TALAS E-newsletter – January 18

Posted on January 18th, 2021
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Texas News
Borderland school districts prepare to return to in-person learning
Hospitalization rates in El Paso have been under 20 percent for seven consecutive days which resulted in El Paso going from the red zone to the orange according to the Texas Education Agency safety guideline.

“So, no more than 50 percent of the school’s capacity are allowed on campus at this time,” stated EPISD Spokesperson Melissa Martinez.

“We’re going to try and keep the classrooms as small as possible with students,” said Jose Espinoza, SISD Superintendent.

Dallas ISD asking for five more weeks of classes for some students to battle learning losses brought on by COVID-19
Two calendars presented to trustees on Thursday would extend the school year well beyond 175 days.

Prompted by the learning loss brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas ISD administrators want trustees to authorize three types of school calendars, two of which would extend the school year well beyond the district’s 175-day calendar.

One calendar — the intersession model — would offer nearly five weeks of additional instruction spread out across the school year to a targeted group of students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Northside ISD superintendent to parents: Keep kids home if you can
Citing the current surge in COVID-19 cases, Northside Independent School District Superintendent Brian Woods urged parents Wednesday to keep their elementary and middle school kids home and in virtual learning for the next two weeks.

“Hopefully this will get us past the surge in cases we are now seeing in our city,” Woods said in a video posted on the Northside ISD website and social media accounts.

“To be clear, this is a request. It is not mandatory and we are not closing Northside schools,” he added.

Austin ISD urges parents, students to continue virtual learning next week
The Austin Independent School District is again asking parents to keep their students home for virtual learning next week. This comes as Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott warned the positivity rate among school-aged children is outpacing that of the entire community.

The school district originally closed for winter weather on Monday, then urged parents to keep kids home for the rest of this week. In a letter to parents Thursday, leaders extended that guidance to next week, starting Jan. 19. Jan. 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The district will continue to offer in-person classes for those who need it, such as students with special needs, but urges if you can to keep your children virtual.

Texas School Districts Struggle to Hire Substitute Teachers
Across the country substitute teachers are in demand. The lack of substitute teachers that Texas school districts are experiencing, a problem that occurred last spring during the pandemic, still lingers.

In six of the largest districts in North Texas, “nearly half the time” when a substitute teacher is needed, schools are unable to fill the position.

In Texas, school systems determine their own qualifications for their substitute teacher rosters. What’s common is a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or college credits, and undergoing teacher training. For longer term substitute teaching a valid teaching certificate may be required.

Texas schools are wary of losing funding gains lawmakers provided in 2019
A school finance bill in 2019 boosted funding for districts, but the pandemic has since added layers of financial uncertainty.

The 2019 Texas legislative session ended on a high for public education, with more money spent on schools than had been in more than a decade.

But going into the 2021 session, the tables have turned for school officials.

The coronavirus pandemic has put funding in jeopardy by reducing attendance, lowering state revenue needed to make last session’s gains sustainable and adding new expenses and challenges for schools trying to educate kids who have lost time.

Brenham Middle School students becoming published authors
What started as a class project for a sixth grade class at Brenham Middle School will soon be an officially published book.

Students in Ben Lewis’ Gateway Science and Social Studies class recently put pen to paper and documented the American experience in a new book.

Students interviewed veterans, immigrants, and people from all walks of life who shared their American experience stories.

From designing the front cover to students’ personalized handwriting, the paperback book will offer unique finishing touches.

Texas becomes first state to administer 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine
The milestone comes as intensive care beds are dwindling across the state and as experts predict daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations will worsen following an influx of holiday season gatherings.

One month after the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the state, Texas has become the first in the nation to administer 1 million doses, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday. The milestone comes as intensive care beds are dwindling across the state and as experts predict daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations will worsen following an influx of holiday season gatherings.

“This is the biggest vaccination effort we have ever taken,” Abbott said in a news release. “We still have a long road ahead of us, but Texans continue to prove that we are up to this challenge.”

“Something Has To Change”
In the months after Merci Mack’s murder, Dallas’s trans community has expanded their organizing efforts. Meanwhile, the Lege is set to consider expansion of the state’s protections against discrimination.

