When I met with Houston ISD recently, it was exciting to reconnect with a U.S. school district that's in a very rapid and aggressive mode of change. Driven by Greg Valdez, the Chief Technology Officer, Greg and his team have not only a vision for technology's impact in Houston, but they are really thinking holistically on the ways in which the district and the learning environment can be improved.

I often talk to school leaders who are driving plans at a district level and cascading them down to principals…as opposed to bringing principals into the conversation early. Greg is doing well at reversing this trend. I met with some leading principals in the district and it was refreshing to see a leader like Greg bring all the constituents together, to be really working very closely with the schools, to be thinking about the leaders and really bringing the principals into the leadership decision-making and the thinking in the school districts early. He is very open and transparent.

To improve education for Houston students, they want to tie education achievement to workforce employability and skills readiness more aggressively…doing more things to get students excited about relevant work experiences, internships, project-based experiences. They want to do a much better job with digital content and eliminate books and use digital textbooks, as well as create and share their digital content. And then they want to empower schools and school leaders, like principals, to drive change, to create the right schools for the right environments, to challenge students and teachers to not accept the status quo, and to be better.

They also recognize there is need for public and private partnerships, so they are reaching out to companies like Microsoft and others to help them with not only guidance and advice but to also help with resources. I’ve blogged before about the importance of these partnerships, and if this is a strategy your school, district, state or country is pursuing, you should definitely read our whitepaper for best practices and lessons learned based on real case studies and partnerships we have pursued.

Houston has a bold, long term vision and I would say Houston is one to watch going forward as a school district. I look forward to seeing more from Houston ISD in the future.