TALAS E-newsletter – October 15

Posted on October 15th, 2020
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Texas News
Dallas ISD Considers Extending School Year to Combat ‘Devastating Impact on Student Achievement’
Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is mulling the idea of lengthening the academic year to the third week of July to account for the effect the school district’s response to the coronavirus could have on academic performance.

task force presentation at a DISD briefing on Thursday stated that “COVID-19 school closures could have a devastating impact on student achievement.”

Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa indicated that the district’s students are not adjusting well to virtual instruction.

“Even for some previously very successful students, they could have lost a year. If previously successful students are losing a year, that’s significant,” Hinojosa said. “When you take students who don’t have agency, that slide could be much bigger. But I don’t want to startle anybody until we get a full report.”

BISD in-person start date extended; Full on-campus instruction begins Nov. 30
The Texas Education Agency has granted a second four-week waiver extending the start date for face-to-face instruction for all BISD students to Nov. 30, the day after the Thanksgiving break.

The waiver clears the way for the Brownsville Independent School District to deliver the vast majority of instruction through distance learning through the start of the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 20. Parents have the option to request distance learning through the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, and teachers with students at home have the option of whether or not to bring their children to school, Superintendent Rene Gutierrez said.

Ysleta ISD applies for TEA waiver to delay in-person learning
Officials with the Ysleta Independent School District announced Thursday evening that the district had submitted a waiver to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to request a delay of in-person learning at campuses based on information from local health authorities that shows an increase in the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, among other data.

“We are being very deliberate and thoughtful about the start of in-person learning because the last thing we want to do is speculate – or believe that we can predict – what the public health data will look like on any given date in the coming weeks,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Xavier De La Torre.

Sabido, Vidaña concentrate on immigrant families, students in race for Waco ISD seat
If they were not competing for the same seat on the Waco Independent School District board, Ilda Sabido and Jose Vidaña could be running mates.

Vidaña, the incumbent, and Sabido, his challenger, share many of the same beliefs when it comes to the issues the school district should focus on, such as addressing teacher turnover and improving relationships between families and Waco ISD staff. They also believe the district needs to support its immigrant families more.

Waco voters will elect new representatives for the Waco ISD board Nov. 3, including the District 3 seat on the board Early voting starts Tuesday. The Tribune-Herald is interviewing candidates for all races.

Houston ISD trustees approve $17M bump in special education spending
Houston ISD trustees voted Thursday to approve spending an additional $17 million on special education in 2020-21, money that will pay for contracts with organizations providing services to students with disabilities and hiring more staff.

The multimillion-dollar increase, approved by an 8-0 vote with one trustee abstaining, comes one week after state officials issued a blistering report that leveled numerous criticisms of the district’s special education department. However, Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan gave no indication that her request for more money is a direct response to the investigation, which her administration dismissed as “factually and legally incorrect.”

TEA warns to cut off funding if Austin ISD doesn’t change instruction model for secondary students
The Austin Independent School District superintendent says the learning model being used in many middle and high schools will likely change in November to allow for more personal instruction between teachers and students.

Dr. Stephanie Elizalde told the Board of Trustees at Monday night’s information session that the Texas Education Agency contacted district leaders to inform them virtual instruction, which is being delivered to many in-person students, would not be funded past November.

“How can you say it’s in-person instruction when the students are not getting any time with their teachers,” Elizalde recalled the TEA’s line of questioning to the district.

Elizalde said the district is considering multiple changes to correct this, including having either students rotate between classes or teachers rotating between classes. The district may implement “one-way hallways” to minimize student-to-student spread of COVID-19.

Texas Gets an ‘F’ on Teaching Kids About Climate Change
Texas is failing at teaching the next generation about climate change, according to a new report from the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.

Thirty six states and the District of Columbia rely on the Next Generation Science Standards for developing course curriculum on climate change and global warming. Texas isn’t one of them. Instead, Texas is among six states that have chosen to write its own standards. That is the reason for the state’s F grade in the report.

“Only in addressing the human impact on climate change did the state’s standards receive a nonfailing grade (but only barely),” the report states.

Texas Counties Can Offer Only One Drop-Off Ballot Location, Federal Appeals Court Rules, Upholding Gov. Greg Abbott’s Order
Texas counties may collect mail-in ballots at only one location, a federal appeals court ruled late Monday, once again upholding an order from Gov. Greg Abbott that restricts voting options.