Michelle Rickett lives a short walk from the Dallas parking lot where her daughter took her last breath. Some days, she visits the spot where paramedics found her “special baby,” Merci Mack, or waits for her to walk through the front door late at night with a bag of Luby’s takeout in tow. “I’ll just sit there and wait for the door to open,” Rickett says.

But when Mack doesn’t arrive, and Rickett is left sitting alone in a sparsely furnished living room, the 46-year-old pulls out her phone. She scrolls through videos of her daughter, her middle child, singing songs by Rihanna or Anita Baker. Wherever she went, Mack seemed to bring excitement and energy, and that’s one of the things Rickett misses the most: the music, the laughter, the chaos.

TALAS El Paso Launch!
January 21st, 2021
4–5 pm | Virtual Event
NASBE Webinar
Acceleration vs. Remediation: Research-Driven Strategies to Address Learning Loss
Thursday, January 21, 2021
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm (ET)
In its year-end stimulus package, Congress provided public schools more than $54 billion in pandemic relief and emphasized using the funds to address student learning loss. Given anticipated state and local budget shortfalls and increased student need after months of remote learning, it is imperative that the interventions that education leaders invest in to boost students’ academic skills be research driven. Join NASBE for a webinar presentation and moderated discussion with three experts. Dr. Kristen Huff, vice president of assessment and research at Curriculum Associates, will highlight tools to help teachers and schools identify student learning gaps and accelerate individualized instruction. Dr. David Steiner, a former Maryland state board member and executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, will present evidence on effective catch-up learning strategies. Brown University Associate Professor of Education and Economics Dr. Matthew A. Kraft will discuss high-dosage tutoring at scale, a strategy being pursued in England and the Netherlands.
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Supporting Your Career
The 5 Biggest Mistakes Job Seekers Make And What You Must Do Differently
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the already slow economic recovery went into reverse last month. U.S. employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, reversing seven months of job gains. The final 2020 jobs report ended a year in which the economy lost more than nine million jobs. To put the total job loss into perspective, 2020 was the worst year for job loss on a percentage basis since World War II. This economic crisis, fueled by the pandemic, has upended industries and left many workers job hunting. But in this ever-changing, dynamic job market, we can no longer use the typical job search strategies that we’ve used over the past decades. Here are the five biggest mistakes job seekers make and what you must do differently to land your next job successfully.

National News
Cardona’s Role in Connecticut’s Complex School Desegregation Efforts Becomes Focus: Will He Give Integration a National Platform as Ed Secretary?
While announcing a landmark settlement in one of the nation’s most significant and fraught school desegregation lawsuits, Miguel Cardona kept his remarks optimistic but brief. Just five months after being appointed Connecticut’s top education chief, he welcomed a major step forward in a three-decade-long battle over persistent racial segregation in the state’s capital city, even if his own role was short-lived.

“Today we are eager and excited about moving forward and moving the conversation from litigation to education,” Cardona, who became President-elect Joe Biden’s surprise pick for U.S. education secretary last month, said during a press conference in Hartford a year ago this month.

Trying to improve remote learning? A refugee camp offers some surprising lessons
Basic digital literacy and project-based learning are strategies that helped refugee students adjust seamlessly to online school in a pandemic

Last March when teachers and students transitioned to remote instruction, Iraqi instructor Mohammad Hameed and his students in the Arbat Refugee Camp in the Iraqi Kurdistan region weren’t caught off guard.

While the pandemic and the sudden shutdown of schools provoked fear, the teachers at this remote refugee camp in northern Iraq weren’t worried about how students would cope: They were confident their students were prepared to take their learning fully online. They didn’t have a high-tech classroom with fancy equipment — in fact most students didn’t even have laptops or access to the internet. They had something more important: basic digital literacy.

Superintendents Call for ‘Faster Rollout’ of Vaccines; But Object to Delaying School Reopenings Until Children Get Shots
Schools should be at the center of efforts to get teachers and other community members vaccinated against COVID-19, a group of superintendents said Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean students will be part of those initial groups, added San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

“We don’t expect our children to get vaccinated,” Martinez said, noting that no vaccine has yet been approved for students under 16. “But if we can take care of the at-risk adults, we take a lot of things off the table. We take deaths off the table.”

