Here's what Houston schools have been lauded for training the city's future leaders. Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

t's report card time, and four Houston high schools have made the grade, earning top 100 spots in this year's prestigious U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best U.S. High Schools. One even merited a special distinction.

Houston's Carnegie Vanguard High School ranked highest on the list at No. 42. The school is ranked fifth within Texas. The Advanced Placement coursework participation rate there is 100 percent; total minority enrollment is 77 percent, and 31 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

Following close behind is the prestigious DeBakey High School for Health Professions at No. 46 overall. The renowned medical prep school boasts an AP participation rate of 98 percent, total minority enrollment is 88 percent, and 44 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

Farther down the list is Challenge Early College High School, at No. 89 overall. The AP participation rate here is 100 percent, total minority enrollment is 92 percent, and 76 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

At No. 97 overall is Young Women's College Prep Academy. The AP participation rate here is 100 percent. The total minority enrollment is 97 percent, and nearly all students — some 96 percent — are economically disadvantaged.

The 2021 edition is U.S. News' most comprehensive survey yet, with the consumer advice outlet evaluating more than 17,800 public high schools on how well they serve all of their students, regardless of economic or ethnic background.

To determine rankings, they focus on six factors: college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates. College readiness specifically measures participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

Notably, the data used in this edition is from the 2018-2019 academic school year, so it was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Families can use the Best High Schools rankings to see how schools compare at the national, state and local level on factors like graduation rates and college readiness," said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News, in a statement. "The rankings also provide insight into academic performance among underserved groups showing how well schools are supporting these students."

Eight more Texas schools also appear on the national top 100 list:

  • No. 13, School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas
  • No. 15, Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, Dallas
  • No. 39, The Science and Engineering Magnet School, Dallas
  • No. 41, Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin
  • No. 42, Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston
  • No. 46, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston
  • No. 59, Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, Dallas
  • No. 68, IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, Brownsville
  • No. 89, Challenge Early College High School, Houston
  • No. 96, Health Careers High School, San Antonio
  • No. 97, Young Women's College Prep Academy, Houston
  • No. 98, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Austin

Just over the top 100 threshold is Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy, coming in at No. 101.

Texas had 1,524 schools ranked this year, of which 42 placed in the top 5 percent, 79 in the top 10 percent, and 157 in the top 25 percent nationally.

Statewide, the top 10 highest ranking schools were:

  1. The School for the Talented and Gifted (TAG), Dallas
  2. Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, Dallas
  3. Science and Engineering Magnet School (SEM), Dallas
  4. Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), Austin
  5. Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston
  6. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston
  7. Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, Dallas
  8. IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, Brownsville
  9. Challenge Early College High School, Houston
  10. Health Careers High School, San Antonio

So, which school throughout the country ranks as this year's valedictorian? Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia was deemed the best in the country, as well as among magnet schools. Read the full report and search for schools here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston is a good place for creators of digital content, such as podcasters, bloggers, writers, and strategists. Photo by Laurence Dutton/Getty Images

Houston named national hot spot for this tech career, says report

DIGITAL DOMINANCE

The Greater Houston area ranks as one of the hot spots in the country for an in-demand area of tech expertise.

A new report from career website LinkedIn looks at an array of career categories exhibiting the highest year-over-year growth rates in hiring (based on the period from last April to October).

The report pinpoints Houston as one of the hottest U.S. markets for creators of digital content, such as podcasters, bloggers, writers, and strategists. For those looking to transition, the majority of these digital content creators have a bachelor of arts degree, while some 25 percent have a masters, the report notes. Top skills for these positions include editing, writing, public speaking.

Meanwhile, DFW is listed as a "top region" for UX specialists, including UX consultants, designers, and researchers along with the San Francisco Bay area and Greater Chicago area. (What, exactly, is UX? While the field and job can have many facets, one industry site puts it this succinctly: "UX design is the process of designing (digital or physical) products that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with.")

The Austin area ranks as one of the hottest spots in the U.S. for artificial intelligence (AI). The report says jobs like artificial intelligence specialist, machine learning researcher, and machine learning engineer are in particularly high demand in the Austin area, as well as Denver and San Francisco Bay.

In 2019, the tech sector in Texas wielded an economic impact of $141.7 billion and employed more than 1 million people (including AI engineers, UX designers, and digital content creators), according to CompTIA, a trade association for the IT industry.

"Technology powered job growth and economic gains in the past decade in Texas and across the country while delivering countless benefits in how we work, communicate, create, and share," Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, said in a 2020 release.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Texas at Austin among the country's top five schools for undergraduate students studying AI, an arm of computer science that simulates human intelligence.

Globally, AI is a fast-growing specialty among employers. A 2020 report from the World Economic Forum identified AI and machine learning positions as the No. 1 emerging category of jobs. Ninety-three percent of U.S. companies surveyed by the organization indicated they had adopted AI technology.

