Realizing Our Vision for Houston Schools

By Zeph Capo, President, Houston Federation of Teachers

Earlier in the year I quoted Yogi Berra as famously saying, “If you reach a fork in the road, take it.” Well, as of Wednesday morning our elected school board has set us upon a new path in Houston ISD. In many ways we hope this path more closely resembles the path not taken rather than the worn road. Frankly, our most recent path has simply worn thin on the conscious of our community and we, the stakeholders, expect to see a new way forward.

The selection of Mr. Carranza provides the perfect opportunity for a midcourse correction to focus on what works. Our vision calls for giving Houston students a broad curriculum and program choices to meet their diverse needs. We have to end the test-driven education policies that have sharply narrowed the curriculum to what’s on the standardized test. In this day and age, our kids need a truly well-rounded education that includes art, music, foreign languages and social studies. We should be working to improve collaboration with businesses and our community college to provide career and technical programs that give students an alternative pathway to high school graduation, good-paying jobs and higher education.

For disadvantaged students and their families, we should be developing community schools that provide wraparound healthcare, social and academic services to help counter the devastating effects of poverty. Community schools have been key to turning around student performance in low-income school districts in cities across the country and should be created here in Houston.

Collaboration, not conflict, makes a huge difference. A 2010 study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research showed that the most effective schools, based on test score improvement over time and after taking into account demographic factors, had developed an unusually high degree of “relational trust” among their stakeholders. That means teachers and parents are treated as true partners with principals and other administrators, and that their voices and input are respected.

We are cautiously optimistic that Mr. Carranza will be the partner we are looking for to enact our bold vision for Houston Public Schools. We welcome him to Houston and extend a hand in friendship and an offer to help him quickly overcome the learning curve to familiarize himself with our neighborhoods and communities. We have high expectations for him as a superintendent and as a partner with us to address the needs of working families across our city. There is plenty to do and no time to waste, so we say to Mr. Carranza, Let’s Get to Work!

Zeph Capo

President, Houston Federation of Teachers

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