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Elementary and Primary Education
Houston Independent School District
News Release
Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Cullen Foundation Donates $500,000 in Support of Apollo 20
Total Raised Now Stands at $12.5 Million

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier announced on Tuesday that The Cullen Foundation will contribute $500,000 to the HISD Foundation in support of the Apollo 20 school turnaround program. Over the last 11 months, a total of $12.5 million has been raised by HISD Foundation and HISD leadership in support of Apollo 20.

 “The Cullen Foundation has a long history of supporting programs in education, medicine and the arts that make a real difference in the quality of life in Houston and Texas,” Grier said. “I want to personally thank the foundation for its vote of confidence in the Apollo 20 program and its support of Houston’s children. By investing in them, the Cullen Foundation is helping create a brighter future for Houston.”

Cullen Foundation Executive Director Alan Stewart said, “The Cullen Foundation is committed to the on-going process of school reform. Apollo 20 is an ambitious undertaking that involves the entire community, and we are hopeful that it will result not only in achieving its stated goals but also will result in lessons learned that will continue to advance this school reform process.”

          Apollo 20 began with five middle schools (Key, Dowling, Attucks, Ryan, and Fondren), and four high schools (Jones, Kashmere, Lee, and Sharpstown) during the 2010-2011 school year. Apollo 20 was developed in partnership with renowned economist Dr. Roland Fryer and Harvard EdLabs. It relies on proven concepts used by the nation’s top-performing charter schools:

· Effective principal and teachers in every school

· More instructional time

· Use of data-driven instruction

· High-dosage tutoring

· Culture of high expectations for all


“The Cullen Foundation has a rich history of investing in cutting-edge, dynamic programs in the areas of medical research and higher education – just to name two.  I am grateful for The Cullen Foundation’s investment in this nationally important project and what this will mean for the students of HISD and, ultimately, throughout the country, “said James Calaway, who chairs the HISD Foundation Board of Directors and the Apollo 20 Fund Oversight Committee.  

Although Apollo 20 is a three-year program, students showed signs of strong academic growth after one year, especially in math. Sixth- and ninth-grade Apollo 20 students received daily tutoring from Math Fellows.

Eighty-five percent of sixth-grade students enrolled at Apollo 20 schools for the entire school year achieved a passing rate on the TAKS math exam that is 22 points higher than sixth graders at the same schools in 2010. Their “commended” rate is now 30 percent, an 18-point jump from last year.

Apollo 20 ninth graders enrolled the entire school year also made great strides with the help of the Math Fellows. These freshmen produced a 72 percent passing rate in math, which is 16 points better than last year’s freshman class. Their “commended” rate is now 20 percent, an 8-point increase from 2010.

Apollo 20 will expand into 11 elementary schools for the 2011-2012 school year, employing the same strategies used in the secondary level, except for the longer school year and school day. Those schools are Blackshear, Davila, Frost, Highland Heights, Isaacs, Kelso, Robinson, Scarborough, Tinsley, Walnut Bend, and Young.

About The Cullen Foundation
Established in 1947, The Cullen Foundation has more than a half century history of giving generously to the educational needs, health care and arts in Texas, primarily in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area.  Cullen Family members take active roles as Directors of the Foundation continuing the legacy of giving initiated by Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen during their lifetime. The list of recipients of Cullen gifts is long and diverse, covering a wide range of needs. The Cullen Foundation has distributed over $417 million in grants since inception. In the late 1970’s, the Cullen Foundation created three separate charitable trusts with independent boards, each dedicated to a single purpose: a trust for health care, a trust for education and a trust for the performing arts. The original gift from Mr. and Mrs. Cullen to establish the Foundation consisted of working interests in several oil and gas properties. Over the ensuing 50 years those working interests, later converted into royalty interests, were gradually depleted and the residual holdings were disposed of in 2000 for approximately $10 million. As the Foundation reduced its dependence on oil and gas income, its portfolio of marketable securities and other investments began to grow and today the Foundation has an approximate market value of $233 million.

About the HISD Foundation:
The HISD Foundation partners with the district to raise private support, manage funds and provide donor accountability. Funds raised by the HISD Foundation and district leaders provide resources to advance the core initiatives of the district’s Strategic Direction. The Foundation’s fundraising efforts focus on institutional priorities set by the superintendent of schools and board of education. A separate 501 (C) (3) nonprofit, the Foundation is managed by a volunteer board of business, community and philanthropic leaders. The Foundation’s programming is aligned with the district’s five core initiatives: (1)Effective Teacher in Every Classroom; (2) Effective Principal in Every Classroom; (3) Rigorous Instructional Standards & Supports; (4) Data-Driven Accountability; (5) Culture of Trust through Action. For more information about the HISD Foundation please visit

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