TALAS E-newsletter – January 11

Posted on January 11th, 2021
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Texas News
Texas’ COVID Vaccine Rollout Is Confusing. Here’s A Simple Explanation Of What’s Happening.
Rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has gotten off to a slow and frustrating start for some people in Texas. There’s been confusion about who is eligible to get the vaccine, eligible folks have had difficulty finding providers, and the pace has been much slower than originally promised by state officials.

Here are some answers to questions we’ve heard a lot lately.

San Antonio ISD still limiting students as classes resume next week, will provide vaccine for employees
The San Antonio Independent School District will welcome back students from the winter break next week, but won’t move to the next phase of in-person learning because of the community’s high rate of COVID-19 cases.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, Superintendent Pedro Martinez and his principals have been asking parents to allow them to direct how many children return to campuses while complying with state rules that require districts to provide in-person learning for any family that chooses it.

With family cooperation, Martinez has been able to control the return of kids and only 30 percent of students were in classrooms before the break.

Feeling TEA Pressure, AISD Goes Back to Campus
District would risk losing state funding if it switched to all-virtual instruction

Earlier this week the Austin Independent School District returned to on-campus classes as planned after winter break.

This semester will be the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic that AISD will have to navigate classes – both in-person and virtual – under Stage 5 of local risk-based guidelines, while also meeting state directives requiring in-person instruction. This puts the district, as Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde frankly admitted, “between a rock and a hard place.”

Dallas ISD School Uses Virtual Learning To Its Advantage, Gains International Tutors
McShan Reading Homeroom is the program many students from Lee A. McShan Elementary school in Dallas ISD go through to learn English.

The district says about 77% of their 559 total enrollment has limited English proficiency.

“Our students come from all over the world… all over Asia and Africa,” said Dalene Buhl, chief operating officer for McShan Reading Homeroom.

Many are immigrant and refugee students, whose parents speak their native language.

The school and the program are really the only opportunities for some to practice their English.

Houston ISD roundup: Trustees select firm for superintendent search, extend COVID-19 leave policy
Houston ISD trustees took steps to advance the search for a new superintendent. They also addressed a concern among staff about using sick leave during mandatory COVID-19 quarantines. Here is a roundup of news to know from HISD this week.

After interviewing three potential firms, trustees opted Jan. 6 to select the Austin-based firm JG Consulting to oversee the recruiting and vetting of superintendent candidates for HISD.

The action authorizes the district legal team to draft a contract to be approved. In November, trustees moved to resume the search after the Texas Education Agency halted a previous attempt.

UT-Austin keeping most classes virtual through January as coronavirus infections soar in Travis County
The flagship university in Austin is urging students to space out their return to campus for spring semester to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as cases in Travis County reach record highs.

The University of Texas at Austin is shifting more spring semester classes completely online through the end of January as COVID-19 cases continue to ravage the city and state. According to an email sent to students Friday, all classes that are split between in-person and online will be completely online through the end of the month.

“Although students may be at lower risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19, you can still carry and spread the disease to other vulnerable individuals in your family and the community,” Daniel Jaffe, interim provost, wrote to students in an email Friday. “The rollout of vaccines will eventually slow the spread, but we need your help to minimize exposure on and off campus, particularly now. Our hospitals and health care workers are stretched thin, and ICU availability is extremely limited.”

Advocates worry vaccines will be out of reach for Black and Hispanic neighborhoods devastated by COVID-19
In the state’s largest metropolitan areas, vaccine distribution centers like hospitals and pharmacies are more common in white, affluent neighborhoods.

COVID-19 has been disproportionately deadly for communities of color in Texas. And advocates for those communities are worried that they will have more trouble accessing vaccinations than the white population because of where vaccination sites are located.

“We already saw huge disparities in death rates and people getting [coronavirus] infections, and there wasn’t availability of resources like health care for brown and Black communities suffering tremendously,” said Kazique Prince, interim executive director for the Central Texas Collective for Racial Equity, a nonprofit association based in Austin. “I’m very nervous and anxious that this [vaccination effort] is not going to work out for us.”