Abbott in July acted to lengthen the early voting period and allow voters to deliver completed absentee ballots in person for longer than the normal period. But after large Democratic counties including Harris and Travis established several sites where voters could deliver their ballots, Abbott ordered Oct. 1 that they would be limited to one.

A number of civil rights groups sued in at least four lawsuits, calling the order an act of voter suppression that would disproportionately impact low-income voters, voters with disabilities, older voters and voters of color in Democratic counties. A federal judge on Friday sided with those groups, blocking Texas from enforcing the ruling.

But a three-judge panel on the conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted that ruling on Saturday and on Monday gave a more formal word on the matter in a written opinion.

Yellow Rose, Blue Wave: What Democrats’ Statehouse Ascent Might Mean for Texas’s Singular K-12 Political Landscape
Consider two sets of seemingly contradictory facts.

The first: For the last 18 years, Republicans have had an iron grip on Texas politics. Republicans have occupied the governor’s mansion since 1995, when George W. Bush ousted Ann Richards, and dominated the state Senate since 1997. They have controlled the House of Representatives since 2003.

They have talked a lot about school vouchers, introducing dozens of bills. But in all that time, private school choice has gone nowhere. The measures usually die at the hands of House Republicans who, in 2019, the last time the Texas legislature was in session, told the governor and their colleagues in the Senate not to bother with another voucher bill.

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
The Strategic Way to Be Yourself in a Job Search
“Just be yourself.”

It’s probably one of the most common pieces of advice out there and seems pretty straightforward. But when it comes to a job search, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Looking for a job can raise messy identity questions that make it hard to figure out who the “you” is that you’re supposed to just be. And that can make it feel even more like you don’t have any control over your own narrative. I’ve met with graduate students almost every day for years, and I’ve seen how such questions of identity can stymie their career development and complicate their job searches.

A Common Mistake Junior Executives Make When Talking To Executive Recruiters
A critical turning point in a career is when you begin to get calls from executive recruiters. MBA students often don’t realize that once they land at their post-MBA firms, their next placement will likely occur through an executive recruiter (especially if they go to a blue-chip company perceived as having skill identifying and developing talent). Executive recruiters are hired by companies to identify and place top talent, becoming the primary conduit through which many executive roles are accessed.

Consequently, how young executives develop and manage these relationships can influence future career options. To better understand the key mistakes junior executives make when engaging with executive recruiters, I turned to Umesh Ramakrishnan, a Co-CEO at Kingsley Gate Partners who has placed members of the boards of directors, CEOs, CFOs and other senior management positions in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Below is his insight.

National News
Colleges Cancel Diversity Programs In Response to Trump Order
Some institutions have begun to cancel diversity, equity and inclusion programs in response to a Trump order. Critics say the order is censorship.

Two campuses are halting diversity efforts in relation to the White House’s recent executive order against “divisive concepts” in federally funded programs.

In a campus memo, the University of Iowa’s interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, Liz Tovar, said, “Let us state unequivocally that diversity, equity and inclusion remain as core values within our institution.” However, she continued, “after consulting with multiple entities, and given the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding, we are recommending that all units temporarily pause for a two-week period.”

John A. Logan College in Illinois also suspended diversity events, including a Hispanic Heritage Month talk planned for next week.

IEPs altered to reflect distance learning service changes, but at cost to schools
Special educators say they are burdened with more paperwork requirements and seek more guidance on replicating in-person services to distance learning formats.

When schools closed to in-person learning in the spring, some individualized supports for students with disabilities were easily transitioned to remote or virtual learning. But other services were harder to adapt to new learning formats due to the specific interventions that require physical or behavioral supports and other intensive services.

To help all students with disabilities, schools are looking at the most important document in special education and a requirement under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — a student’s individualized education program (IEP). These documents are being scrutinized and, in many cases, altered or expanded in order to reflect pandemic realities of how best to replicate in-person services to full or hybrid virtual learning approaches.

Supreme Court says Trump administration can shut down census count now, despite fears of an undercount
Plaintiffs in the case contend that a shortened timeline would result in an undercount of harder-to-count populations, including immigrants, people of color and lower-income groups, depriving them of funding and representation.

The Trump administration may shut down the census count now, after the Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold a judicial order keeping the count going through the end of the month.

