HISD has taken some real hits lately — some deserved and some not. Some of the undeserved hits have been courtesy of some less-than-stellar reporting from the Chronicle. Today, the Chronicle runs a terrific op-ed by James Calaway, president of the Center for Houston’s Future, praising HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra for his call to change the way HISD does business:
Throughout Saavedra’s [State of the Schools} speech, the concept of change was a prominent theme, and that is truly encouraging. HISD needs to look at persistent problems with new eyes to determine if the traditional methods are the right methods. Nowhere is that more evident than in the superintendent’s bold proposal to redesign three consistently low-performing high schools by allowing education reformers — including the schools’ own employees or administrators — to submit plans to change the management and operations of these schools in collaboration with the district.
Saavedra has not recommended closing these high schools; far from it. He has instead called for creative plans to improve them, and he has not restricted his call for proposals merely to existing administrations. While recognizing the depth of talent within the employment ranks of the HISD, however, Saavedra also implicitly recognized the enormous contribution of a galaxy of educational intervention organizations that have been a part of our school system for years.
Some have criticized Saavedra’s proposal as handing over schools to outsiders. However, strong collaborations with dozens, if not hundreds, of educational intervention organizations already exist throughout HISD, working with the district to improve teaching and learning. Some of these organizations may wish to submit a proposal or to be a part of a proposal. They are — like all of us — a part of HISD’s family of stakeholders. It’s not about us and them, or inside and outside. We all help make the district stronger. Public schools are by their nature collaborations with the community, with the purpose of ensuring that children learn.
Saavedra’s proposal represents a big change. Change can be difficult. But without systemic change the future of these young people, and those to follow, are at risk. Our society and our future depend on better outcomes for these children and all the children served by our public schools.
The uproar after Dr. Saavedra’s speech was so unfortunate. First, the outrage was based on a falsity, since the speech was reported incorrectly. Second, any outrage should be directed at failing schools, not at a plan to reform those schools. Calaway is exactly right when he says that as a society we all suffer when children are not given the best education possible.
Also today, the very last letter to the editor is critical of the Chronicle‘s coverage of HISD attaining the “adequate yearly progress” grade:
Unfair to HISD
As a science laboratory teacher in Houston Independent School District, I am not only proud to teach in this fine school district, but I am also a product of the district.
As a proud native Houstonian, I would like for the Chronicle to cease its tabloid approach to journalism. While we appreciate the newspapers the Chronicle delivers to our students every day and its coverage of our special events, lately it has been unfair. Ninety-one percent of HISD schools made adequate yearly progress, and the Chronicle focused on the 9 percent that didn’t. My advice is to do some soul-searching. Some of your reporters seem better suited for the National Enquirer.
TRACY JANE TAYLOR GELBAUGH
The Chronicle deserves to be criticized for the way it reported the story.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: I just went through every editorial page since that story, and that’s the first letter that’s critical of their coverage that the newspaper has printed. It’s hard to imagine they haven’t received any others, or any until now.