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HISD superintendent gives behind-the-scenes tour at New Education System school

Two weeks into the new school year, Superintendent Mike Miles said he's pleased with what he's seeing so far.

HOUSTON — KHOU 11 got a first-hand look inside a Houston ISD "New Education System" school on Wednesday.

The system is a part of state-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles' instructional overhaul plan.

Miles' on Wednesday led KHOU 11's Michelle Choi through a tour of Lawson Middle School, which is an NES school. The superintendent said he visits at least five campuses a week to see for himself how things are going.

Two weeks into the new school year, Miles said he's pleased with what he's seeing so far.

"Things are going really well," he said. "What I see is teachers teaching. They're using the model, kids are learning."

Miles spent a good part of the morning observing teachers and students and giving instant feedback to staff at the middle school. Lawson, along with 56 other schools, opted into the NES program after an initial group of schools was selected for it.

One of the district's more controversial big changes includes turning libraries at NES schools into so-called 'team centers.'

"I know there's been misinformation we've turned libraries into detention centers," Miles said while showing off one of the centers. "Come on, does this look like detention to you? This looks like students studying."

He said the area will be used at times for so-called disruptive students to learn via Zoom, but that its core purpose is to be used by advanced students who need more challenging work.

"The proficient and accelerated kids get harder work and they get out here and work on their own," he said.

The students at the centers will also be assisted by learning coaches. Miles said students will start their day by taking a quiz. If a student needs more one-on-one learning, they'll stay in their designated classroom where both an experienced teacher and a teacher's apprentice will help.

Miles said having multiple instructors in each classroom is part of the reform.

"And this way we never have substitutes and we always have high-quality instruction," he said.


According to Miles, each campus will also have multiple team centers that are based on grade level. As for the libraries themselves, he said the books aren't going anywhere and that students will be able to check them out anytime from administrators or from their own classrooms.

The district's new open-door policy has also gotten a lot of pushback. On Wednesday, we learned the policy's already been scaled back. During the tour, we saw some classroom doors propped open, and others were closed. When we asked why, Miles said it all came down to fire safety. He said 20% of the districts are old and don't have built-in sprinklers. 

"In that case, we want to be as safe as possible," Miles said. "So if we don't have a sprinkler system in this building, we will keep the doors closed."

He said part of the open environment policy also means windows can't be covered up and administrators must be able to see what's going on to be able to help teachers.

"We have to be able to come in and out and teachers need to feel like they're going to get coaching and feedback," Miles said.

He said several security experts actually recommended keeping doors open.

"An open door that's locked, but open, kids in team centers and hallways can get into the classrooms quickly and you can shut the door quickly," Miles said.

He also emphasized that campuses have one point of entry and that those with multiple doors leading outside must remain shut and that people must be buzzed in through them. He added that they've increased pay for the police force to increase the number of patrols in accordance with House Bill 3, a newly passed state law targetting school safety.

The district is also working toward adding cameras on buses, according to Miles. He said with 273 campuses to manage, they'll continue to tweak and make necessary changes.

"We're going to keep pushing so we reach the bar of excellence and quality of instruction," he said.

As for parents who are still anxious about the new changes, Miles encouraged parents to visit their children's schools and take a tour to see the changes for themselves.

Michelle Choi on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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