By Tonya Kerr
Technology has made a huge difference in how we create each issue of Houston Family Magazine–the process is almost unrecognizable compared to 1988. That got us thinking about how technology has changed life for other Houstonians- especially schools, teachers and students.
With seven of the Top 15 largest school districts in Texas, the Greater Houston area shoulders the responsibility of educating hundreds of thousands of young minds. “As the largest school district in Texas and seventh-largest in the country, HISD continues to grow every year with more students and teachers, more state-of-the-art schools, more innovative programs and initiatives,” said HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza.
Evolution of Edutech
Thirty years ago, very few schools owned a single computer, and students depended on outdated encyclopedias and textbooks to connect to the outside world. Today, online learning is the norm. Most secondary schools provide and/or allow computers for every student in every classroom, and homework is submitted digitally- very few pieces of paper exchange hands.
HFM reader Ima Diaz-Wu said, “My students are engaged and actually have fun learning. They have meaningful connections to the real world and then build upon those ideas.”
This technology engagement evolved quickly at the college level, with entire universities’ offering degrees online, and the changes have been astronomical for special needs students. “I work with life skills students- several non verbal,” said HFM reader Jillian White. “iPads and smart boards have been an excellent way to give those kids a voice and augment lessons. Couldn’t do without it! Plus it also helps with music therapy, promote physical activity, and promotes social skills for my kiddos.”
Laws and Funding Changes
Enrollment for HISD grew by only about 40,000 students in the last 30 years, however, like the entire region, accommodating and catering to the changing demographics was, is, and will continue to be an ongoing challenge. Many larger districts in our area are what’s known as “Minority-Majority” schools, and more than 100 languages and dialects are spoken. More programs accommodate economically disadvantaged students than three decades ago, and transportation, campus capacity, and funding are more political than ever.
In the mid-80’s and ‘90’s, the Texas Legislature passed several pieces of legislation to overhaul the Texas education system, which dramatically changed the landscape of Houston’s education systems. Our area has seen an explosion in the growth of charter schools, and homeschooling programs in Texas are some of the fastest growing in the nation. The Texas Lottery Commission (created in 1991) funds approximately 27.1 percent of Texas education through the Foundation School Fund.
Superintendent Carranza says the future is bright for all Houston-are students, and he says, ”We believe that equity, literacy, innovation, and college access are the keys to our success. When I look at our students, I see generations of future doctors, teachers, artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. I see in them the fulfillment of Houston’s enormous potential.”
Detailing 30 years’ worth of growth and changes in Houston-area schools could fill its own book. Take a look at some of your own school district websites to see the history in your area. You’ll be blown away.
LARGEST SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN TEXAS IN 2017
7. Fort Bend