We talked to two grantees of Houston Endowment whose work helps inform our region’s leaders in making decisions to best serve our community.
Houston Endowment envisions a vibrant region where all have the opportunity to thrive. A vital part of opportunity is access to high-quality education for all of our children, a goal that is as complex as it is important. That’s why a variety of partners from across sectors, including Houston Endowment, are working together to improve educational outcomes for Houston’s students.
In 2012, a study commissioned by Houston Endowment showed that only 1 in 5 students in Harris County were earning a postsecondary credential (a two- or four-year college degree or technical certification). For low-income students, the rate was even lower. The data made it clear that we were not providing all of our students the education they needed to lead lives full of opportunity.
Following conversations with community members and educators, and after studying what was working in education in other cities, Houston Endowment and our colleagues at the Kinder Foundation began to explore what would work best for Houston. We found that cities accelerating progress for students had something in common: a coordinated effort led by a nonprofit with a vision for educational success.
In 2017, we joined with the Kinder Foundation to support the launch of Good Reason Houston, an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of students learning in high-performing schools. The organization partners with school districts — both traditional and charter — and supports district leaders in improving existing schools and creating new, high-quality schools. Good Reason Houston has set an ambitious goal of having 60,000 more children learning in A or B-rated public schools by the end of the 2025-26 school year.
“We know the education crisis we are facing in Houston is a complex challenge, and there is no one right solution,” said Alex Hales Elizondo, Good Reason Houston CEO. “To accomplish the kind of region-wide transformation our students need, we must have a vision and a plan that is bigger than any one school, any one district, or any one organization.”
The business community has also been actively engaged with Good Reason Houston since the beginning. As reported by the Greater Houston Partnership, business leaders identify the lack of qualified workers as one of the region’s most pressing issues.
The organization has made progress already.
Good Reason Houston launched a partnership with Aldine ISD in fall 2018 to provide no-cost consulting services to Aldine’s senior leadership team. The organization provides data, planning, and execution support for a variety of strategies the district plans to implement, including the ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) model at two elementary schools in 2019-20.
“The support from Good Reason Houston has helped us accelerate the work we are doing in Aldine to increase student outcomes,” said Dr. LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD Superintendent. “Alex and her team have served as thought partners and cheerleaders while we have made changes, implemented new strategies, and evaluated programs.”
Following Good Reason Houston’s pilot campaign in spring 2018 aimed at increasing the number of students enrolled in prekindergarten, enrollment in a local ISD’s pre-K program increased for the first time in three years. A region-wide, pre-K enrollment campaign is currently underway.
Alongside more than 20 Houston education partners, college access nonprofits, and community organizations, Good Reason Houston launched FAFSA Houston, a region-wide campaign aimed at increasing the completion rate for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), a key step toward increasing postsecondary completion. FAFSA Houston includes marketing to increase awareness of the benefits of federal student aid and a website with resources for parents, students, and counselors.
“FAFSA completion is a leading indicator for college enrollment, yet the Houston area lags behind Texas and the nation in completion rates,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College. “FAFSA Houston has provided families and students with materials and support to help them complete the FAFSA, which will put them on a path to matriculating to community colleges, other schools with technical programs, and universities.”
Houston Endowment is proud to play a role alongside partners from across sectors in supporting Good Reason Houston as it works to ensure that every child, in every neighborhood, can excel in a great school.
“To accomplish the kind of region-wide transformation our students need, we must have a vision and a plan that is bigger than any one school, any one district, or any one organization.” — Alex Hales Elizondo, Good Reason Houston CEO