TALAS E-newsletter – December 3

Posted on December 3rd, 2020
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Texas News
Texas School Districts Resuming Virtual and In-Person Learning
Before Thanksgiving some school districts in Texas sent virtual learning materials home, just in case returning to the classroom for in-person learning wouldn’t happen due to COVID-19.

Here we look at what Texas school districts in five major cities are planning when it comes to returning on-campus or going remote after the holidays so far.

North Texas school districts prepare for potential post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 outbreaks
North Texas school districts are closely monitoring students and staff returning to in-person learning after a Thanksgiving break that saw the largest number of travelers since the pandemic began.

Officials say they’re prepared to tackle any COVID-19 outbreaks that may pop up between now and Christmas break.

Students in Crowley ISD — south of Fort Worth — returned to school Monday. There was unanticipated extra time at home remote learning last week after dozens of students and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Other districts, like Terrell ISD, extended the holiday by a week because of a spike in cases.

Texas Education Commissioner Would Become Elected Position with New Legislation
Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa wants the Texas Commissioner of Education to take office by vote instead of the governor’s appointment.

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has filed House Bill 613 that would put the Texas Commissioner of Education on the ballot.

The bill amends Texas Education Code to read: “The commissioner of education is elected by the qualified voters at the general election for state and county officers.”

The governor has appointed the Texas Commissioner of Education for seventy years. Texas Education Code sets the commissioner’s four-year term as “commensurate with the term of the governor.” The current commissioner, Mike Morath, has made headlines for intervening in local districts suffering from academic failure, mismanagement, and budget bloat.

Texas enrollment and FAFSA applications down, as education leaders worry pandemic is disrupting college plans
National data shows just 24% of Texas high school seniors have filled out federal financial aid forms, a nearly 15% decline from the same time last year.

The number of Texas high school seniors filling out the federal financial aid application for college, known as FAFSA, is down so far from last year, a sign worrying state higher education leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic is still disrupting many students’ pathway to college.

According to the National College Attainment Network’s FAFSA tracker, just 24% of Texas seniors have filled out the vital Free Application for Federal Student Aid as of Nov. 20, a 14.6% decline compared to the same time last year.

Preliminary enrollment data from the state shows this fall’s college enrollment was down 3%, or more than 47,000 students, primarily among community colleges.

Texas education group taps Ysleta ISD principal to serve on legislative panel
Charlie Garcia, principal of Bel Air High School in the Ysleta Independent School District, has been selected to serve on the Legislative Committee of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP), a statewide organization committed to raising awareness about the critical problems facing educational leadership.

Garcia – the only El Paso-area educator on the panel – joins 19 other principals and assistant principals from other parts of the state who will advise the Board of Directors through their work on the TASSP Legislative Committee, which seeks to:

  • Listen to member concerns in the region
  • Create a draft statewide policy program for the approval of the TASSP Board of Directors
  • Communicate with legislative contacts and testify before committees as a resource as requested by the chairperson; and
  • Respond to TASSP requests with statements, evidence and/or data to support TASSP statewide policy program.

Texas superintendents ask Gov. Abbott for teachers to be among 1st to get COVID-19 vaccines
Fort Worth ISD’s superintendent, who is also the chair of the Texas Urban Council of Superintendents, wrote a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott asking him to include teachers in the first groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We, the superintendents of the Texas Urban Council, would urge you to include our teachers and principals in the initial distribution of COVID vaccine. We would also ask that this distribution be prioritized for educators who work in the cities and counties where COVID infection rates are the highest,” Dr. Kent Scribner wrote in his letter. 

The Texas Urban Council of Superintendents includes some of the largest school districts in the state, including Dallas ISD, Austin ISD, Houston ISD, and San Antonio ISD.

Garland ISD launches ‘Super Subs’ initiative to help offset substitute teacher shortage
Administrators, including superintendent, at Garland ISD will substitute teach at least once per week

Administrators at Garland Independent School District will leave the central office and head to the classroom at least once a week for the rest of the school year.

On Monday, the 55,000 student district launched its “Super Subs” initiative which is designed to offset the shortage of substitute teachers during the pandemic and help support student learning.

