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School Improvement

"Creating 'No Excuses' (Traditional) Public Schools: Preliminary Evidence From an Experiment in Houston"

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A nationally watched experiment designed to improve nine struggling middle and high schools in the Houston Independent School District increased students’ math skills but had a minimal impact on reading achievement, an evaluation of the program’s first year has found.

Superintendent Terry Grier last year launched the Apollo 20 reform effort, which borrows from the district’s public-sector competitors—charter schools—for improvement ideas.

Roland G. Fryer Jr., the Harvard University economist who helped design the program and led its evaluation, described the overall results as promising and similar to those seen by successful charter schools such as the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, network. The first-year gains, however, were not large enough to spare four of the nine Apollo schools from landing on the state’s “academically unacceptable” list this year.

The three-year experiment, which cost about $19 million last year, began with a staffing overhaul. It also includes a longer school day and year, daily math tutoring for students in grades 6-9, data-based decisionmaking, and added computer-based instruction in math or reading for older students struggling in those subjects.

Vol. 31, Issue 09, Page 5

Published in Print: October 26, 2011, as School Improvement
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