Crazy Times at TPS

And a look at what happens when a school district falls
empty classroom, black and white

At Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ press conference, held in Tulsa prior to Monday’s Tulsa School Board meeting, Walters mentioned that he had been in regular communication with Houston about their school takeover. The comment piqued my interest because a teacher from Houston had contacted me a few weeks ago to ask about an article I had written about Amplify’s CKLA curriculum that TPS was using at the time. The Houston teacher said that she and her colleagues had reviewed Amplify and found it to be scripted, developmentally inappropriate, not culturally sensitive and more. They planned to speak against the reforms that the Houston takeover was implementing; however, they received a letter that said, I’m paraphrasing, “My way or the highway.” They had no choice but to teach the scripted curriculum or they could leave.

I don’t know what State Superintendent Walters is planning. I hope he is not planning to take away Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation. I really hope he’s not going to bring back Amplify. TPS has lost enough teachers and students the past eight years. It’s time to stand up to Ryan Walters and protect our schools. After that, we can look at the top-down, Broad Foundation, business privatization model that Superintendent Gist is using at TPS. Remember when No Child Left Behind was going to get all children up to grade level in reading and math? After 20 years of that “reform,” children are doing worse.

The billionaires all got involved in public education for different reasons. The Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation (Superintendent Gist and most of the administrators at the Service Center are Broad Academy graduates), Gates (MAPs test), Chan-Zuckerberg, Rupert Murdoch (Amplify) offered no improvement in learning. And, more recently, the religious right curriculum of Hillsdale College that Walters supports, is in the mix. And not to leave out the PragerU curriculum that Florida has approved, which whitewashes history. I agree with the Houston educators that Amplify is bad, but these two may be worse. Is this what Walters would hoist onto TPS if he could manage to grab our large district?

No one knows. But keep watching those Ryan Walters car videos for more information. (Is he driving and making phone videos? Is that legal?) In the meantime, here’s a blog from author and educator Nancy E. Bailey, Ph.D. Ed., who blogs for kids, teachers, parents and democratic public schools. I’ve re-blogged it with her permission. Here is the link as well if you would like to comment on her page:

When One School District Falls: HISD is a Preview for All Schools



I think there is a likelihood that we will be seeing more state takeover of districts. 

~Kenneth Wong, education policy researcher and former advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, March 28, 2023

Houston faces harsh public school reforms, a sad example of the continuing efforts in America to destroy all public education and end professional teaching.

State takeovers aren’t new. Nor are they known for innovation, but for creating school voids, cutting services, and firing key staff, promising to close learning gaps. Takeovers usually only weaken schools, breaking them up and leaving communities with fewer and poorer schools.

The Superintendent

Superintendent Mike Miles has never been a classroom teacher. Miles replaces Superintendent Millard House II, hired in 2021, only there two years before being hired elsewhere.

As CEO of Third Future Schools, Miles ran a network of charter schools in Colorado, Texas, and Louisiana. The Texas Tribune describes his leadership in the Dallas Independent School District as tumultuous after six years as superintendent of the smaller Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

The Dallas Morning News claims the district has few academic gains to show for all the disruption.

Miles participated in the Eli Broad program at Yale. On his LinkedIn page, another school reformer writes they matriculated through the Broad Academy now within the Yale School of Management. 

The late Eli Broad pushed school privatization with a 44-page document to show how to break up public schools, originally reported by Howard Blume in the LA Times $490 Million Plan would Put Half of LAUSD Students in Charter Schools.

Those who subscribe to Broad’s philosophy disrupt public education to privatize it. Realizing Miles is a Broadie (name reflecting Broad’s agenda), makes what’s happening in Houston clearer.

Miles has degrees from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in the army, and attended the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University. His degrees are in engineering, Slavic languages and literature, and international affairs and public policy. He has no known formal education about running a school considering student developmental needs.

The New Education System (NES)

Miles’s program is called the New Education System (NES) and HERE. Principals, teachers, and staff join.

Under the NES, according to the Houston Chronicle, administrators will handle discipline, stand in hallways patrolling, and make children walk in single file, quietly, and schools look sterile, cold, and cookie-cutter. If students use the bathroom, they must carry an orange parking cone. Teachers might get to keep their desks.

Compensation under the NES will be differentiated. Teachers will likely be evaluated with test scores, and their autonomy is stifled. Curriculum developers will provide lesson plans and materials for grades 2-10, removing the teacher’s instructional expertise. Student work will be graded by support personnel, even though teachers glean information about students by grading their work.

The district will hire apprentice teachers. They will expand the reach of the best and brightest teachers. How will they make this determination? Shouldn’t all teachers be hired with the credentials they need to do the job?

The plan calls for four periods of the staff performing duties each month (75 minutes each time), and this is unclear.

Replacing School Libraries and Librarians with Disciplinary Centers

Most controversial is that when principals join the NES they can lose their school libraries and librarians. From Click2Houston: 85 schools that have joined Miles’ program, and of those, 28 campuses will lose their librarians. The district said they will have the opportunity to transition to other roles within the district. 

Instead of school libraries, children with behavioral difficulties will face screens in “Teams Centers” or “Zoom rooms.” There’s concern they’ll associate libraries as punishing. Students who misbehave need human interaction and support, not to be left to face screens.

Librarians with advanced degrees in library science will be removed, despite being knowledgeable and critical to a child’s learning. They could be transplanted to non-NES schools, which will get school libraries and librarians.

Miles states:  

We’re not doing things that are just popular. We’re not doing things that we’ve always done, we’re not doing things that are just fun, we’re not doing things that are just nice to have or good unless we can measure its success.

He’s not doing what works! It’s common knowledge among those who understand children that when children have access to great school libraries learning results improve.  

Losing Teachers: Moving to Online Amplify to Teach Reading

HISD is losing qualified teachers, school libraries, and librarians, and advertising for 350 long-term substitutes who don’t require a college degree. The online program, Amplify, will be used.

In State Legislative news in May, Education Bill “Amplifies” State Power, Threatens Teacher Autonomy, Jovanica Palacios states:

Despite promises to the contrary, this bill [House Bill 1605] would cut a slice out of Texas’ education funding, taking money out of school districts and giving it to a vendor. The proposed legislation is actually dubbed “the Amplify bill” due to its association with curriculum development company Amplify, which received a $19 million emergency state contract during COVID.

At least 85 NES schools under Miles will use Amplify, which advertises the Science of Reading, an online program once owned by the education division of Rupert Murdock’s News Corp. and purchased by Laurene Powell Jobs. Where’s independent research providing proof that this program is effective?

According to the Houston Chronicle, Miles said If you have to prioritize resources, then you want to get a teacher who can deliver the science of reading versus a librarian.

Reform Austin noted before that Bill’s approval:

Under the legislation, the state would provide approved electronic K-12 curricula that align with state standards and offer financial incentives to districts that adopt them. By utilizing these pre-approved lesson plans, districts would ensure compliance with state requirements while potentially sacrificing some teacher autonomy. 

The HISD is the perfect storm for ending public education, replacing school librarians, teachers, and assistant principals, with unproven online programs and staff with little qualifications or experience. One must ask why someone like Miles was hired. Watch as these kinds of reforms become prevalent in other school districts if they haven’t already.

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Categories: Editor’s Blog