Houston ISD teachers are expressing their frustration and anger over an inappropriate reading assignment that was supposed to be given to 8th grade students at the district’s New Education System-aligned campuses. The assignment, which was part of the district’s curriculum, contained a passage from a book by Maya Angelou that described a sexual encounter between a man and a woman in a hotel room.
Superintendent Mike Miles takes responsibility and promises to fix the issue
The reading assignment was discovered and corrected before it reached the students, according to HISD superintendent Mike Miles, who issued a statement on Wednesday. Miles said that the curriculum and lessons given to the students will be age-appropriate and meet his high standards. He also said that he has directed the Chief Academic Officer to review all the systems and processes related to curriculum creation to ensure that inappropriate content never gets to classrooms.
Miles also announced that he will pay a team of HISD teacher-experts from each grade level and content area to review the curriculum moving forward. He said that he has already begun taking steps to strengthen the curriculum development and review processes.
Houston Federation of Teachers blames Miles for cutting the curriculum department
However, the Houston Federation of Teachers, which filed a lawsuit against Miles and the board last month, said that the inappropriate reading assignment was a result of Miles’ decision to make cuts in the curriculum department. Corina Ortiz, with the union, said that there have been countless factual and content errors being caught by teachers, who have to spend extra time reviewing, correcting, and rewriting materials so that students get accurate and appropriate resources.
Ortiz said that the union has offered to help and assist with curriculum, but Miles has refused their offer. She said that Miles has violated Texas Education Code requirements when he developed teacher evaluations, saying that his system was created illegally.
Parents and students react to the controversial reading assignment
Some parents and students who saw the reading assignment on social media were shocked and outraged by its content. They said that it was not suitable for 8th graders, who are around 13 or 14 years old. They also questioned the quality of education that HISD is providing to its students.
One parent said that she was appalled by the reading assignment and that she would not want her child to read such material. She said that she expects HISD to have better standards and oversight over its curriculum.
A student said that he was surprised by the reading assignment and that he did not think it was appropriate for his age group. He said that he would feel uncomfortable reading it in class or discussing it with his peers or teachers.
HISD is facing multiple challenges and controversies
The inappropriate reading assignment is not the only issue that HISD is dealing with. The district is also facing a state takeover, a budget deficit, a pandemic, and low academic performance. HISD is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the nation, serving more than 200,000 students.
Miles was appointed as superintendent in June 2023, after former superintendent Grenita Lathan resigned amid tensions with the board. Miles has been criticized by some teachers, parents, and community members for his leadership style and decisions. He has also been praised by some for his vision and reforms.