Good Reason Houston is Propelling Citywide Education Improvement, According to New Study
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Houston, TX – Good Reason Houston has taken a distinctive approach to city-based education work and shown early evidence of success, according to a report released by the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University.
In 2018, when Good Reason Houston launched, the state of public school education in Houston was dire. More than half of the city’s approximately 500,000 public school students – some 265,000 – were attending a public school rated C, D, or F by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The organization was created to address the significant school quality challenges facing Houston families and set an initial goal of growing the number of quality seats in A or B rated area public schools by 25% (60,000) by the 2025-26 school year.
With the release of the latest school ratings from the TEA on August 15, the data indicates that a growing share of students in Houston are now attending quality schools. Today, around 340,000 Houston students are enrolled in an A or B rated public school, a 36% increase over three years. At first glance, this large increase in A and B rated schools is to be celebrated. Yet, the increase alone is an incomplete picture of school quality, and no organization is better positioned than Good Reason Houston to disaggregate and analyze the data.
While other cities across the country were navigating the unprecedented disruption to education the past few years caused by the global pandemic, districts and charters across Houston benefited from the existence of Good Reason Houston, an education-focused organization leading a bold, city-wide effort to improve public school quality. This is evidenced by the recent study conducted by CPRL to assess the organization’s impact to-date.
The findings indicate that Good Reason Houston has accomplished meaningful impact with traditional school districts, in the charter sector, and in the policy arena, because it has gained the status of a knowledgeable, trusted partner to district leaders, policy makers, community organizations, and schools.
Superintendent Millard House II is the leader of Houston ISD (HISD), the largest public school system in Texas, and participated in the study about Good Reason Houston’s impact. “The focus of both Good Reason Houston and HISD is to ensure kids get what they need to thrive in the 21st century economy,” House said. “Good Reason Houston’s support – consulting, project managing, providing technical assistance – has been invaluable to our district and others to ensure our schools improve and that students get the high-quality education they deserve.”
Since its founding, Good Reason Houston has successfully supported the improvement of area public school systems. Example findings from the report include:
- Development of more than 10,000 new public school seats through grants and technical assistance provided to area Independent School Districts and Public Charter Systems
- Driving strong pre-K enrollment growth in Aldine, Houston, and other partner school districts;
- Developing extensive strategic plans with three of the Houston area’s largest independent school districts – Aldine ISD, Houston ISD, Spring ISD;
- And launching a bold school transformation model – Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) – focused on turning around multi-year D and F rated public schools
“The people that you’re working with [at Good Reason Houston] come with a lot of research and a lot of knowledge,” said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “They’re really smart, brilliant people, but also have the experience of being educators, and having walked in the shoes that teachers are walking in right now.”
The organization’s approach is unique, and the study’s participants – ranging from school system staff and leaders to community organizations and funders – identified to CPRL that the integrated nature of school improvement work among varying stakeholder groups was key to success.
“The team at Good Reason Houston has a high bar for talent,” said Mark DiBella, CEO of YES Prep Public Schools. “The organization is committed to bringing in like-minded, mission-aligned people who believe in the brilliance of all kids.”
CPRL evaluated Good Reason Houston–supported work products from partner organizations; conducted focus groups with teachers, school leaders, and families; and interviewed 64 individuals in leadership or senior administrative positions at partner school districts, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), charter school networks, and community organizations, in addition to staff and Board members, to understand their respective experiences of working with Good Reason Houston and the impact of support provided.
“The study confirmed that Good Reason Houston is leading the most comprehensive strategy to improve citywide public education systems in Texas and perhaps the nation,” said Alex Elizondo, CEO of Good Reason Houston. “Because of our approach – working with all public school systems across the city – we’ve built meaningful relationships and become the trusted partner to show school leaders and parents that positive outcomes are possible.”
Good Reason Houston was launched in 2018 with early support from the Kinder Foundation and Houston Endowment, two local philanthropic organizations that lead the charge on addressing large, protracted issues in the city, as well as local leaders: like Scott McClelland, Jim Postl, Jeff Shaddix, and Doug Foshee. In that time, they’ve supported 10 districts and 12 charter schools.
Aldine ISD was the organization’s first deep, transformational partnership. “Good Reason Houston wants more high-quality seats – that’s it,” said Aldine ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. LaTonya Goffney. “But the how and the what – what I’ve loved about them is they create a space where you can dream and think about what’s best for the kids that we serve.”
To read the Columbia University report, view video testimonials from participants, and learn more about the study, which conducted a systematic assessment of the nonprofit’s accomplishments (documenting what has worked, identifying keys to success that Good Reason Houston and others engaged in this type of school system assistance can carry forward, and exploring opportunities for Good Reason Houston to expand its impact in the future), visit goodreasonhouston.org/impact.
The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University strives to revitalize public school systems while reinventing professional education. CPRL conducts high-impact research and consulting projects for our clients in the education sector and provides rigorous coursework, skills training, and real world experiential learning for our graduate students who attend programs at Columbia University and across the country.
Since its founding in 2011, CPRL has provided research and consulting support to state agencies, school districts, charter school organizations, foundations, and advocacy groups, completing 200 projects and counting. More than two-thirds of CPRL’s 500-plus alumni work in education and other public-sector leadership and management roles.
About Good Reason Houston
Good Reason Houston works to reshape the Houston education landscape by inspiring hope, possibility, and action. The organization’s central premise is that all Houston students deserve an excellent and equitable education, and we work to elevate public school performance to achieve our mission of growing the number of students learning in great public schools.