For more than 20 years, Teach For America has been a pacesetter for education reform in the city of Houston. Since 1991, nearly 2,000 Teach For America corps members have taught in Houston’s lowest-income schools, reaching nearly 200,000 students collectively and becoming some of our city's most prominent education leaders and reformers.
Despite the sustained effort by committed community leaders and Teach For America corps members and alumni, however, high dropout rates and substandard achievement in Houston's schools persist. Fortunately, Houston corps members find themselves in the company of reform-minded educational leaders. The same entrepreneurial spirit that made Houston the world's energy capital is working to increase educational opportunities for all of its students.
Beginning in December 2004, Houston Independent School District (HISD), the seventh largest school district in the nation, implemented a number of reforms, including a concrete focus on creating a college-bound culture in HISD schools and a performance-based bonus pay system for teachers. Current HISD superintendent, Terry Grier, has launched an ambitious campaign to bring about additional reform to the district. While serving as chief human resources officer, Teach For America alum Ann Best (Houston '96), played a pivotal role in strategically improving the overall talent level of the district's employees, with a strong emphasis on excellence in teaching.
For the first time, Fonville Middle School achieved this status in 2008, and our nine corps members working there played a major part in its success. Across the city, low-income high school students took Advanced Placement exams in record numbers, including 333 students at Chavez High School, where corps members and alumni led the implementation of an AP curriculum.
In the 2012-13 school year, nearly 450 corps members are teaching 40,000 students in schools across Houston. An additional 1,000 Teach For America alumni living in Houston continue working inside and outside the field of education to bring the fundamental changes necessary to ensure educational excellence and equity. With 37 alumni school and district leaders, the creation of two charter school systems, and an establishment of several non-profit organizations targeting educational inequity, Teach For America - Houston is living out its mission.