Ysleta school district approved as vaccine administrator
The Ysleta School District has been approved by the state to be a vaccine administrator and is line to get Covid-19 vaccines.

How many vaccines the district will get and who they will be used for is unclear at this time.

A district spokesman said the district will learn more about what this designation means on Monday.

San Antonio-based Community Labs to expand testing in local schools, across Texas
Community Labs is expanding its coronavirus testing efforts in local schools and across Texas amid a surge in the pandemic that is threatening to overwhelm the state’s health care systems.

The state has contracted with the San Antonio-based non-profit to provide up to 10,000 tests per day for first responders, particularly firefighters, in Laredo and El Paso, two cities hit especially hard by the pandemic.

“We’re going to go wherever the state of Texas needs us to go,” J. Bruce Bugg, a co-founder and board member, told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board Tuesday.

School Leader Input Wanted
A message from Maria Armstrong, Executive Director of ALAS

  • What are your priorities for safe school reopening? What leadership and support will be most important to have from the federal government in order to safely reopen schools? 
  • Are there areas of federal guidance from the CDC and the Education Department that would be particularly helpful in this process? Or particularly unhelpful?
  • What should the federal government be careful to avoid in pursuing safe school reopening across the country?

Please submit to Maria Armstrong (maria@alasedu.org) directly by Tuesday, January 12th.
An Opportunity
A message from Maria Armstrong, Executive Director of ALAS

Looking for an “Unsung Hero.” Preferably a custodian, cafeteria or office support personnel at a HIGH SCHOOL. A beloved by all, nominee for a special recognition. We need a 20 minute interview with the person nominating the Unsung Hero, along with a student to also share why the nominee is deserving of the special recognition. The interview will take place at the latter part of next week. So we need:

  • The name of the Unsung Hero
  • The name and email of the person nominating the Unsung Hero
  • The name and email of the student to share why the Unsung Hero is deserving of the special recognition
  • The school shares in the experience by logging on to see the award being given on January 26th at 1:00pm ET

Please submit to Maria Armstrong (maria@alasedu.org) directly by Tuesday, January 12th.
Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
5 Ways To Kick Start Your Productivity In 2021
Here’s the thing: I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. As a career coach, I try to live by and impart to my clients the idea that the best day to change your life is today. On top of that, 80% of resolutions are broken by February! 

Come on people, we can do better than that.

That being said, I understand the appeal of the idea. We all look to a new year as an opportunity to make positive changes in our lives. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all been looking forward to the rollover to 2021. Even TIME magazine declared 2020 as the “worst year ever.” However symbolic it may be, many of us can’t wait to throw away that old planner that’s filled with notes about Covid tests and Zoom meetings. After all the challenges of 2020, what we need is a start fresh and a hopeful outlook for the year to come.

National News
Cardona’s record of improving schools can be achieved nationally, former colleagues say
The teaching careers of Miguel Cardona and Kellie Summa began just two years apart. Summa started teaching in 1996, Cardona in 1998.

Both were summer school teachers in Meriden early on.

Summa, like other former colleagues of Cardona, described him as approachable — whether as a classroom teacher, building principal or central office administrator. Even as Connecticut’s state commissioner of education, he was still “very approachable,” said Summa, a second grade teacher now at John Barry School in Meriden.

Following DeVos’s Surprise Resignation, School Advocates Say She Leaves Behind A Controversial Legacy — and Wonder Why She Didn’t Leave Sooner
From American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s concise “Good riddance,” to more guarded comments saying she did the right thing, the nation reacted Thursday night to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s resignation — prompted, she said, by President Donald Trump’s role in inciting the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol this week.

“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” the secretary wrote to Trump. “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us.”

The Storming Of Congress Reminds Us That Educated Citizens Are Freedom’s Only True Safeguard
As an American, yesterday’s riotous assault on the U.S. Capitol was a horrific, seditious display. As a parent, it was a terrifying one. As an educator, it was a call to duty.

