As the keeper of Houston’s citywide education vision, Good Reason Houston is committed to making sure that happens.
Good Reason Houston exists for a very simple purpose — to ensure that every child, in every Houston neighborhood, excels in a world-class public school and thrives in the Houston of tomorrow. That means that we must transform our schools today. This is a citywide challenge and we need a citywide solution. Good Reason Houston will partner with those districts that are ready and willing to take bold and courageous action to transform their schools now, not five years from now. We began this work two years ago, and as we built the foundation for our strategy it became clear that the families most directly served and impacted by public education did not play an active role in critical education decisions impacting their children. As a community, we haven’t spent enough time trying to understand what families need and want for their children. In order to create the kind of citywide changes Houston needs, Good Reason Houston immediately began thinking about opportunities to bridge the gap between families and the schools and districts that serve them.
The first step required more and better information about parent attitudes toward the schools they have access to today, and what they hope for in the schools of tomorrow. Collecting that kind of information — across districts, across systems, across geography and demography — is no small task, so we engaged a best-in-class research partner to lead the work — Wakefield Research Partners.
Good Reason Houston partnered with Wakefield Research Partners to interview more than 1,500 families across Houston to understand how those families feel about the schools their children currently have access to and what they’d like to see for their children in the future. We then asked parents about the kind of information they wanted and needed to make decisions about their child’s education, and finally, we talked to them about their willingness to become advocates at the school and district level for education transformation.
Wakefield Research completed phase two quantitative research through a survey conducted between February 20, 2019, and March 28, 2019. 1,540 Houston parents across nine independent school districts and local charter schools completed the survey. Districts represented in the survey include Aldine, Alief, Channelview, Galena Park, Houston, Pasadena, Sheldon, Spring and Spring Branch. 216 of the total respondents have children who attend a charter school. The margin of error for this study among all Houston parents is +/- 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
These findings are illuminating and we hope that others will learn as much from them as we have. To that end, we are releasing this research on our website: goodreasonhouston.org/parentresearch.
For Good Reason Houston, this data tells us parents are ready and willing to be a part of this discussion. We believe the TEA A-F ratings are a critical first step. We will work closely with parents and districts to make sure that parents not only have information, but have the ability to do something about it — whether that means improving their existing school, choosing to attend a different school, or joining with the district to create entirely new school options.
We’ve included some highlights below, and we hope this is just the beginning of a new citywide conversation about what parents want and expect for their children and how we — city and district leaders, educators, policymakers, education stakeholders, and the public — can ensure that our schools provide that for every family.
- Parents overwhelmingly support a common accountability system for schools and find that information valuable. The Texas Education Agency’s new A-F system was very popular with the vast majority of parents. They found it to be a credible source of objective information that allowed them to make more informed decisions.
- Parents think there is more to be done to improve the quality of schools. Parents are not satisfied with the quality of their own child’s school or the system as a whole. Parents in this city want and need more schools rated A and B.
- Parents clearly want more diverse public school options for their students. Parents across districts and systems felt very positively about a variety of school types and want both better access to different kinds of schools, and more information about what is available for their students.
- Parents desire easier access to quality school options. Parents need better access to information, transportation and enrollment opportunities to feel like they have access to quality choices. For many parents, it’s not enough to make sure good schools exist; we must also make sure they are realistic options for more students.
- Parents will take action and advocate for their children’s education. Parents want changes and they’re willing to work for them if we as a city can give them the resources and support to become advocates for not only their own child, but for all children.
- Parents are not concerned with the political infighting in education, they just want good schools. Despite the political debates about testing and accountability and divisive rhetoric about charter schools, parent opinion has not been impacted. This is clear in the discussion of the A-F system. Similarly, fewer than 1-in-10 parents feel negatively about charter schools, the majority feel positive and want to learn more, and more than 70% of parents believe quality is far more important than how a school is governed.
Good Reason Houston is on a mission to increase the number of students succeeding in high-quality schools today and thriving in the workforce tomorrow.
Alexandra “Alex” Hales Elizondo is the founding CEO of Good Reason Houston. Prior to launching Good Reason Houston, Alex served as the Executive Director of Teach For America Dallas-Fort Worth, leading a team of 50 staff members and a network of 1,200 educators.