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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Houston school plan: No disruptive kids in class -- and no librarians

Teachers will earn more and have "apprentices" and aides to handle mundane chores. They'll use scripted curricula instead of spending evenings planning lessons. Cameras will monitor classrooms, and disruptive students will be sent to a "team center" -- the school library/media center -- where they'll do online classes and perhaps work with learning coaches.

Houston Superintendent Mike Miles is making big changes at low-performing schools. Photo: Dominic Anthony Walsh/Houston Public Media

Houston's new superintendent, Mike Miles, is launching a New Education System (NES) at the district's lowest-performing schools. It's controversial -- especially plans to eliminate librarians and media specialists and use libraries for exiled students, reports Adam Zuvanich for Houston Public Media.

Miles was appointed superintendent June 1 by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who also replaced the district's nine elected trustees with a state-appointed board of managers. Charges of mismanagement and illegal activity by past board members, as well as low academic ratings, led to the state takeover.

In response to criticism, Miles said the team center will be "the hub of differentiated instruction . . . where students who need extra support to catch up and have access to more time with a teacher or learning coach, and those students who are ready to work ahead can take on more challenging lessons and assignments." Students will be able to check out books before and after school.

Superintendent Miles pitched the NES at a job fair for prospective teachers in June, writes Margaret Downing for the Houston Press. Teachers would be treated like surgeons, he said.

"Doctors don’t prep the room, they don’t prep the materials, they don’t take the blood pressure or heart rate. . . . We’re going to treat you like professionals. You come into the room and you teach like a champion. You are the surgeons, You are the person who understands the question behind the question. You understand the pacing, you understand the rigor. You understand each kid’s needs."

The average NES teacher will be paid "well over $95,000," including incentives, Miles told the recruits. Teachers will be "in front of kids at least six hours a day," but "we’re going to take a lot of stuff off your plate. Discipline is taken off your plate, power point is taken off your plate, quizzes, lesson plans, making copies."

Miles has laid off hundreds of central-office administrators to free money for teacher bonuses.

Will it work? It's a huge change in a very short time, and I can see lots of ways it will go wrong. Will teachers be trained in the new curriculum? Will the curriculum be good? Will schools be able to hire all those apprentices, aides and learning coaches -- and will they really be able to free teachers to do nothing but teach? We'll see.

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