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Elementary and Primary Education
Houston Independent School District
News Release
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ Invests $1 Million in Apollo 20
Donation comes one month after Rodeo officials pledged $500,000 toward
HISD reading initiative 

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday announced a $1 million donation to HISD’s pioneering Apollo 20 school turnaround program.

The gift to the HISD Foundation brings the total amount of private funds raised to support more than 13,000 students in 20 of HISD’s neediest schools to more than $14 million.

“This is a huge opportunity for the Show to partner with HISD. Most of our scholarship winners come from the district, so it’s literally an investment in our future,” said Skip Wagner, president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “Our goals are aligned, in that our biggest priority is getting kids out of high school and prepared for college, and that must start at an early age.”

Paula Harris, president of the HISD Board of Education, thanked the Rodeo for reaffirming its long-standing commitment to public education.

“Generations of Houston students have benefitted from the generosity of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,” Harris said. “By investing in a program that could provide a replicable school transformation model for educators across America to use, the Rodeo is demonstrating a truly visionary approach to philanthropy.”

Launched during the 2010-2011 school year by the HISD Board of Education and Superintendent Terry Grier, Apollo 20 is a three-year program that this fall expanded to include 11 elementary schools. Its aim is to determine whether five proven methods for boosting student achievement at the nation’s top charter schools can be used to turn around traditional public schools that persistently fall short of meeting minimum academic standards.

Those five tenets are:

·         An effective principal and effective teachers in every school

·         More instructional time

·         Use of data-driven instruction

·         High-dosage tutoring

·         Culture of high expectations for all      

Overall academic performance at the Apollo 20 secondary schools improved during the 2010-2011 school year. The biggest gains came in math, which is the subject for which all Apollo 20 sixth- and ninth-grade students  received intensive tutoring. Heading into last school year, Apollo 20 students were behind their peers across HISD in terms of the percentage passing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills math exam, and the percentage reaching the tougher “commended” level. Students who received tutoring for the entire school year are now performing at the tougher “commended” level on the TAKS math exam at the same rate as the rest of HISD, and their passing rate now exceeds the district average.

As a result of this progress, Lee High School ended a three-year run on the state’s list of academically unacceptable schools and Sharpstown High School’s two-year streak of unacceptable status ended as well. However, four of the original nine Apollo 20 schools remain on the state’s unacceptable list.

“Houston’s business and philanthropic leaders are rallying behind Apollo 20 because we know our city’s future prosperity is directly tied to HISD’s ability to prepare our future workforce,” said Lori Vetters, a member of the Apollo 20 Oversight Committee and former education chair for the Greater Houston Partnership. “This is a monumental task, but Houston is a can-do city that will not be satisfied until every child attends a great school.”

In August, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo committed an additional $500,000 toward HISD’s literacy initiative, which will help build a district-wide reading program designed to help all HISD students read on grade level by the third grade.

“I want to thank the army of dedicated Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo volunteers who manage to put on a great show every year while also contributing so much to Houston’s educational landscape,” Dr. Grier said. “By putting children first, these volunteers are truly making a difference.”

About the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. The 2012 Show runs Feb. 28 through March 18. For more information, visit

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, visit

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