In 2019, job website Indeed reported that average salaries for the highest-paid AI jobs in the U.S. ranged from $109,314 to $142,859.

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Rice has risen to the top again. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University rises to top of Texas schools in prestigious U.S. News & World Report ranking

Head of class

Rice University continues to rise in national surveys. The latest: U.S. News & World Report's 2021 Best Colleges, released September 14, anoints Rice as the best university in Texas. The prestigious Houston school — dubbed the "Ivy League of the South" — ranks No. 16 among national universities, up one spot from last year.

This is in step with last year's U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges list, which also named Rice the best university in Texas.

The trusted report compared more than 1,400 undergraduate institutions across 17 measures of "academic quality" this year. Acknowledging the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools, the publication made several updates to its methodology, notes a release.

For 2021, U.S. News added two new metrics to measure student debt. It also increased the weight of the outcome category, which measures graduation rates, retention rates, and social mobility, and reduced the weights for standardized test scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving. And, for the very first time, the report ranks test-blind schools (those that don't require an SAT or ACT score for admission).

"The pandemic has affected students across the country, canceling commencement ceremonies and switching classes from in person to remote," said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer, in a release. "Whether students have slightly altered their college plans or changed them entirely, it remains our mission to continue providing students and their families with the tools they need to help find the right school for them."

Now, on to the rankings. Here's how Rice scores in the prestigious report:

  • No. 6 in Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • No. 8 in Best Value Schools
  • No. 18 in Most Innovative Schools (tie)
  • No. 224 in Top Performers on Social Mobility (tie)
  • No. 19 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (tie)

For 2021, the University of Texas at Austin ranks No. 42 nationally, up a significant six spots from 2020. It's also the school's highest ranking on the report since 1985, touts a news release from the university. Among the country's public universities, UT Austin climbed four spots from the previous year, landing at No. 13.

As for Texas' other top schools, Southern Methodist University and Texas A&M University are tied at No. 66 nationwide, while Baylor University and Texas Christian University rank No. 76 and No. 80, respectively.

The lofty U.S. News & World Report ranking is just the latest in accolades for the Owls. Rice was recently named the seventh best college in the U.S. and the best college in Texas by Niche.com.

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Three Houston schools crack the top 10 high schools in Texas. Photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Here's what Houston high schools shine brightest in the state, according to a new report

A+ education

A couple of Texas schools have been working hard on extra credit, or so says the latest ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Its list of the Best U.S. High Schools, released April 21, includes two Dallas public schools in the national top 10, with several other Texas learning institutions popping up further down.

The School for the Talented and Gifted earns a coveted No. 6 spot, followed by Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School at No. 10. Last year's No. 12, Science and Engineering Magnet School, slips slightly to No. 17 this year. All three are in the Dallas ISD.

On a state level, this trio takes the top three spots. Houston's DeBakey High School for Health Professions is No. 4 in Texas, with Carnegie Vanguard High School at No. 6 and Eastwood Academy at No. 10.

This is the most expansive edition yet, with the consumer advice outlet evaluating more than 17,700 public high schools on how well they serve all of their students, regardless of economic or ethnic background.

The methodology focuses on six factors: college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates. College readiness measures participation and performance on AP and IB exams.

"The Best High Schools rankings provide the most comprehensive, data-based information on nearly every public high school in the country," says Anita Narayan, managing editor of education at U.S. News. "Families can use this information to see how their local schools compare on graduation rates and state assessments, as well as academic performance by students who are traditionally underserved — those who are black, Hispanic, or from low-income households."

Also appearing on the national list are six more Texas schools within the top 100:

  • No. 29, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston ISD
  • No. 34, Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin ISD
  • No. 44, Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston ISD
  • No. 61, Early College High School, Laredo ISD
  • No. 82, Young Women's Leadership Academy, Fort Worth ISD
  • No. 91 Basis San Antonio- Shavano Campus, Basis Texas Castle Hills

The report also shows that the highest-ranked schools are scattered throughout the country, showing that the best schools are not concentrated in any one geographic area. Nine different states are represented among the top 10 schools. More broadly, the top 100 schools span 29 states.

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UT's grad schools earn top marks. University of Texas at Austin/Facebook

Texas school excels in ranking of country’s best graduate schools while Houston schools lag behind

Go longhorns

When it comes to the country's top graduate school programs, the University of Texas at Austin is at the head of the class.

A new ranking, released March 17 by U.S. News & World Report, shows UT Austin tied for third place among public universities for the most graduate schools and specialties (48) ranked in the top 10. Only the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan have more.

