Gangsters’ Moves By TEA in Houston

So Mike Morath, Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner, failed at his Home Rule attempt in Dallas (See Panning a Charter Takeover of all public schools). So via legislative mandate in SB 1882, Texas has now empowered TEA to use gangster moves to force schools into private management.

Here is the leverage that SB 1882 has:

District officials have recommended temporarily surrendering control over the 10 schools as part of an effort to stave off sanctions due to chronically low academic performance. In exchange for relinquishing control, HISD would get a two-year reprieve from a potential state takeover of the district’s locally elected school board or forced campus closures.

The threat of takeover has already caused several cities in Texas to turn their schools over to private management. Now Houston is in the cross-hairs. My opinion is that the district should challenge TEA and the Legislature in court.  However, it doesn’t look like the HISD Board members are going to take this tact.

Quite frankly, the Texas Legislature and the TEA have created this mess by not adequately funding schools in the state for decades. The Texas Supreme Court has also been complicit. The most recent economic research shows that for all states, districts and schools in the United States that “money matters” for educational and economic outcomes. Furthermore, in California, we have moved the needle on graduation rates and moved towards closing the achievement gaps during the past few years using increased funding and community-based approaches to education finance. (I know Texas, you don’t like when California does it better).

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday in the piece Possible charter partner revealed for HISD’s struggling schools that one of the options on the table is turning over the ten schools to Energized For STEM Academy Inc. The Houston Chronicle reported:

Energized For STEM Academy Inc., an organization run by NAACP Houston Branch President James Douglas and former Houston ISD trustee Paula Harris, has been selected as the potential partner to run 10 long-struggling HISD schools at risk of triggering major state sanctions this year.

The information about the preferred partner has only been public for a short time, so I asked Jimmy Ojeda Pedraza, my graduate student, to take a look at Energized For STEM Academy Inc in public available data this past weekend. If I had my druthers, and more time, I would prefer to take a look at Energize in individual student level data from one of the ERCs. However, here is what Jimmy dug up:

The first note worth finding about Energized For STEM Academy Inc was that there are two campus. One called Energized For STEM Academy Central, and another called Energized For STEM Academy West. Energized For STEM Academy West is not a magnet school where Central is.

Although Energized for Stem has two different sites neither fair well when it comes to student retention. The Central campus in the 2015-2016 school year enrolled 67 freshmen, sophomore (25) and junior (11), and only 7 seniors at the school https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&SchoolID=482364012243&ID=482364012243

Energized For STEM Academy West had a similar type of descending student body with the sophomore class being outliers. Freshmen (75), sophomore (110), juniors (80), and Senors (51).
https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&SchoolID=482364012269&ID=482364012269

I also found that the percent of student from the West campus participate in AP course at greater rates (25%) than the state average (19%). However, the students that pass 1 or more AP exam is far lower (8%) then the state average (51%). This leads me to believe that the school is pushing the students to take more AP courses, but not sufficiently teaching the material that would allow the students to pass the AP test. This is further supported by none (0%) of the teachers having 3 or more years of experience and only 64% of those teachers having a teaching credential.
West:
https://www.greatschools.org/texas/houston/19868-Energized-For-Stem-Academy-West-High-School/#Low-income_students*Test_scores*Biology_I

These characteristics are similar to the Central campus, with the only difference being that 85% of the teachers on the Central campus have a teaching credential.
https://www.greatschools.org/texas/houston/19236-Energized-For-Stem-Academy-Central/

Although anecdotal, and probably not the most trust worthy source, the reviews found on this sight shed some light about the dismal working condition at Energized For STEM Academy Inc from past employees.
https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Energized-For-Excellence-Academy-Reviews-E292596.htm

Here is another website with more information that paints a similar picture as the information expressed above. I almost forgot to mention that the student body at both campuses are overwhelmingly poor people of color. Generally speaking the student body is composed of 90% Hispanic students and 10% African American student. But with what we known from the literature about poor people of color in the US school system, one shouldn’t be surprised at these findings.
https://www.schooldigger.com/go/TX/schools/2364012243/school.aspx

Private control and privatization is not a magical wand for increasing students success. Teacher quality, lack of college readiness, and student cropping and many other issues are continually noted by researchers in the literature. Increased, targeted funding and community-based approached to education reform and policy is.

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