Become a member today! TASA’s online Member Services Center is the place to go to become a member of TALAS. Please read these step-by-step directions or contact Debbie O’Donnell at 512.852.2108.
Texas News
State boosts funding for schools that have seen attendance declines amid the pandemic
The Texas Education Agency will provide money to school districts to make up for anticipated cuts to state funding due to enrollment declines amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday. School funding is based in part on enrollment.

“As more districts return to in-person instruction, we are ensuring that schools are not financially penalized for declines in attendance due to COVID-19,” Abbott said in a news release. The maneuver “is a crucial part of our state’s commitment to supporting our school systems and teachers and getting more students back in the classroom.”

Several Texas college campuses to keep mask mandates after governor’s order
Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s order, universities are able to choose whether they will retain and enforce mask-wearing and other COVID-19 safety measures. UT-Austin, Baylor, Southern Methodist University, Rice and the Texas A&M System are among those that will still require face masks.

Several Texas colleges and universities will still require people to wear face masks after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he will lift the statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday.

City of McAllen, McAllen ISD win Connectivity Hero of the Year Award
The city of McAllen and the McAllen Independent School District (ISD) announced they have earned the 2020 Connectivity Hero of the Year Award for their efforts in making Wi-Fi accessible across the city.

The city and district collaborated with Frontera Wireless Consulting to establish an outdoor Wi-Fi network to serve thousands of students. The effort cost $3.1 million and was funded in part by the Cares Act.

‘A big sigh of relief’: Texas teachers now eligible for vaccine, but shots won’t happen overnight
There are more than 1.5 million names on county waiting lists for COVID-19 vaccines in North Texas.

The state of Texas followed federal guidance Wednesday and expanded the list of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to include teachers and childcare providers.

There are more than 350,000 teachers across the state, and waiting lists for vaccines are already long.

Survey: 97% of Texas teachers, students, parents oppose STAAR testing this year
A statewide survey of students, teachers and parents in Texas found 97% of respondents oppose the state’s decision to administer the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, commonly referred to as STAAR tests, this year.

The social media survey conducted by the office of state Sen. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat, received 13,000 responses. In Senate District 14, which includes Travis County, 98% of educators, and 99% of parents opposed the tests.

Texas Health Helping Employ High School Graduates With Disabilities
Since 2017, the program has been a team effort with Texas Health Dallas, Richardson ISD, Project SEARCH and Quest Employment Services

Francisco Gonzalez just wanted to help students who deserved a helping hand.

Gonzalez is the manager of hospitality and concierge services at Texas Health Dallas and he oversees the hospital’s Project SEARCH program. It’s a 1-year unpaid internship providing high school seniors with disabilities an opportunity to learn life skills and hands-on training.

Discussion Workshop with Coppell ISD and NoRedInk
Wednesday, March 10, 12:00pm CST

Is writing a waste? Discuss with Coppell ISD and others:
You’re invited to join a discussion group for TX administrators about how to counteract learning loss and meet grade level writing standards.
After you join, you will also receive a gift card for lunch of your choosing from Buc-ees, Whataburger, or Rudy’s BBQ!

Event sponsored by NoRedInk.
Looking for a new opportunity?
Your Dose of Inspiration
Meet Diana Trujillo, the Colombian Flight Director for the Historic Mars Perseverance Rover
When NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on February 18, the whole world was watching, but no one was watching more intently than aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, the flight director for the historic Mars Perseverance Rover.

“I was very much on the mindset of ‘What’s happening?’” she said. “Are we safe?”

When pictures and videos from Perseverance started to beam back minutes later, that’s when it became real. “I think that watching the image was when I actually processed that we had actually landed,” she added.

But she started reaching for the skies long before that historic day in February. Her dreams of reaching space and wanting to understand the universe came as a young person in Cali, Colombia, where she says she would lie beneath the stars, and think “Something has to be out there that’s better than this.”

National News
Report: Parent school reviews correlate with test scores, not growth or effectiveness
With statewide testing on the horizon this year, districts are once again concerned about potential fallout connected to standardized test scores, including aspects like real estate values and community perception of school quality. While these stakes concern district leaders in a normal year, it could prove even more worrisome at a time when some districts are seeing drops in enrollment and attendance, often tied to funding. 

Recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education says while school ratings may be off the table this year, requirements around state and local report cards will stay in place, meaning districts must continue to be transparent with parents and the public about data on student learning. 

Four ways to rebuild a better early ed system
Educator pay, help for families needed to strengthen the child care industry, experts say

It is well known by now that the pandemic has decimated the child care industry: at the end of last year, there were 166,800 fewer child care workers than the previous December. More than 80 percent of child care centers that are still open enroll fewer children than before the pandemic. And experts have estimated that up to 40 percent of centers could close permanently. Among preschool classrooms alone, the percentage of 3 and 4-year-olds attending dropped by nearly 25 percent, according to a recent survey from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Young children in poverty have been hardest hit, with severely reduced access to in-person preschool during the pandemic.

Restaurants Innovated as a Result of COVID-19. Education Largely Did Not. In Our Relief Over the Pandemic’s Coming End, the Opportunity May Slip Away
Despite the country’s tumult, with a new year, new administration and new vaccines, U.S. schools and the organizations that support them are already beginning to use gossamer language to describe next school year. We’ll rebuild with equity, or reimagine the system. We’ll dismantle and disrupt. Only the most timid call for just a redesign.

Be skeptical. For the most part, the proposals range from warmed-over versions of old debates to ideas that will not survive contact with the real world. More importantly, this sense of relief or forward momentum — which ignores the fact that millions of Americans are still very much in the midst of health, economic and education crises — is a signal that the country wants to move on. Paradoxically, the risk now may be less that we don’t come back from the pandemic educationally than that we snap back and move on so fast that the actual challenges to a more equitable education system are swept aside in our collective relief.

4 considerations for districts weighing school name changes
Schools named for Confederate leaders and other controversial figures are facing greater scrutiny and pressure to change. Administrators shared best practices and lessons learned in their communities.

On July 1, 2021, two schools in Virginia’s Alexandria City Public Schools will have new names. The suburban district of 16,000 students is among a growing number receiving petitions and resolutions calling for the renaming of buildings named for Confederate leaders or otherwise controversial figures.

Since 2014, the names of more than 30 schools have undergone name changes across the United States. The Equal Justice Initiative has identified 240 schools in 17 states named for Confederate leaders. The San Francisco Unified School District is one of the most recent to take similar action, with its board voting in January to rename 44 schools.

10 Films Directed by Latinas to Watch for Women’s History Month
It still absolutely boggles our minds that Latinos make up such a significant percentage of the U.S. population, yet we continue to be so grossly under-represented in the world of television and movies. Latinx actors are routinely looked over even for the roles of Latinx characters and there are still only a handful of Latinx directors and filmmakers who have gained major recognition for their work, and those who have are all men. The work of directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, is undoubtedly exemplary, but we think it’s far beyond time to shine the spotlight on some truly talented Latina film directors.

In Patricia Engel’s ‘Infinite Country,’ three generations’ enduring bonds are tested by migration
“The book asks the question — how does a family remain a family through distance and time,” said the Latina author, whose new novel has garnered advance praise.

Most news stories on immigration focus on a snapshot in time — an imminent deportation or separation or a reprieve, the sum of a person’s life measured or scrutinized through one action.

But in Patricia Engel’s new novel, “Infinite Country,” (releasing March 2), what starts out with an almost cinematic beginning evolves into a quiet, poignant and realistic portrayal of an immigrant family’s life spanning decades and crossing two continents.

Las Tienditas
This Week’s Featured Sponsor
TALAS sponsors make this newsletter and other TALAS activities possible. Please support them. Click on the logo to learn more!
At Imagine Learning, we believe every child deserves the chance to enjoy learning and the right to fulfill their unique potential.

For more than fifteen years, our foundation has been helping students acquire, develop, and strengthen the language skills necessary to fully participate in academic settings and prepare for college and careers.

Today, we provide a complete suite of adaptive digital curriculum and assessment solutions for PreK–8 that delivers unmatched excellence in language development—accelerating learning across subjects for all students.

Imagine Learning is passionate about igniting engagement, maximizing personal relevance, amplifying confidence and inspiring breakthroughs for students and educators.

David Webb – Regional Partnership Director, Texas – 214.883.2880