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Elementary and Primary Education
Houston Independent School District
News Release
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Houston Livestock Show and RodeoTM Gives $500,000 to Support HISD’s Literacy Initiative

The HISD Foundation has received a $500,000 gift from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) that will help build a district-wide literacy program designed to help all HISD students read on grade level by the third grade.

 “This is a great way to build future Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarship winners — ensuring that younger students get on the right path to reading, which leads to future academic success," said Skip Wagner, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo president and CEO. "It's really exciting to be involved in cutting edge research that has the potential to guide these young students to a college education some day."

HISD is launching a long-term, district-wide literacy program across all grades that will include foundational skills, enrichment and acceleration through standardized strategies, resources and tools.  HLSR’s donation will further bolster the district’s current investment in this literacy program.

“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been a long-standing, important partner to the district.  I believe that this partnership will only strengthen and accelerate our ability to impact student success in preparing them for college and career,” said Dr. Terry Grier, HISD superintendent.

Roughly 70,000 HISD students currently read below their grade level. Addressing the problem has been particularly challenging because reading instructional approaches vary from one HISD campus to the next, and Houston students frequently transfer from one school to another.

While HISD students recently posted significant gains in other subjects tested on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, such as math and science, reading scores have remained somewhat flat. Since 2007, the percentage of HISD students passing the science and math exams are up 13 and 20 precentage points, respectively. In reading, however, the passing rate is up just 4 percentage points.

This literacy initiative will establish a district-wide assessment program across all grade levels to gauge each student’s strengths and weaknesses and provide a framework based on data-driven decision-making.

“We will implement these changes while at the same time encouraging schools that are getting great results to keep doing what they’re doing,” Dr. Grier said. “To borrow a phrase our rodeo friends are fond of saying: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ ”

Lori Vetters, HISD Foundation Grants Committee Chair, said: "The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo understands that strong reading skills are critical to the educational outcomes of our Houston children. The Rodeo is providing an important and strategic gift to support a much needed district-wide program.” 

HISD’s literacy initiative will be led by the new Director of Literacy Dr. Carol Bedard.  Previously an associate professor at the University of Houston – downtown, Bedard has more than 20 years of teaching experience and has previously worked with many of HISD’s schools.

“We believe reading and writing to be the spine for all content areas.  So as we work to strengthen this foundation, we will in essence be strengthening their skills in all content areas,” Dr. Bedard said. 

About the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ is a Section 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has committed more than $265 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants, and other educational and youth programs.

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 governed by a volunteer board of business, community and philanthropic leaders. The Foundation’s programming is aligned with the district’s five core initiatives: Effective Teacher in Every Classroom; Effective Principal in Every Classroom; Rigorous Instructional Standards & Supports; Data-Driven Accountability; Culture of Trust through Action. For more information about the HISD Foundation please visit

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