U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Applauds HISD’s Apollo 20 Turnaround Program
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Houston’s Lee High School on Friday to learn more about the Apollo 20 program that is providing a model for how to turn around chronically failing urban public schools.
Apollo 20 is three-year-old partnership between the Houston Independent School District and Harvard EdLabs. It is funded through a $28 million School Improvement Grant through Secretary Duncan’s U.S. Department of Education, and $16.8 million in private funds raised through the non-profit HISD Foundation. The money is used to hire hundreds of tutors to work with two students at a time, and for longer class days that allow for more instruction in math and reading. Students at HISD’s Apollo 20 schools have posted academic gains on par with the best charter schools in America. Click here to learn more about the program.
“The funding we have received from the U.S. Department of Education has been critical to our success,” Superintendent Terry Grier said.
After visiting a classroom where college-educated Apollo Fellows tutor Lee students in math, Secretary Duncan took part in a round-table discussion with Lee students, parents, and staff, along with HISD Trustee Harvin Moore, Superintendent Grier, and former HISD Foundation Chairman James Calaway. Students Nubia Lopez, Armandine Motty, Kristhiam Mercado, and Karina Campos told Duncan about the big changes at Lee since Apollo 20 was launched in the 2010-2011 school year.
“I see myself with a better future, having a career,” said student Kristhiam Mercado, who lived in El Salvador until age 11. He said Lee teachers used to have low expectations for their students. In the Apollo 20 program, Mercado said, he has thrived under the guidance of teachers who believe in his ability to learn. He plans to be the first in his family to attend college. "I feel proud of myself,” he told Secretary Duncan.
Afterward, Secretary Duncan applauded the “courage” of HISD’s Board of Education for undertaking the Apollo 20 challenge.
“You can’t just invest in the status quo,” Secretary Duncan said. He said Lee’s success demonstrates that urban schools with many at-risk students can achieve real progress when using methods that are proven to get results. “What’s going on at this school is significant and it has implications for the rest of the country.”
Apollo 20 Schools
Elementary schools: Blackshear, Davila, Frost, Highland Heights, Isaacs, Kelso, Robinson, Scarborough, Tinsley, Walnut Bend, Young
Middle schools: Attucks, Dowling, Fondren, Key
High schools: Jones, Kashmere, Lee, Sharpstown