Not too surprising, all things considered.
Over 50 Houston ISD schools voluntarily signed up for Superintendent Mike Miles’ sweeping New Education System, joining the 28 campuses required to be part of the reform program Miles launched his first day in office, according to a spokesman for Miles.
The volume of applicants was higher than the district anticipated, and details about how these schools would be folded into NES are still being worked out, a spokesman said Monday. HISD had initially planned on splitting the voluntary schools into “NES-supported” and “NES-aligned” distinctions, but the NES-supported category may be cut due to higher-than-expected enrollment.
A final list of schools is expected by the end of the week.
The campuses that opted into the program will not be reconstituted ahead of the upcoming school year as part of their participation in the program, and teachers and administrators will not immediately be paid the drastically higher salaries that their counterparts in the 28 original NES schools will enjoy. Staff at NES-aligned schools, however, will receive stipends for working at a high-need campus, according to emails shared with school staff.
Both NES-aligned and -supported schools will otherwise undergo some of the other reforms coming to schools in the system, including a new curriculum for reading and math with a set amount of instructional time for those courses. NES-aligned schools, additionally, will adopt the same master schedule that sees doors open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with the “hospital model” of staffing that places “teacher apprentices” and “learning coaches” in classrooms alongside teachers, among other changes.
At least one school administrator, however, said their campus opted into NES “very reluctantly” because they anticipated being folded into the program regardless as NES expands to 150 schools by 2025. By voluntarily enrolling in the program, they hoped to avoid the reconstitution that forced most staff at the original NES schools to reapply for their jobs.
“Schools are not just buildings filled with people, they are implanted in the community, so even though there is turnover, which is natural at any school, there’s always going to be an overlap in staff that understands community,” said the administrator, who was not willing to have their name published. “(Staff) may be brought back, but the point is they don’t have to be, so that’s why it’s nerve-wracking to know our students could really lose out on the people who know them best and know how to support them and their families.”
Miles denied promising that schools that signed up for NES would not be reconstituted. Rather, he said, staff should not have to reapply for their jobs because teacher evaluations — which are being implemented across the district in the 2024-2025 school year but introduced at NES and NES-aligned schools immediately — will determine if a teacher can stay at a high-need school.
“Is it possible that some schools get reconstituted because they haven’t been NES or NES-aligned and don’t have a teacher evaluation system? Yes,” Miles said. “(But) if you have the evaluation system, there is no need for reconstitution.”
The decision to enroll in NES ultimately lay with school principals, but Miles said he had encouraged them to communicate with their staffs and school communities before arriving at a decision.
I mean, some principals may look at the NES and decide it’s a good plan and they want in on it. Some may think “hey, at least it’s a plan, I’m willing to try it”. Some may be like the unnamed principal above, figuring it’s going to happen to them sooner or later and they may as well try to exert some agency over it. Who knows what else they might think.
I say again, the basic outline sounds reasonable, and there was a record of success with it in Dallas. I remain concerned about the need to earn the community’s trust and buy-in, and I very much remain concerned about the scalability and long-term viability of this project. Establishing that trust can help alleviate the long-term viability issue. Spelling out exactly how this will all work would help, too. We’re all waiting on some of this stuff.