A major donor to HISD’s key school reform effort is putting its remaining $3 million check on hold amid concerns that detailed research about the success of the program is lacking.
The president of the Houston Endowment, Ann Stern, wrote a letter to top school district officials this month criticizing the recent progress report on the Apollo program for not including “meaningful” student performance data.
Stern said in an interview Tuesday that she is optimistic the foundation ultimately will award the remaining money to the Houston Independent School District, but she wants to see more a detailed research report.
“We are hoping to be able to make this payment,” she said. “We have not canceled anything.”
The Houston Endowment pledged $6 million to the Apollo reform program in 2011 – assuming certain conditions were met – and has paid half that amount. The final $3 million payment was scheduled to be made by Wednesday.
On Tuesday, [Harvard researcher Roland] Fryer emailed [Superintendent Terry] Grier to explain that he and his team were working on a final study but are waiting on information such as whether students transferred schools or enrolled in college. The transfer data is crucial to analyzing test scores, he said, because if a student spent, say, six months at a high school and then moved to a new campus before taking the exams, the student’s results should be weighted.
Fryer said he hoped to have the final evaluation complete by Nov. 1.
“In my view, if it’s not good enough to turn in for academic publication, it’s not good enough to show a Board or a funder,” he wrote.
See here for the most recent update on Apollo, and the letter Stern sent to Grier and Eastman is here. I don’t see anything particularly objectionable about this request, and I’m as interested in seeing this data as Stern is. It’s pretty straightforward – if Apollo works as advertised, we should find a way to fund as much of it as we can. If not, there are better ways to spend that money. Let’s let the data help us figure that out.