Furr High School
Empowering students to tackle environmental injustice.
Furr High School is a comprehensive district high school of about 1100 students built on the belief that every student can excel when presented with authentic opportunities to disrupt the cycle of poverty and catalyze community transformation. Through an intentional focus on supporting students in building relationships with the environment and with the community, Furr aims to prepare its students to leave high school equipped to succeed in postsecondary education, design their own futures, and positively impact the world.
Furr High School’s environmental focus means students spend time collecting water samples throughout the city of Houston’s waterways, conducting trash audits in adjacent community parks, attending public hearings, and advocating about environmental concerns impacting the health and wellness of their community. At the same time, Furr is disrupting the cycle of poverty and catalyzing community transformation, providing access to high-quality learning opportunities. With more than 500 students enrolled in agricultural studies, Furr strives to end the food deserts in nearby local communities through empowerment and education for all students to thrive in college and career.
“When I came to Furr, I remember talking to my teachers, telling them how much I wanted to become a writer. Through my three years here, I became more than a writer. I became a leader, a critical thinker, a collaborator, and, most of all, a better student.”
Class of 2022
Design Principles in Action
Learn how Furr High School applies these XQ Design Principles to sustain student success:
Meaningful, engaged learning
Furr’s leaders and educators want to empower students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to address challenges and improve their own community. In 9th grade, students select from one of three pathways: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health Science, and Media and Technology. Furr also offers two magnet programs: Futures Academy and STEM. The Futures Academy Program allows students to earn an associate’s degree and valuable industry certifications in high-demand career fields, such as medicine, shipping, energy, manufacturing, and computer technology, in collaboration with Houston Community College. The STEM program prepares students for industry-specific disciplines that prepare students to enter a pipeline of talent for medical, energy, science, technology, arts, agriculture, engineering, and mathematics professions.
Caring, trusting relationships
Furr’s “social and emotional ambassador team” designs and delivers professional learning for their colleagues, including sharing resources and strategies in professional learning communities (PLCs), coaching and supporting teachers, and developing a webinar on social and emotional learning (SEL) for all teachers to access virtually. Furr’s leaders are deeply committed to establishing peer-to-peer exchange and mentoring. A group of them worked with a PBL veteran teacher specialist of Furr High School and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, along with support from organizations such as Texas A&M University.
In partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Furr created community gardens in the adjacent 900-acre Herman Brown Park and later on the high school’s own campus. The gardens now house more than 100 fruit trees throughout the school grounds on more than two and a half acres, providing many spaces for students to learn about the natural environment and contribute to the community. Furr has a deep partnership with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, or T.E.J.A.S., for some students to learn about environmental injustices in the local community. “Toxic Tours” have enabled students and educators to observe and document the impact of petrochemical complexes and refineries in the area. Furr students also engaged in full internships sponsored by partners such as the national Student Conservation Association and an international nonprofit organization called the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF). Furr strives to end the food deserts in nearby local communities through empowerment and education for all students to thrive in college and career. The district approved a career and technical education linkage to Furr High School’s Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources department at Holland Middle School to create a true “greenbelt partnership,” transitioning students seamlessly from their middle school to Furr High School. In addition, Furr High School is working with all seven of its feeder schools, establishing fruit orchards and vocational programming.
Furr’s partnership with Houston Community College (HCC) enables students to take college-level dual credit courses without leaving the Furr campus. Class of 2022 graduate Lorenzo got an associate’s degree at Furr by taking community college courses in his junior and senior years and then went to Texas A&M.
In 2022, 215 students graduated at Furr—the first class to spend all four years at Furr since the school began its partnership with XQ. Texas has not yet released graduation data for 2022. According to XQ’s Senior Survey, one in four of Furr’s 2022 graduates earned college credits during high school (26 percent). The school’s leadership said 6 percent of graduates in 2022 earned a full associate degree.
Furr has experienced turnover from multiple principals and district superintendents, impeding its efforts to offer innovative learning experiences to its more than 1,100 students. However, class of 2022 members who participated in such opportunities found them very meaningful. On XQ’s Senior Survey for the class of 2022, when asked what aspects of Furr helped them achieve their goals for high school, college, and career, more 12th graders pointed to opportunities to learn outside the school in the community than to any other feature (41 percent).