Uncertainty and optimism for HISD parents on 1st day under takeover

Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Superintendent's grade for HISD on 1st day of school: An A-minus
It's the first day of class for the thousands of Houston ISD students, and it's the first school year the district will be controlled by the state.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's the first day of class for the thousands of students in Houston ISD, and it's the first school year the district will be controlled by the state.

Over the summer, the elected school board was replaced with an appointed board of managers, and now, former Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles is heading up the state's largest district.

There are 274 schools within HISD and 28 of those campuses are designated as NES schools, which is part of Miles' New Education System.

You'll see the biggest differences at these campuses with changes including libraries being turned into disciplinary centers, teachers getting standardized lesson plans, and an open-door policy, meaning teachers will teach in their classrooms with open doors.

Jackie Anderson, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she's skeptical of this plan and is worried it will be a harsh transition, especially for the students attending the NES campuses.

"Those are the schools that will see the drastic changes as far as taking cones to the restroom, having no libraries, no libraries in the classroom, sterile classrooms that have no 'distractors,' as he calls them," Anderson said.

Students heading into Marshall Middle School were welcomed Monday by community leaders and people from "Safe Walk Home Northside," a neighborhood patrol program created in honor of 11-year-old Josue Flores who was murdered while walking home from school back in 2016.

"We are looking at this as a day of remembrance and also a day of celebration," Marshall Middle School Principal Jeff Bridgewater said.

SEE MORE: Timeline of Josue Flores murder case

SEE ALSO: Andre Jackson faces 5 years to life in prison after conviction in 11-year-old Josue Flores' murder

Miguel Hernandez said his seventh-grade son has been looking forward to the first day back, despite all of the changes coming to the district now that the TEA is in charge.

"He knew about it, but he still has a good attitude. (He) couldn't wait for school to start this year and just meet his friends, get back into the groove of it," Hernandez said.

The 28 NES schools started the day with strict rules in place.

Teachers are already following standardized lesson plans and students have been asked to walk through hallways in silent, single file lines.

Principals and administrators across the district were required to observe teachers on the first day of school, which is part of a push to turn them into instructional coaches.

"We had about 75% of principals reporting medium to high quality instruction," Miles said.

HISD teachers on every campus were told not to spend valuable classroom time introducing procedures.

That instruction started right away on Monday. NES schools and teachers even gave quizzes on the first day, already starting a daily testing schedule.

"We need 185 student-teacher contact days of good quality instruction to close the achievement gap and to close the skills gap. We have 172," Miles said.

He says HISD enrollment is up slightly this year from last, with about 186, 400 current students.