Up to 40 campuses to join HISD New Education System next year

Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Up to 40 campuses to join HISD New Education System next year
Houston ISD announced the 26 campuses that will become part of the district's NES model next school year.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- At least 26 Houston Independent School District campuses will join the district's New Education System next school year, Superintendent Mike Miles announced this week.

13 Investigates' Kevin Ozebek sat down with Miles on Monday to learn more about how the district decided which campuses will become NES and how much funding will go toward supporting those schools.

"I think most parents are happy about it. Most kids are happy about it, so we're not going to have the same level of angst as we did before. No question there will be some that are not happy with it, but I would just encourage them to actually go visit schools like I do," Miles said. "What's bad about achievement results? What's bad about travel (opportunities for NES students) to Washington, D.C., and Japan? What's bad about these additional supports that these kids and teachers are getting?"

As Miles looks to eventually expand the NES model to 150 HISD campuses by the 2026-27 school year, 13 Investigates found a majority of the district's 273 schools saw a decline in overall academic performance last year under a new tougher state grading system.

The declines occurred before Miles was appointed superintendent in June and implemented reforms at 28 NES campuses and 57 NES-aligned campuses.

NES is designed to improve academic performance at struggling schools, according to HISD. It includes providing support to families by opening campuses longer, utilizing "a rigorous instructional program," offering an Art of Thinking class to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as paying teachers and staff higher salaries.

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According to HISD's calculations, 113 of the district's 273 schools would have received a D or F accountability rating for the 2022-23 school year.

The Texas Education Agency did not release official accountability ratings for the 2022-23 school year after several school districts sued the state claiming it unlawfully and retroactively changed "the rules in a way that will arbitrarily lower performance ratings for many school districts and campuses even though their performance improved."

SEE ALSO: More than 200 school districts ask TEA to reconsider accountability rating refresh

HISD said the TEA provided it with its data and methodology and the district then calculated ratings for each campus.

Houston ISD has 273 campuses. 13 Investigates looked at accountability ratings for every campus. When excluding alternative campuses and early childhood centers, there were 230 campuses that saw accountability ratings drop last school year.

We found district-wide two campuses dropped from an overall A rating to an F and 29 campuses dropped from an overall B rating to an F.

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Although the ratings HISD released are not the official TEA ratings due to ongoing litigation, Texas law allows the state to take over a school district if any of its campuses receive a failing grade for two consecutive years.

The TEA took over Houston ISD by appointing Miles as the new superintendent last June. It also stripped all elected school board members of their power and replaced them with a state-appointed board of managers.

"We knew that the district had some declining achievement, that's been recorded for several years," Miles said. "The more D and F campuses (there) are, the longer it will take. We're working diligently and the reason why we have more F and D campuses that we will add to NES is so that we can get out of intervention status faster."

All of the 26 campuses joining the NES model for the 2024-25 school year saw a decline in their overall performance last school year, with seven of those campuses' scores dropping 30 or more points.

Anderson Elementary School, for example, was A-rated with an overall score of 90 in the 2021-22 school year, according to the TEA. HISD's ratings for the 2022-23 shows the campus dropped to an F rating with an overall score of 56.

About half of the students at Anderson are considered emergent bilingual or English learners, according to the TEA.

'A long way to go'

On Monday, HISD released the results of a testing program it implemented this year to measure student academic success at the start, middle and end of the school year.

Miles said the testing shows the district is on the right track, especially when it comes to struggling schools that are a part of the NES system.

He said the standardized testing results show math and reading scores improved more at NES versus non-NES schools.

"I know there was a lot of change, but as always, you can see that kids are resilient and they will rise to the level of expectation. We've raised expectations, no question and you can see that both teachers and kids have risen to that level," Miles said.

Still, Miles said, the standardized testing showing an increase in scores halfway through the year is just one set of data and "does not make a trend" and "we've got a long way to go."

Miles said he's confident that the NES program is working, and that providing the extra support to failing campuses will help them move out of that D and F status, and eventually get the district out of state control.

"The more NES schools that we have, the easier it will be to get out of intervention status," Miles said.

But, he doesn't want every campus to be an NES school.

"I don't want the public to think that we don't have some great schools in HISD. We do. We have some of the best schools in the nation. (There's) 273 schools, many of them are doing great. They don't need any help from the district as far as additional support like NES gets," he said. "Having said that, we have a number of schools that are struggling. There's no question about that either and so we've set a target for 150 NES schools by the 2026-27 school year."

13 Investigates has heard from parents and students in NES schools who told us they don't feel like they're thriving under the new program.

When we asked Miles about it, he said the district aims to provide individualized help and counseling to students who need it.

"Let's not assign to the entire 85 schools the impressions of one kid, one parent, one teacher, or even a handful. Let's look at the program for real and see if kids are really stressed out. There are cues that some kids take from adults, and let's be careful about that," Miles said.

Salaries, up-front costs of NES

In addition to the 26 schools that will be NES in the 2024-25 school year, Miles says principals at 24 D-rated schools can ask to be a part of the NES system.

Up to 14 of those campuses will be selected to join NES, due to finances and program capacity, Miles said. Those campuses will be selected by February 9.

Miles said there's a one-time upfront cost of about $435,000 per NES campus to cover items like extra desks for team centers, web cameras and extracurricular items like pianos.

"With the salary increase, because the salaries are higher, you're looking at somewhere around $800,000 per school to run," he said. "No question it's more expensive because they have teacher apprentices and things like that. Now, at the same time, we don't have a lot of additional programming that we cut back on, so we don't have a lot of people coming in training teachers to do this or this or that. We don't have a lot of unique expenditures because we're doing the work, so while we increase the staff money, we also decrease the purchase service money, so it's not exactly an $800,000 increase."

HISD said all non-NES teachers should expect a $2,500 salary increase for the 2024-25 school year.

The starting salary for a non-NES teacher next school year is $64,000, according to HISD.

NES salaries vary depending on the subject and grade level. The starting salary for an NES elementary school teacher will be $75,435 next school year, according to HISD. Starting salaries will be $80,059 for middle school NES teachers and $82,816 for high school NES teachers.

"The NES schools are the schools where the kids are furthest behind. They're struggling academically and there's also other needs besides academic needs in the NES schools, the D and F schools, and so we need teachers who are the highest caliber as far as raising proficiency, whose quality of instruction is higher," Miles said. "We need to attract those teachers who are willing to work in a tough environment. The expectations are higher, the accountability's higher. Not everybody wants to work in a school where the accountability's higher, so we're paying better wages."

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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