Houston ISD reviewing curriculum creation after sexually charged reading passage was included in eighth-grade lesson plan

A school district spokesperson said the “inappropriate” passage, from a Maya Angelou memoir, was identified and replaced before it reached students.

HISD Mike Miles
Dominic Anthony Walsh/Houston Public Media
Houston ISD superintendent Mike Miles speaks during a community engagement event.

Houston ISD's new state-appointed superintendent said the district is reviewing its curriculum creation process after a sexually charged reading passage was initially included in a lesson plan for eighth-grade students.

A multiple-choice reading comprehension question included an excerpt from Maya Angelou's memoir, "Gather Together in My Name," that describes a passionate, alcohol-fueled "lovemaking" encounter in a hotel between the female protagonist and an older man, according to a photo of the lesson that was posted on social media earlier this week.

HISD spokesperson Joseph Sam said the "inappropriate" passage was the product of an "isolated human error" and was replaced in the lesson plan with age-appropriate content before being given to students this week.

"While this issue was identified and corrected before it impacted students or instruction, this does not meet the standards I set for the HISD team, and it does not meet the commitment we made to our educators and students," HISD superintendent Mike Miles said in a statement. "I have 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 was appointed as HISD superintendent June 1 by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who also replaced HISD’s nine elected trustees with a state-appointed board of managers. Morath and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) intervened because of mismanagement and alleged illegal activity by previous board members and also because Wheatley had a string of failing academic ratings from the state.

Among the reforms implemented by Miles is premade lesson plans for teachers at 28 schools that were designated to be part of his "New Education System," along with an additional 57 campuses that opted to be NES-aligned. Sam said HISD is reviewing the development of those lesson plans and meeting with the curriculum creators "to align on expectations and quality control for lesson plans moving forward."

As part of that effort, Sam said Texas' largest school district is enlisting a total of 32 HISD teachers who are spending half their time reviewing those lesson plans. Twenty-five of those positions had been filled as of Thursday, according to Sam.

"They will make our lessons better and I'm grateful they will be joining the team," Miles said. "Next, we will be reaching out to engage our teachers districtwide and in our divisions to get feedback on the curricular resources we provide. This will help us strengthen lessons, catch errors more quickly so teachers don't have to, and give teachers the support we promised them."