How are Houston Public School Students Doing Right Now?

Jan 13, 2021

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Educators across our region are already aware of the increased learning loss occurring as a result of the many disruptions in instruction since last March. Students were sent home at the beginning of our pandemic response, then shortly afterward schools were suspended for the summer break, and many returned to virtual or hybrid learning in the fall.

It’s important that our local and state legislators and community members understand the impact their decisions have had and will have on student outcomes long into their future. Decisions made during this legislative session have long-term implications on our students’ economic future and the economic health of our region.

The pandemic is revealing potentially devastating impacts for Houston students

Preliminary estimates of learning loss paint a dire picture of the impact of the pandemic to-date. Many of our most at-risk students are falling further behind during this time due to new barriers such as lack of access to the internet. Also, districts are reporting that tens of thousands of students have simply vanished from area enrollment, and that many students who are enrolled are attending so infrequently that they are at risk of failing one or more classes this school year. Conversely, families with financial means and digital access are finding avenues to support their child’s learning to keep them on track, widening the education gap.

While no system for rating schools is perfect, it is more critical than ever that we understand student performance and hold schools accountable using commonly held data. And currently, the most commonly held framework is our state’s accountability system. Good Reason Houston is committed to helping shape the accountability system moving forward, but quality assessments of our students cannot wait for that moment.

There is concerning stagnation and decline in Houston’s lowest performing schools despite overall growth of A and B rated schools

Despite year-over-year improvements, 51% of Houston students attend C, D, or F rated public schools. Spring, Aldine, and Spring Branch ISD’s are among the districts with the greatest opportunity for improvement. Schools in Galena Park ISD and YES Prep are among the strongest performing in the Houston region.

Children of color and economically disadvantaged students are more likely to attend lower-performing public schools. Black students are 4x more likely to attend a D or F rated school (24% of Black students) compared to their white peers (6% of white students), and economically disadvantaged students are 1.5x more likely to attend a D or F rated school (15% of EcoDis students) than non-economically disadvantaged peers (10% of Non-EcoDis).

These legislative priorities work toward improving school quality

Maintain a Rigorous & Transparent Academic Accountability System

Students, families, and communities deserve a rigorous and transparent academic accountability system.  One that measures school quality, student academic success, and illuminates where to target needed resources. 

Preserve Landmark House Bill 3 Public School Funding

House Bill 3 funds data-backed, student-focused reforms designed to improve student outcomes. HB 3’s focus on closing learning gaps that existed pre-COVID is more important than ever, as pandemic-related learning loss will likely further widen the outcomes between students experiencing poverty and their non-low-income peers. 

Safeguard State Policies that Support the Creation of New, High-Quality Public Schools

Continue to promote and incentivize school leaders to develop and implement innovative school models that meet the needs of their students and communities. 

Support Equitable Access to Reliable and Affordable Digital Connectivity

Ensure access to reliable connectivity and devices so all students may participate fully in a modernized PK-12 public education system.

Advance Policies that Increase Postsecondary Student Enrollment and Completion

As K-12 schools improve, increase access to postsecondary options that grow pathways to higher wage jobs and strengthen workforce/economy.

Visit our Policy & Research webpage to find out more and to access our data dashboards.