Susanna Russell, the chief leadership officer in Garland, says keeping enough certified substitute teachers is not a unique challenge this year, but the extent to which the shortage has intensified this year is.

‘I have had some tough days’ | Texas teachers welcome possibility of relief during pandemic
The Texas Education Agency is exploring ways to make teaching in-person and at-home students at the same time easier.

Board member Barbara Cargill spoke about what she’s heard from teachers during Wednesday’s meeting of the Texas State Board of Education.

“They’re, like, dying,” Cargill said. “And so many of them are really thinking about leaving education. And it just breaks my heart because their gift is teaching.”

It’s a job veteran Chavez High School English teacher Coretta Mallet-Fontenot certainly takes to heart.

“I have had some tough days, I’ll be very honest about that,” Mallet-Fontenot said.

Gov. Greg Abbott reiterates Texas will not shut down again while touting arrival of new coronavirus treatment
​Abbott’s news conference came the same day that Texas reported more daily new cases than ever before — 12,293 — easily surpassing the previous record of 10,823 two days earlier.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday touted the arrival of a new antibody treatment as progress in Texas’ fight against the coronavirus, while again ruling out any new statewide business restrictions as the state experiences alarming growth in cases and hospitalizations.

“It is important for everybody in the state to know that statewide we’re not gonna have another shutdown,” Abbott said during a news conference in Lubbock. “There’s an overestimation of exactly what a shutdown will achieve, and there’s a misunderstanding about what a shutdown will not achieve.”

The governor, who issued a stay-at-home order in April, contended that “there are now known severe medical consequences to that — emotional, mental-type consequences to it — as well as the devastating financial consequences.”

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Supporting Your Career
11 Things to Never Say During Your Performance Review
Between the feeling of being thrust into the spotlight, the one-on-one setting with your manager and the gravity of what’s at stake, performance reviews can feel pretty uncomfortable. And when you’re made to feel uncomfortable, sometimes you aren’t always the most conscious of (or careful with) your words. But if there’s one time that you want to communicate effectively, it’s then. After all, your performance review is often the one chance you get to push for a raise, secure a promotion or even save your job.

To make sure that you don’t unintentionally sabotage yourself, we’ve put together a list of things that you’ll want to avoid saying. Steer clear of these words, and you’ll be that much closer to passing your performance review with flying colors.

National & International News
What role will schools play in COVID-19 vaccine distribution?
While schools have played “very active” roles in vaccinations during prior epidemics, they now face increased polarization and other concerns.

In nearly three decades as a school nurse, National Association of School Nurses President Laurie Combe has dealt with her share of infectious diseases. 

Before COVID-19, there was measles, tuberculosis and swine flu, which all required similar precautions, such as quarantine, contact tracing and educating the public about the risks of exposure and the benefits of immunizing children for prevention. 

“The reason we immunize children is because not only can they spread disease within the school community where it would have so much contact; but if we protect them in the school, we’re also protecting the broader community from the spread of these preventable diseases,” she said. “So the school really has a huge role to play in the health of the broader community.”

Proposition 16’s Defeat and the Future of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action remains an important tool for society, writes Amaka Okechukwu.

This month, Proposition 16—an initiative to overturn a 24-year-old ban on affirmative action in California—failed at the ballot box. Why did Proposition 16 fail to pass, despite having nearly every resource behind it, and what does this mean for progressive initiatives going forward? What advocates thought would be a referendum on structural racism and sexism is instead a declaration of an entrenched commitment to colorblind ideology and practice, ignoring social inequality in favor of centering the most privileged students in university admissions.

To court Latinos, Democrats have to expand strategy in 2022
President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign credits its success in Arizona to the immigrant-rights and grassroots organizations that have been mobilizing Latinos for nearly two decades. The fruits of their labor — in triple-digit heat, no less — paid off in this traditionally conservative state, where changing demographics and suburban voters turning out to oppose President Donald Trump also worked in Biden’s favor.

But what that means for the future of Democratic candidates and how the party can capitalize on these gains will be tested in 2022 and 2024 — especially because there wasn’t a blue shift in statewide races or in some other parts of the country with large Latino populations.

