Press Release: On Thursday, June 17, the HISD Board of Education saw the results of a first-ever study of what happens to HISD students after they graduate from high school. The study, based on data from the Class of 2005, shows that only 52 percent went on to college and only 15 percent earned a college degree within four years. The national average is 23 percent.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said, “This district has made significant progress in recent years, but if we want to achieve our goal of making HISD the best school district in the country, we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to build on the successful strategies that are already in place in schools across the district. We have to raise the level of achievement for all students, and this is why we’re initiating the Apollo 20 project in the fall. We are going to ensure that every child in this district graduates prepared for success in college and the workplace.”

Both the State and HISD use a TAKS scale score of 2200 to indicate college readiness. The research indicates that 2300 is a more realistic measure.

Research shows that 61 percent of HISD students with a scale score of 2300 or higher graduated from college within 4.5 years while only 17 percent of students with scores lower than 2300 finished college in the same time frame.

The Board also got a progress report on the development of a Strategic Direction for the future in partnership with parents, teachers, students, business partners and a diverse cross-section of the community. In the many public hearings held across the district several common themes have emerged;

· Increasing focus on hiring and supporting high-quality teachers and principals

· Enhancing instructional options to best prepare all students for college and career success

· Integrating health, nutrition, physical activity, and support services into students’ education

· Heightening safety measures at school campuses

· Improving transparency and accountability

· Augmenting frequency and clarity of communications

· Providing further opportunities for parent engagement and creating partnerships with community, private sector, and government

One recurring theme from the community meetings is increasing the focus on hiring high-quality teachers and principals. This morning, the board voted on accepting 250 Teach for America applicants for HISD teaching positions. Nine of the district’s lower performing schools are part of Apollo 20. Eleven Elementary Schools will be added in the 2011-12 school year for a total of 20.

Teach for America will play a role in the Apollo effort. Of the 250 corps members, 50 will be considered for teaching positions at the nine schools that will be part of the inaugural Apollo 20 school turn-around project beginning this fall. Research shows that TFA produces many high-performing teachers, particularly in the areas of math and science. TFA corps members are recruited right out of college and commit to a two-year assignment in urban schools, teaching in the subject areas for which they received college degrees.

This year, more 46,000 college graduates applied for 4500 TFA positions nationwide. Houston ISD is TFA’s oldest partner in training and hiring TFA corps members.