When MacArthur Elementary School Principal Maria Muñoz tells her students that their potential is limitless, she speaks from experience.
As a child, Muñoz lived in a shabby brick apartment complex across North Main Street from MacArthur, in a close-knit Galena Park neighborhood with strong community support but little money. Despite the odds against her, Muñoz graduated from the University of Houston, rejoined her hometown district as a paraprofessional and worked her way into the top job at her childhood elementary school.
“We let the teachers and students know from the very, very first day that we have high expectations for them, that college is a reality for them,” Muñoz said. “We tell them it’s OK to be a reader, a mathematician, a scientist, that there’s nothing holding you back.”
The always-present belief in every MacArthur child, echoed by Muñoz and her staff, has helped build the Galena Park ISD campus into a high-performing school, earning a “Gold Ribbon” designation from the Houston education nonprofit Children At Risk.
This year, as Children At Risk prepared to unveil its 14th-annual school rankings, the nonprofit organization embarked on a 10-school tour of “Gold Ribbon” campuses – traditional public schools that receive an “A” or “B” grade while serving predominantly lower-income, neighborhood students – to identify how some educators are shrinking performance gaps across the region. The research and advocacy nonprofit drafted a “Blueprint for Success in High-Poverty Schools,” highlighting five common practices echoed by principals and their staff.