It’s Official: National Test Is Postponed Due to COVID-19 Concerns
The head of the U.S. Department of Education’s statistical wing has officially postponed the 2021 administration of the Nation’s Report Card due to surging COVID-19 rates across the country, meaning it could be until the following year before it administers its next reading and math exams and releases the results. 

The delay means that the nation will lose what might have been the only opportunity to gather comparable state-by-state information on the extent of learning loss in those two subjects, after months of school closures and other disruptions. 

Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the test, given to representative samples of students in all 50 states, was scheduled to begin in early 2021. The venerable exam has gone forward, rain or shine, since the 1970s. But as it has with so many other aspects of schooling, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the NAEP testing schedule.

Young Latinos mobilized, voted and were pivotal in 2020. Organizers want to keep it going.
“There’s a good chance that a majority of those people who were first-time voters will continue to vote,” says political scientist Stella Rouse.

The efforts of Latino youth organizers in battleground states to mobilize new voters paid off as young Hispanics boosted their votes and their political voice in November’s presidential election.

“We’re getting a good sort of picture about the fact that young people in general, and then Latinos more specifically, certainly came out to vote,” said Stella Rouse, a political scientist and director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland.

Of the more than 8.6 million Latinos nationwide who voted early, about 2.4 million were first-time and newly registered voters, many of whom are young, she said.

Lost Learning, Lost Students: COVID Slide Not as Steep as Predicted, NWEA Study Finds — But 1 in 4 Kids Was Missing from Fall Exams
Almost a fourth of students who took a leading assessment of academic growth in the fall of 2019 were missing from schools when the baseline exam was given at the start of the current school year. And the missing students are disproportionately children thought to be most at risk of falling behind in school shutdowns, say researchers with the nonprofit assessment group NWEA.

In contrast to dramatic learning losses predicted by NWEA in the spring, the newly released data show steady, if small, improvements since the start of the pandemic in reading and math. But while students in grades 3-8 performed similarly in reading to their same-grade peers in fall of 2020 compared with fall of 2019, they scored 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math.

While the researchers say findings led them to conclude they likely overestimated how much COVID slide students would experience during coronavirus-related school closures, they caution that with such a large number of vulnerable children absent, the research is incomplete. In addition, an unknown number of students took the tests remotely, which may also affect the results.

How schools are navigating meal logistics during pandemic
Where students have returned to in-person learning, entire processes have been overhauled from the lunchroom to the classroom.

Feeding students can be a logistical challenge even under normal circumstances. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to close or operate modified schedules, food service directors are running multiple programs to meet students’ needs — curbside pickup, on-site meals in classrooms and gymnasiums and packaged items to take home for “off days” in a hybrid model.

At the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park, New York, once-bustling cafeterias only seat a fraction of the district’s 10,000 students across 13 school buildings. Grades 7 to 12 are operating on a hybrid schedule, while K-6 students attend five days a week.

Despite pandemic, a pop-up school for U.S. asylum-seekers is seeing success
“This is a U.S. problem,” said Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, from Brownsville, Texas, who founded The Sidwalk School for Children Asylum Seekers. “This falls on American citizens.”

It started out simply: a pop-up school on a sidewalk to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum-seekers stuck at America’s doorstep.

Like countless schools, the sidewalk school, as it became known, had to go to virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of being hampered by the change, though, it has blossomed, hiring about 20 teachers — all asylum-seekers themselves — to give classes via Zoom to Central American children in not only the camp, but at various shelters and apartments in other parts of Mexico.

11 “treat yourself” gifts from Latinx-owned brands
There are so many words to describe 2020, and most, if not all, wouldn’t be complimentary, so if you ever needed an excuse to spoil yourself, this entire year is basically it. Of course, giving gifts is important, but sometimes you gotta treat yo’self and that’s what this whole list is about. Here is a roundup of Latinx-owned brands that you can indulge in regalitos for yourself because, let’s face it, we all deserve it at the end of the Year of the Pandemic. Feel free to share this as a hint for loved ones, too, or — if possible — treat yourself and a loved one as well. Read on to discover ways to spoil yourself while supporting these Latinx-owned companies.

Las Tienditas
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