The comment over testing students follows confusion this week over whether the Los Angeles Unified School District would require students to be vaccinated before returning to in-person learning.

Latino, Black children are twice more likely to endure multiple Covid health, economic hardships
“There’s a need for more integrated services,” says Child Trends researcher Christina Padilla. “We need to make it easier for families to apply to get these kinds of support.”

Latino and Black children are two times more likely to experience three or more economic and health related hardships as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis of Census Household Pulse Survey data released Wednesday.

The nonpartisan research organization Child Trends analyzed Census survey responses and found that 29 percent of Latino and 31 percent of Black households with children are experiencing three or more health and economic difficulties at the same time. These include unemployment, difficulty paying expenses, not being caught up on rent or mortgage payments, as well as food insufficiency, lack of health insurance, and poor physical or mental health.

Biden’s Rescue Plan Includes $130 Billion for K-12, But Some Members of Congress Might ‘Balk at the Size’
Education groups and Democrats in Congress are applauding President-elect Joe Biden’s $130 billion proposal to help schools reopen with safety procedures in place and to target the needs of students hurt most by the pandemic. But some experts noted that even with the Democrats in control, Biden might struggle to get the package through Congress.

The total $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan backs up Biden’s earlier statements that he viewed the relief package that President Donald Trump signed in December as only a “down payment” on recovery.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, expected to be the next chair of the education committee, agreed.

New Study Finds Tremendous Unmet Need for Afterschool Programs in the Latinx Community, With 6.5 Million Hispanic Children Without the Access to Afterschool Their Parents Want
Satisfaction with afterschool programs has reached a new high among Latinx parents, but limited access, unmanageable costs, and other barriers are preventing many Hispanic students from participating. A new household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance and conducted by Edge Research finds that, for every Hispanic child in an afterschool program today, three more are waiting to get in.

America After 3PM finds that the families of 24.6 million children in the United States—more than ever before—are unable to access an afterschool program and many report that cost is a barrier. America After 3PM exposes significant inequities, with the parents of 55% of Latinx, 58% of Black, and 46% of white children not currently in an afterschool program saying they would enroll their child if they could.

‘This is not justice’: Justice Sonia Sotomayor offers fierce dissent in death penalty case
The Supreme Court’s only Latina justice slammed her colleagues for allowing an “expedited spree of executions.”

A Supreme Court ruling allowing the government to put a federal prisoner to death—reversing an order by a lower court that that had put the execution on hold—came down on Friday night. Within hours of the 6-3 opinion, Dustin Higgs, 48, was given a lethal injection and pronounced dead.

The majority position, which gave the go-ahead for use of the death penalty, did not sit well with Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The legacy of Ismael Rivera: El Sonero Mayor
The impact of Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Ismael Rivera can be felt in the debate about the essence of salsa and other musical genres.

Thirty-four years after the death of El Sonero Mayor, his figure continues to shine in the memory of the Puerto Ricans, in the rhythms of those who picked up his salsa legacy, and who remember his commitment against racism.

A crucial figure for understanding salsa, writer Marcos Hassan recently reviewed the discography of the legendary singer-songwriter in “A Guide to the Discography of Ismael Rivera, Salsa’s Most Fearless Singer” for Bandcamp. In it, he journeys from El sonero mayor to some of the songs that made international stars in Maelo.

From Carlos Alomar To Fernando Aceves, A Look Back At David Bowie’s Most Celebrated Latine Collaborators
Last Friday marked what would have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday, giving us a chance to look back at one of the most amazing artists who has ever lived. Bowie was among the most forward-thinking figures of the past century and he represented the idea of a man living out his truest self—all sensitivities and eccentricities driven to the front. Musically, he gave the world an archive of classic albums and songs that still feel contemporary today while spanning a huge range of sounds and influences. To celebrate the artistic legend, we revisited some of his most notable Latine collaborators over the decades.

Las Tienditas
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