Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath commended the reform initiatives spearheaded by state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles during his visit to three Houston Independent School District (HISD) campuses on Tuesday. This visit marked Morath’s first inspection of the district’s schools since the state takeover.
Accompanied by school officials, Morath toured Kashmere High, Highland Heights Elementary, and Shadydale Elementary, all of which are part of the New Education System (NES) program implemented by Miles this academic year. Noting a significant improvement in academic standards compared to his previous visits, Morath praised the transformative impact of the NES model on HISD schools.
Under the NES framework, HISD introduced a standardized curriculum, innovative classes such as “Art of Thinking” and “Dyad,” and established Team Centers at 85 campuses, primarily located in low-income, Black, and Latino communities. The program also entails extended school hours, increased teacher compensation, and additional support personnel such as “teacher apprentices” and “learning coaches” to aid educators.
Speaking at a press conference following his visits, Morath lauded the quality of instruction and structural changes within HISD, emphasizing their potential to address the diverse needs of all students. While acknowledging that the full impact of these changes may take time to materialize, Morath expressed optimism about the program’s ability to prevent student academic disparities and provide comprehensive support in key subjects.
Morath highlighted the NES model’s focus on personalized instruction and targeted intervention, particularly for students with special education needs. Accompanied by TEA officials, he observed how HISD accommodates special education students, an area where the district has faced compliance challenges with state and federal laws.
Despite some concerns raised by HISD teachers about accommodating special education students within the NES framework, Morath emphasized the benefits of additional educators in classrooms, facilitating customized support as part of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
However, recent criticisms regarding the reading curriculum at NES schools, which predominantly feature short passages instead of full novels, have surfaced. Miles defended the curriculum’s effectiveness in teaching reading skills, stating that students have the option to read full books independently outside of class time.
Morath stressed the importance of exposing students to a diverse range of reading materials, including complex texts, to foster critical thinking skills. He emphasized the need for students to engage with challenging literary works, such as those by Shakespeare or John Keats, while receiving individualized support tailored to their academic needs.
In conclusion, Morath’s visit to HISD schools underscores the ongoing efforts to enhance educational outcomes and address systemic challenges within the district, signaling a collaborative approach between state and local education authorities to ensure all students receive quality education.