Rescue High

Click below to watch an in-depth PBS Frontline look at a high school doing everything it can to keep at risk kids from dropping out -- and then (it seems) classifying them as "retuned to home country" and "transferred to private school" when some leave.  Does the depiction seem accurate and fair to the kids and the school?  Are there things that the school -- Houston's Sharpstown High -- should be doing but isn't?  Cross posted from TWIE

Watch Dropout Nation on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.


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  • There was a little bit too much amateur talk therapy in that program about Sharpstown High School in Houston for me. Possibly the documentary producer focused on the many redundant and in a few cases pointless discussions between the Sharpstown's Apollo 20 counselors, administrators, and students because they seemed dramatic. Having taught at an inner city high school I came away with the distinct feeling that some of the staff in the school were being gamed by some students. At a certain point some staff become cynical when this happens and begin unfortunately to think they are being gamed by the majority of students during the heart to heart type discussions presented in the documentary. Sometimes also unfortunately many staff no longer lecture students about coming to school on time, not fighting, ect, ect. That's emotional burn out.

    The efforts of Brandi the campus improvement administrator on behalf of some students were amazing, but even she questioned the time she put in on some students.

    I don't know how many of the Sharpstown staff survived being reconstituted in 2010, clearly some were seasoned urban teachers, and others clearly were not. I have real doubts about how long Principal Rob Gasparello and other high intensity staff will survive this turn-around effort. The show touted some big statistical improvements at the end of the second year of reform. It did not mention even in passing what this school's college admissions test scores looked like. Which I thought was odd since there was so much talk about students going to college.

    Since most Chicagoans are familiar with ACT scores I will use that data. In 2010 Sharpstown had an average ACT composite score of 15.3 and by 2011 in jumped to 17.2. That is a massive improvement, but let's put this into perspective. The average white student attending high school in the Houston Independent School district in 2011 had a composite ACT score of 25.2. Only around 3% of Sharpstown's students are white and most likely they are among the poorer whites in HISD. The school is about 65% Hispanic and 28% Hispanic.

    Just to put this into perspective in 2011 on a national scale the average white student had a composite ACT score of 23.6 and the average Black student had a 17.0, the average composite score for Hispanic students was around 18.6. As can be seen the gap in Houston is probably significantly larger than elsewhere in the nation.

    I don't recall the racial achievement gap ever being mentioned during the course of the almost two hour long program. HISD had about only 8% white students in 2011. Needless to say overall white students are clustered in the district's best schools. I think it's shocking that there was no real discussion of the achievement gap between whites and minorities in Houston and Texas at large.

    To see the full data for HISD go to

    Rod Estvan

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