Bellaire - Meyerland - West University | March 2023

November 2019

History of takeovers

How it started

TEA announces plan to appoint board of managers at Houston ISD, citing the following reasons: • Board member misconduct related to alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act • Wheatley High School received failing accountability ratings for several consecutive years where no performance rating is given is not considered a break in the consec- utive streak. SB 1365 also granted the TEA more power in defining the role of a campus-level conservator, one of whom was previously appointed to oversee HISD’s Kashmere High School. In October, TEA lawyers argued to the Texas Supreme Court that SB 1365 gave them authority to move forward with the takeover, an argument that prevailed in getting the case sent back to trial court. Bettencourt said he was not advo- cating for or against a TEA takeover, but would support the TEA in its ulti- mate decision on how to proceed. “Three years ago, I think it was obvious to everybody what needed to happen,” he said. “Three years later, it might be less obvious, but the ques- tion remains: what’s the best for the Following the Supreme Court’s deci- sion, HISD Superintendent Millard House II spoke on what he said were improvements in academic perfor- mance since the case first began. The TEA suspended the use of its A-F school rating system for the 2019- 20 school year because of the coro- navirus pandemic, which saw school district’s across the state shift to a vir- tual learning model. However, ratings were brought back in the 2021-22 school year, and HISD received an overall rating of 88 out of 100. More importantly, Wheatley High School received a passing rating of 78 out of 100, breaking the streak of fail- ing grades. The day of the Supreme Court deci- sion, Traci Latson, a 26-year teacher with HISD, said she fielded calls throughout the day from her con- cerned colleagues. In addition to ques- tions about what it could mean for their students, teachers also asked if they should think about applying for jobs at other districts, she said. “HISD worked so hard last year to become one of the most competitive districts in the region; we still started COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM district and its students?” Making improvements

The Texas Education Agency first announced its intentions to take over Houston ISD in 2019.

The Texas Education Agency has intervened in several Greater-Houston area school districts since 2012, though none were as large as Houston ISD, which serves more than 190,000 students. El Paso ISD Enrollment at time of takeover: 63,210 When: 2012 Why: result of investigation into cheating scandal What happened: school board replaced by board of managers in 2013, elected trustees return over next few years

it was unclear what a state takeover could look like. A look back The TEA notified HISD in Novem- ber 2019 that it planned to lower the district’s accreditation status and appoint a board of managers in a report that argued the elected school board demonstrated the inability to appro- priately govern. The report alleged several board members violated a state open meet- ings law by having conversations about an ongoing superintendent search without notifying the public. In a 2019 letter from Morath to Grenita Lathan, HISD’s superintendent at the time, the TEA commissioner also said their investigation found board mem- bers in violation of contract procure- ment rules. A trial court judge granted HISD an injunction in January 2020, tem- porarily stopping the takeover. That injunction was upheld by an appellate court in February 2021, at which time the TEA appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. A crucial development in the case took place during the 2021 Texas legis- lative session with the passing of Sen- ate Bill 1365. Authored by Bettencourt, the bill amended the laws dictating when the TEA has the authority to take over a school district and appoint its own board of managers. HISD’s Wheatley High School received unacceptable performance ratings seven times between the 2010- 11 and 2018-19 school year. It did not receive a rating for the 2011-12 school year after the state adopted a new accountability system and for the 2017- 18 school year, during which campuses directly affected by Hurricane Harvey were not given ratings. The A-F system takes student achievement, school progress and closing achievement gaps into consideration. When SB 1365 was signed into law, it clarified that the TEA could appoint a board of managers when a campus has unacceptable ratings for five con- secutive school years, and that a year

North Forest ISD

Enrollment at time of takeover: 6,689 When: 2011 Why: academic failure, financial mismanagement What happened: district merged into HISD to start 2013-14 school year

Beaumont ISD

Enrollment at time of takeover: 19,875 When: 2014 Why: financial and leadership concerns What happened: district still exists, members of board of managers have been gradually replaced by elected trustees over time

La Marque ISD

Enrollment at time of takeover: 2,284 When: 2015 Why: academic and financial accountability concerns What happened: district merged with Texas City ISD in 2016

First three years: no evidence that takeovers improve academic performance Three to six years out: improvements were not significant enough to draw conclusions about takeover effectiveness Across the nation A study by researchers at Brown University analyzed 35 school district takeovers by state governments across the U.S. between 2011-16. The study found:


voting power from local residents and ultimately hurt students and teachers in a district that is still trying to recover from learning loss caused by the coro- navirus pandemic. “My school and district are not perfect, but this is not the solution,” said Elizabeth Rodriguez, a senior at Northside High School, during a Feb. 2 event protesting the takeover. Meanwhile, Houston ISD officials said their legal team is reviewing the case and its next options, while the TEA has not publicly commented on the ruling. As of press time, Feb. 27,


a much needed step to … return the case to the intent of the Leg- islature back to having a con- servator take additional steps to help improve public education in school districts,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said in a statement. However, public education advocates in the Houston area are calling on lawmakers to speak out against a potential takeover, which they said would remove


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