The blame for yesterday’s insanity lies solely with President Trump, his henchmen on Capitol Hill, and his enablers and apologists in the media and the Republican Party. Period. Their cynical lies have had a profound cost, as poll after poll shows that most Republicans don’t trust the 2020 election results.

Analysis: Spring Exams Are the Best Shot State Leaders Have at Knowing What’s Happening With Their Students
Education news this year could give you whiplash. Think of all the news stories we’ve seen: Students are learning in person, online or hybrid, depending on the day of the week. Some enrolled and engaged, but too many haven’t and can’t be found. Some have internet access and devices; many don’t. The truth is, we don’t know what happened in 2020 for students. But we have one shot at getting a comparable data point that will say something about learning for all students within a state. And that is to administer spring assessments.

More colleges and universities outsource services to for-profit companies
Billions of dollars are flowing to third parties to provide everything from dorms to online courses

The Tufts University campus was a quiet place in the fall, where students were scolded to stay in their dorms, checked frequently for Covid-19 and — if they tested positive — quarantined in modular housing set up on the tennis courts.

This story also appeared in The Washington Post
As with much in higher education this academic year, the real activity was online, where the university was busy launching a new virtual master’s degree in data science and an online program in computer science for people who already have bachelor’s degrees.

Phantom Students, Very Real Red Ink: Why Efforts to Keep Student Disenrollment from Busting School Budgets Can Backfire
It’s K-12 education’s financial third rail: Money is supposed to follow students. So how do schools keep the lights on when the kids hardest hit by the pandemic go missing?

Nearly halfway through the school year, the scope of the problem is becoming clear — and the solution is hard to fathom. In Michigan, 53,200 students have not shown up. New York City public schools have lost some 31,000. Miami-Dade is down 16,000. Anchorage started the year with 4,000 fewer students than projected.

Estimates are that nationwide, 3 million children are not enrolled in school — anywhere. The human toll may go uncalculated for years, but the principals and others responsible for their schools know that each missing student means less money to work with for all kids.

Biden picks Isabel Guzman for Small Business Administration, fulfilling a promise to Latinos
President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Isabel Guzman, a Latina, to lead the SBA at a time when BIPOC businesses have suffered the most from COVID-19. 

It was one of his many promises.

President-elect Joe Biden promised to have an administration that is representative of the diversity within the United States. He’s made historic decisions so far, including the first-ever Latino as Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Rep. Deb Haaland as the first Native American Secretary of the Interior.

Opinion/First Person: An appeal for Rhina P. Espaillat to be Biden’s inaugural poet
Dear President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,

Congratulations on your victory. As you prepare for the celebration of your arrival to the White House, I would like to strongly recommend Rhina P. Espaillat as inaugural poet to carry your message of union, hope and equality. Espaillat is one of the most powerful and respected contemporary voices in the United States and the Caribbean, considered “the urban new voice of Latinx poetry” (Dana Gioia ). As a woman of mixed Afro-Dominican, Spanish, French and Arawak descent, in her works she explores the multiplicity of her identities, the pride of belonging to different cultural traditions, and the joys of nature and domestic life.

Netflix’s “Break It All” and the Rebellious Roots of Rock in Latin America
‘Rockeros’ of all ages are talking about “Break It All/Rompan Todo,” the six-part documentary series on Netflix launched in December that tells the little-known history of Rock in Latin America spanning from the fifties to today.

While the birth of Rock in the United States was undoubtedly countercultural, the Rock en español was so anti-establishment, so about freedom and rebellion, that Latin American governments tried to suppress it however they could.

Las Tienditas
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For 50 years, Curriculum Associates (CA) has been united around one common purpose: to make classrooms better places for teachers and students. In the years since, we’ve remained driven by this mission, introducing and then constantly improving innovative and exciting products that give every student the chance to succeed. We believe teachers are the essential glue between our programs and classroom success, so we strive to empower them with the tools and resources to accelerate student growth. Together with educators we’re making equitable learning programs a reality—raising the bar and making it reachable for all.

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