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Dogan Elementary is one of 6 schools where the Houston district is seeking outside partners.

State of Texas puts crimp in Houston plan to turn around struggling schools

State education agency says if Houston district wants outside partners to help run low-performing schools, it must cede control to the partners

The Houston school district must cede control over hiring and governance at any low-performing schools where it plans to form "partnerships" with outside organizations, the Texas Education Agency says.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the ruling is a blow to Houston district leaders, who have said they are considering such partnerships in an effort to stave off potentially major sanctions.

District administrators had hoped that they could maintain near-total control over several struggling schools, while also receiving the benefits of forming partnerships. Under a new state law, districts receive a two-year break in accountability ratings at any campus where they form partnerships with outside organizations.

The accountability reprieve would help Houston stave off punishment for its failure to bolster academic results at low-performing campuses. Under a second law, the Texas Education Agency must close campuses or take control of the Houston school board if any of the district's 10 longest-failing schools don't meet state academic standards this year.

To avoid those sanctions, the Houston district has considered two options at each of the 10 campuses: forming "partnerships," or closing and immediately reopening schools with entirely new staff and programming.

The district's most recent proposal calls for forming partnerships at six campuses: Dogan and Mading elementary schools; Henry Middle School; and Kashmere, Wheatley and Worthing high schools. The remaining four schools -- Blackshear, Highland Heights and Wesley elementary schools, and Woodson PK-8 -- would close and immediately re-open.

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