two weeks over the course of the school year, monthly utility bills, and for ASPIRE program award bonuses that are to be paid out January 26. By September 30, all federal stimulus dollars will have been spent and accounted for, so there will be no surplus of monies. Even if HISD wanted to, the district cannot carry over federal stimulus dollars to help offset the anticipated cuts in state funding for the 2011–12 school year.

MYTH: HISD is taking a “sky is falling” approach to the state budget shortfall.

FACT: Before the start of the 82nd Texas legislative session on January 11, 2011, State Comptroller Susan Combs issued her revenue projection, which indicates a $28.6 billion deficit for the state. A week later, the Texas House filed an initial budget bill addressing the budget shortfall. The bill proposes cutting $10 billion to public education over the next two years, or $5 billion per year.  Projections by the Austin consulting firm, Moak, Casey, and Associates, reveal that the proposed bill would mean an annual loss of $202 million to $348 million for HISD. This represents 15 percent to 20 percent of HISD's budget. Theoretically speaking, HISD could wipe out all of central administration and would still have to severely cut school budgets to compensate for this large of a reduction in state funding. Put another way, $202 million—the low-end projected revenue loss—is enough to pay the salaries of 3,825 teachers with an average salary of $52,800. Although the House bill is likely to be revised several times over the next few months, HISD must move forward and prepare its own lean budget with these drastic cuts as a starting point. The district is doing everything in its power to keep cuts away from the classroom, but that scenario seems unlikely.


December 10, 2010

EVAAS Value-Added System MYTH BUSTERS

MYTH: HISD administration is intentionally keeping teachers in the dark about the EVAAS value-added system that measures student growth and hasn’t provided information and training to explain how scores are calculated.

FACT: HISD began offering EVAAS training through a combination of in-person and online courses in August 2008. Since then, 8,103 employees – most of them teachers – have completed a course. Additional in-person sessions are scheduled for Dec. 11 and Jan. 8 with more than 200 participants already registered. An FAQ about EVAAS can be found here

MYTH: HISD has decided that teachers can be fired based on their EVAAS scores.

FACT: Student performance has always been a cause for not renewing a teacher’s contract. In February 2010, the Board of Education added EVAAS scores to the list of 34 factors that can be taken into account in renewal decisions. Teachers with poor evaluations are offered support and professional development opportunities before decisions are made on contract renewal.

MYTH: HISD is developing a new teacher evaluation that is aimed at making EVAAS 50-60 percent of the teacher evaluation process beginning next school year.

FACT: HISD is developing a new teacher evaluation system. In accordance with state law, guidance on the indicators and the process for this evaluation system are being developed at the campus level through the Shared Decision Making committees and at the district level through the District Advisory Committee. Based on recommendations from these groups, working groups that include teachers and administrators will come up with proposals for the metrics that will be used in the evaluation system. Nothing, including the potential use of EVAAS, has been decided yet.

MYTH: EVAAS is a quartile system with half the teachers receiving a negative score every year, which means half the teachers are deemed "ineffective.”

FACT: EVAAS is not a quartiling system. EVAAS measures the growth of students at the classroom level relative to expected growth. The ASPIRE program uses a quartiling system to determine teacher and campus awards based on EVAAS data.

MYTH: EVAAS system developer Dr. William L. Sanders is not an expert in the teacher effectiveness measurement field.

FACT:Dr. William L. Sanders is a senior research fellow with the University of North Carolina system and is senior manager of value-added assessment and research for SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, N.C. He assumed the SAS position in June of 2000, upon retiring after more than 34 years as professor and director of the University of Tennessee's Value-Added Research and Assessment Center. In July 2006, Sanders testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. In February 2007, he shared his research in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Round Table discussion on teacher incentives. In 2006 the Education Research Center reported the most influential research on the last decade's national educational policy, and Sanders' value added research developed for Tennessee ranked sixth. Over the last twenty years, Sanders and his colleagues have developed and refined a methodology to measure the influence that school systems, schools and teachers have on the academic progress of students.

MYTH: The EVAAS methodology has never been independently validated.

FACT: In the 2003 report “Evaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountability” by the RAND Corporation, the EVAAS model was specifically reviewed and studied for its validity in measuring teacher effects. The RAND Corporation states that “multivariate” analysis models, such as EVAAS, use an approach that “is likely to be preferable but is computationally demanding.” The report also states: “By dealing with the joint distribution of the student outcomes, multivariate models afford a number of advantages. Within the class of linear models, the models are exceedingly flexible…” The full Rand report is available here.

More information about ASPIRE and the EVAAS value-added system, is available here.


September 9, 2010

MYTH: The nine Apollo 20 schools are being supported, in part, from funding diverted away from other HISD schools.

FACT: No funding has been diverted from other schools to support Apollo 20. The Apollo high schools are funded by TEA TTIPS (Texas Title I Priority Schools) school turnaround grants that the district applied for and received, as well as federal grant funds allocated by formula to individual schools. Middle-school programs are being paid for from federal grant funds allocated by formula to individual schools, as well as private-sector donations.


July 25, 2010

MYTH: The quality and level of services for Special Education students will be reduced because the district is cutting over 100 Special Education teacher positions.

FACTS: In recent years, the number of children receiving Special Education services has decreased by approximately 4,500. During this same time, the number of Special Education teachers in HISD has not decreased and has grown slightly to over 1,000 teachers. After careful study, the district determined that the number of positions can be reduced and still remain well within the staffing guidelines adopted by the Board of Education. No Special Education student will have the level or quality of services reduced or will be placed in a general-education classroom to accommodate these staffing adjustments. Special Education class sizes will remain well under district maximum standards and students will receive services according to their Individualized Education Program (IEP). All of the affected teachers will have jobs in HISD next year without a reduction in salary or benefits. By notifying these teachers now, we are affording them opportunities to fill existing vacancies for which they are certified.


July 23, 2010

MYTH: HISD principals will have to pay $19 million out of their budgets for summer school and prekindergarten programs. In addition, federal funds for schools have been redirected to the Apollo 20 program.

FACTS: Funds have not been redirected to Apollo 20 and prekindergarten is not affected. The state pays half the cost of prekindergarten; the district pays the other half and will continue to do so. It is true that there are fewer federal dollars available for summer school next year. HISD is designing a new, more cost-effective summer-school model and will redirect any unused budget dollars and additional federal and state funds we may receive to these programs. While principals may have to pay for some summer-school costs out of their budgets, it will not be anywhere near the $19 million being reported in the media.

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