Houston Federation of Teachers Decries Limited Testing Exemption Post-Harvey  

HOUSTON—Four Houston schools that faced extensive periods of missed classroom instruction time and served displaced families as a result of Hurricane Harvey will not be issued reprieves from testing sanctions, announced Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Wednesday.

HFT President Zeph Capo released the following statement in response:

“HFT members are disappointed that the Texas Education Agency has left four schools behind in its testing reprieve, and that those schools are centered in Houston’s low-income neighborhoods, while every school in districts like Spring Branch and Katy were fully exempted. This is just another indication of state officials continuing to ignore the plight of students, parents and educators in highly vulnerable communities affected by Harvey.

“These four schools serve communities least likely to be able to quickly begin and complete the rebuilding process. Many residents in communities such as Sunnyside— served by Worthing and Mading—hadn’t fully recovered from the impacts of Hurricane Ike, much less were prepared to weather Harvey. The decision to force testing on these communities shows a lack of understanding of the current needs of Houston’s neighborhoods and their public schools.

Harvey did not skip across schools or neighborhoods when it flooded our streets in August, and neither should the TEA. More than 1,200 HFT members across Houston requested assistance within 48 hours of Hurricane Harvey; and for the two months that followed, HFT’s doors were open seven days a week, often for 12 hours a day. TEA’s analysis of the hurricane’s impact doesn’t match what Houston residents felt.

“Notably, a lack of alignment on the definition used for ‘homeless’ has clearly played a role in under-identifying impacted students and teachers. Several students and teachers were left to live in damaged homes, but confined to undamaged floors or sections. They likely should have been counted, but weren’t because they self-reported as still living in their home, and not a hotel or shelter.”