For six decades, Worthing High School has been known as the pride of Sunnyside, one of Houston’s oldest black communities, just a few miles south of downtown. Prominent alumni have worked at the Pentagon, served in the Texas Legislature and played in the NFL.
But the neighborhood could lose Worthing High. It has failed to meet every state academic target over the last four years – the only school in Texas to miss so much.
Unless Worthing boosts test scores and gets more kids ready for college – and fast – state law requires the Texas Education Commissioner to shut it down or replace the locally-elected Houston school board with outside managers this year.
In collaboration with the Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Media investigated what went wrong at Worthing High: Why has it gotten to this point, and what’s being done to fix it?
We obtained public school records, interviewed current and former educators, as well as community members and students.
Here are some of our findings.
Since 2011, Worthing has had more administrative turnover than any of Houston’s over 40 high schools. The current leader, Khalilah Campbell-Rhone, just finished her first full year and is the school’s sixth principal in 10 years. That turnover, according to educators and community members, is the number one reason why Worthing High has struggled so much. As longtime football coach Brandon Ellis put it: “You’d be on a high and then you’d come down. One minute, OK, we’re excited, we got new personnel, we’re going to fight, we’re going to take care of business – and then all of a sudden you have a change coming. I think it trickled down to the kids as well.”