HISD Superintendent Terry Grier assesses the district in his State of the Schools address.
While not mentioning the closure controversy Wednesday, Grier touted the district’s progress – being named the nation’s top urban school district in 2013, for example – while conceding he has more work to do in the two years left on his contract.
“We’re on a journey together, an ambitious journey, a journey that’s not easy, and that will not be complete in a year,” Grier told some 2,000 educators, community leaders and parents packed into a downtown hotel ballroom. “Change takes time.”
He announced new initiatives including expansion of foreign language studies and efforts to reduce student mobility during the school year.
Touting Houston’s diversity, he said an additional 14 elementary schools will offer dual-language Spanish programs next year, doubling the number in the district. The programs allow native English and Spanish speakers to take classes together, helping them gain proficiency in both languages.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Kennedy Garrett, an eighth-grader at Wharton Dual Language Academy who introduced Grier in Spanish before his speech. “If you have the opportunity to be in it, I’d say go for it. There are going to be challenges, but it’s worth it.”
Grier, in his North Carolina drawl, later attempted a few words in Arabic and said officials were considering an Arabic immersion school.
HISD’s Mandarin immersion school, opened in 2012, has proved popular, drawing a waiting list as early as pre-kindergarten.
Grier also announced an effort to cut down on students switching schools midyear, often multiple times because their parents are chasing cheap rent. Grier said the district would provide busing for the students to stay at their original schools. He did not provide a price tag for the plan he called “home field advantage.”
You can see videos of the speeches and more information on the dual-language programs, which I too think are a great idea, here. Of interest is that Grier barely mentioned the Apollo program, which continues to have questions raised about the permanence of the academic gains it has achieved. Grier suggested that HISD may just take what it has learned from Apollo – basically, tutoring works – and apply it more broadly, a development that if it happens would I daresay be received well. He also emphasized the need to improve reading scores in HISD, which if done would be a huge accomplishment. Hair Balls has more.