UT's top five graduate schools for 2021, according to U.S. News: School of Information (No. 5), Jackson School of Geosciences (No. 7), LBJ School of Public Affairs (No. 8), Steve Hicks School of Social Work (No. 8), and Cockrell School of Engineering (No. 10).

U.S. News, bases its annual rankings of on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence, and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research, and students.

Also making the grade is UT's prestigious law school, tied for 16th in the nation, and School of Nursing, which placed No. 24.

Meanwhile, UT's McCombs School of Business' full-time MBA program claimed the No. 17 spot, up one spot from last year. The school's part-time MBA program landed at No. 7, up from No. 8 in 2019, and the executive MBA program jumped from two spots to No. 12 this year.

For all three types of MBA programs, UT Austin leads the rankings for Texas schools.

A few Houston schools do make a few of the lists, but the universities from the Bayou City fall far down the ranking. Here are the schools that made it into the top 100 of the engineering, nursing, law, business, and medical lists.

  • Rice University's Jones School of Business ties at No. 25 on the best business graduate schools list
  • University of Houston's Bauer College of Business ties at No. 95 on the best business graduate schools list
  • The Law Center at University of Houston ties at No. 56 on the best law schools list
  • Baylor College of Medicine ranks No. 22 on the best medical schools list
  • Rice University's George R. Brown School of Engineering ties at No. 33 on the best engineering graduate schools list
  • The Cullen College of Engineering at University of Houston ties at No. 67 on the best engineering graduate schools list
  • University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston ties at No. 27 on the best nursing schools list for master's
  • The College of Education at University of Houston ties for No. 91 on the best education graduate schools list
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U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best Colleges ranking puts Rice University in first place for the state. Courtesy of Rice University

Houston university named the best in the state and among the top schools in the country

Report card

It's not breaking news, but it's always fun to hear: Rice University isn't just the best college in Texas, it stands above most in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's latest ranking.

On September 9, the publication released its annual 2020 Best Colleges report, comparing nearly 1,400 schools around the country.

Rice University is once again tops in Texas and No. 17 in the nation, tying with Cornell University and slipping one spot on the national ranking from 2018. The University of Texas at Austin ranks No. 2 in Texas, behind Rice for the second year in a row, and No. 48 in the nation.

U.S. News broke down ranking metrics like a classic syllabus. Each school was graded across six categories, weighing outcomes (graduation and retention rates, social mobility, etc.) the heaviest at 35 percent. Faculty resources and expert opinion of schools each accounted for 20 percent of scores, followed by financial resources and student excellence at 10 percent each and alumni giving at 5 percent.

The publication also brought some new rankings to the table this year, including Top Performers on Social Mobility, which analyzes schools based on which ones best serve underrepresented students, looking at Pell Grants and enrollment and graduation rates of students from low-income backgrounds. Rice ranks No. 204 on that list.

Rice placed highly on some of U.S. News' new rankings for programs students should look out for, including learning communities (No. 13), senior capstone (No. 20), and undergraduate research/creative projects (No. 34).

Nationwide, the Ivies continue their dominance atop the list. Princeton University is the best university in America, followed by Harvard University (No. 2) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University, which tied for third.

In Texas, Southern Methodist University (No. 64), Texas A&M University (No. 70), and Baylor University (No. 79), round out the top five schools in Texas.

Locally, the University of Houston ranks 185th nationally. In the Regional Universities West ranking, the University of St. Thomas comes in 19th, the University of Houston—Clear Lake takes the 43rd spot, and Houston Baptist University lands at No. 61.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Nearly half of Houston workers complain of serious burnout, says new report

working hard

Local workers who're especially dreading that commute or cracking open the laptop in the morning aren't alone. A new study reveals that nearly half of Houston laborers are more burned out on the job.

Some 49 percent of Bayou City residents report to be burned out at work, according to employment industry website Robert Half. That's significantly higher than last year, when only 37 percent reported burnout in a similar poll.

Meanwhile, more than one in four Houston workers (28 percent) say that they will not unplug from work when taking time off this summer.

Not surprisingly, American workers are ready for a vacation. Per a press release, the research also reveals:

  • One in four workers lost or gave up paid time off in 2020
  • One in three plans to take more than three weeks of vacation time this year

Elsewhere in Texas, the burnout is real. In Dallas, 50 percent of workers report serious burnout. More than a quarter — 26 percent — of Dallasites fear they won't disconnect from the office during summer vacation.

In fun-filled Austin, 45 percent of the workforce complain of burnout. Some 32 percent of Austinites feel they can unplug from work during the summer.

Fortunately for us, the most burned-out city in the U.S. isn't in the Lone Star State. That dubious title goes to the poor city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where 55 percent of laborers are truly worn out.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston small biz tech platform raises $21M series B

money moves

A tech company focused on supporting and growing startups and small businesses has reached its own next big growth milestone this week.

