Houston: Liftoff

Last September I blogged about an unusual assignment. The Houston district superintendent, Terry Grier, wanted to launch a turnaround effort in 9 of their worst schools, in collaboration with Harvard economist Roland Fryer's EdLabs.

We were fortunate to have the chance to help out.

MATCH sent a little posse down there. Pictured are Patti, Tim, Cathryn (along with Jeremy, who was the superintendent overseeing all 9 schools). We also sent Christie, Erica, and Eli for shorter stints.

The idea was to help the turnaround effort, called Apollo 20, conceive and launch a program modeled on our MATCH Corps: to recruit (in 6 weeks!) and train 250 full-time math tutors, design a curriculum, etc.

Now, 9 months later, test scores are out. So how'd it go? Here's what the Houston Press used as a headline on Friday: HISD Lesson for Today: Tutoring Works, Now What Do We Do?

The HISD press release has the details:

Sixth-grade students who were enrolled at Apollo 20 schools for the entire school year posted an 85 percent passing rate on the TAKS math exam, 22 points higher than sixth graders at those schools in 2010. Their “commended” rate is now 30 percent, an 18-point jump from last year.

Apollo 20 ninth graders enrolled the entire school year also made great strides with the help of the math fellows. These freshmen produced a 72 percent passing rate in math, which is 16 points better than last year’s freshman class. Their “commended” rate is now 20 percent, an 8-point increase from 2010.


Roland says kids will do even better next year. I believe him. Moreover, I believe that improvement is critical.

Let's be real. It's great that more kids passed. But the "passing bar" is low. Even with all that work by kids and tutors, that accomplishment is not nearly enough to change life trajectory for most kids. Those same students could, with the help of Apollo tutors, reach "advanced" status, which is called "commended" in Texas.

MATCH definitely learned some lessons in our first year of having full-time tutors (2004-05). HISD and Apollo will too, I'm quite sure. Tim (tall guy pictured above) remains in Houston. Best wishes to him, Brandi, Jeremy, Roland, and Terry on helping kids make the Climb To Commended.