Machine learning-enabled small business support company Hello Alice, founded in Houston with a large presence in California, has closed its $21 million series B raise led by Virginia-based QED Investors with participation from new investors including Backstage Capital, Green Book Ventures, Harbert Growth Partners, and How Women Invest.

The raise comes at a pivotal time for the company, which worked hard during the pandemic to support struggling business and now aims to support entrepreneurs of all backgrounds as the world re-emerges out of the COVID-19 era. The fresh funds, according to a press release, will be used to refine the predictive capabilities on its platform, launch a mobile application, and more.

"These investments signal that despite the recent challenges small business owners have faced, there is an economic tidal wave that will revitalize Main Street, led by the entrepreneurs we serve," says Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, in the release.

Since April 2020, Hello Alice has granted over $20 million in emergency funds and resources for small business owners affected by the pandemic. According to the release, the largest percentage of those grants went to "New Majority owners," especially people of color and women. Additionally, the company has reportedly experienced 1,100 percent growth and has expanded to support 500,000 small business owners weekly, with an increased revenue of more than 600 percent through its SaaS platform.

"We are thrilled to have a cap table as diverse as the business owners we serve," says Carolyn Rodz, co-founder and CEO of Hello Alice, in the release. "Our investors are leaders from the Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, Women, and US Veteran communities. As a Latina founder and fellow small business owner, I want to ensure that as our company grows, we are fueling future diversity in capital and breaking through ceilings for the benefit of our community."

According to a recent report Hello Alice produced in partnership with GGV Capital, now is the time to support small businesses. The report found that 83 percent of owners surveyed (which included 97,739 founders operating in all 50 states) believe their business will perform better in 2021 than in 2020. Most of the founders — 93 percent — plan to hire this year compared to the almost half — 45 percent — that laid off employees in 2020. Additionally, founders have an increased focus on tech — 75 percent said they are going to spend more on tech this year compared to last.

"Small business owners are the backbone of the U.S. economy, but many fail before they've had an opportunity to meaningfully serve the community in which they're based," says Frank Rotman, QED Investors Founding Partner, in the release. "Access to both capital and business expertise remain the biggest obstacles for SMBs, challenges heightened for women- and minority-owned businesses.

"Traditionally, corporations and government grants want to engage and support, but there hasn't been a source of truth on who can qualify for their diversity grants, funds and programs," he continues. "Hello Alice solves this problem, building tools that empower the new majority and enabling corporations and governments to support SMBs. Founders Carolyn and Elizabeth and the entire Hello Alice team are having a real, tangible impact on the ecosystem. We are incredibly excited to help them help others."

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to two local innovators, as well as one honorary Houstonian, across industries — energy, manufacturing, and more — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Juliana Garaizar, head of Greentown Houston and vice president of Greentown Labs

Juliana Garaizar is transitioning her role at Greentown Houston. Courtesy photo

Juliana Garaizar has a new role within Greentown Labs. She's lead the local team as launch director, and now is taking a new role now that Greentown Houston has opened its doors. Garaizar recently discussed with InnovationMap why now is the perfect time for Greentown to premiere in Houston.

"I think that if Greentown had happened one year before or even one year later, it wouldn't be the right time. I really believe that our main partners are transitioning themselves — Shell, Chevron, and many others are announcing how they are transitioning," she says. "And now they look at Greentown as an execution partner more than anything. Before, it was a nice initiative for them to get involved in. Now, they are really thinking about us much more strategically." Click here to read more.

Misha Govshteyn, CEO of MacroFab

Misha Govshteyn joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the evolving electronics manufacturing industry. Photo courtesy of MacroFab

Electronics manufacturer and MacroFab, run by CEO Misha Govshteyn, much like the rest of the business world, was not immune to the effects of the pandemic. But as some business returned last summer, Govshteyn says MacroFab bounced back in a big way.

"In a lot of ways, the concepts we've been talking about actually crystalized during the pandemic. For a lot of people, it was theoretically that supply chain resiliency is important," Govshteyn says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Single sourcing from a country halfway around the world might not be the best solution. ... When you have all your eggs in one basket, sooner or later you're going to have a break in your supply chain. And we've seen nothing but breaks in supply chains for the last five years." Click here to read more.

Kerri Smith, interim executive director of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator

A new clean energy accelerator has announced its first cohort. Photo via rice.edu

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, a 12-week program that will prepare startups to grow their business, connect them with strategic partners and mentors, launch pilots, and fundraise, has named its inaugural cohort.

"We were impressed with the quality, potential and range of clean energy solutions being commercialized by our applicant pool and took great care in assessing their potential as well as our ability to meet their identified needs," says Kerri Smith, the accelerator's interim executive director. "The selection process was very competitive. We had a difficult time paring down the applications but are looking forward to working with our first class of 12." Click here to read more.