The court, as is common in emergency applications, did not provide a reason. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to record her dissent.

“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable,” Sotomayor wrote. “And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

Diversifying AP
The College Board has made real progress, but more work needs to be done, writes Mark Carl Rom.

As an unpaid member of the College Board’s AP Higher Education Advisory Council, I had assumed that the AP was a force for good, in part because the College Board leaders continually assert the priority they place on educational equity. The College Board has worked assiduously to make AP courses broadly available so that now “nationally, Blacks and Latino students are fairly represented among schools that offer advanced courses.” While once a program mainly offered in primarily white high schools, the number of students of color taking and passing AP exams has grown substantially over the past decade. The number of Latinx students scoring three or higher grew by 180 percent over the past decade, and now these high-performing students are actually overrepresented relative to white students.

Trump Includes Student Loan Forgiveness In Latest Stimulus Proposal, Signaling Its Broad Appeal
President Trump has offered to forgive some student loan debt as part of a new $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal to House Democrats, indicating how rapidly the idea of cancelling student debt has gained broad, bipartisan appeal.

Trump’s latest attempt to revive stimulus talks comes after he abruptly pulled the plug on congressional negotiations last week. The administration is now proposing that $25 billion of the $1.8 trillion package be dedicated to student loan forgiveness. This figure represents only a tiny fraction of the estimated $1.7 trillion in total outstanding student loan debt, indicating the effort would have a small impact if enacted. The administration did not make clear how it proposes to allocate the $25 billion, nor did it specify who would be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

While the offer is relatively small, the overture is an indication of how the concept of student loan forgiveness has rapidly gone mainstream.

Enrollment Is Dropping In Public Schools Around the Country
Orange County, Fla., has 8,000 missing students. The Miami-Dade County public schools have 16,000 fewer than last year. Los Angeles Unified — the nation’s second-largest school system — is down nearly 11,000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. Utah, Virginia and Washington are reporting declines statewide.

Comprehensive national data aren’t available yet, but reporting by NPR and our member stations, along with media reports from around the country, shows enrollment declines in dozens of school districts across 20 states. Large and small, rich and poor, urban and rural — in most of these districts the decline is a departure from recent trends. Over the past 15 years, data from the U.S. Education Department show that small and steady annual increases in public school enrollment have been the rule.

As Schools Impose Mask Rules to Slow Pandemic’s Spread, Disability-Rights Advocates Caution Against Strict Enforcement
Long before the pandemic closed campuses, children with disabilities were subjected to harsh school discipline far more frequently than their peers without special needs. But now, as districts return to in-person learning with a long list of public health rules like face mask mandates, disability-rights advocates fear that the situation could become worse.

“With the already existing crisis, that sets the stage for the crisis to really explode when buildings reopen,” Wendy Tucker, senior policy director at the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, said during a webinar Tuesday. But collaboration between parents and teachers, and less punitive approaches to enforcing school rules, could make all the difference, she said.

15 Latino Activists You Should Know And Read About
Besides César Chávez, in schools in the U.S., we don’t learn much about Latino heroes who championed civil rights in the Americas. Who else advocated for meaningful change for their people, beyond Chavez? Who was the Malcolm X of Puerto Rico? Who was the Muhammad Ali of the Chicano movement?

These figures exist. Their stories are just largely erased from the American history narrative. You have to dig a little deeper to find them.

For Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Latino writers and thinkers to share the one Latino activist they think more people should know about. We told them their choice could be someone who was born here or someone who lived primarily in a Latin American country but influences Latino communities in the United States today.

Día De Muertos Takes Over The Sneaker World With New Collection By Nike
Mexico’s famed Día de Muertos
celebration seems to be everywhere these days. Following the James Bond film Spectre – which featured several scenes amid a fictional Day of the Dead parade – Mexico City created the parade just to satisfy people’s demands.

Now, Día de Muertos is being picked up by brands from all over the world as a way to pay tribute to the popular, traditional holiday (and likely make some money in the process…)

Nike is the latest brand to announce its own Día de Muertos collection and it’s already got fans of the iconic brand ready and waiting with their wallets in hand.

How ‘What Would Frida Do’ is a Semi-Biographical Guide to Life
Frida Kahlo is a beloved icon who remains inspirational decades after her death in 1954 because of her passion and ideals. Author Arianna Davis recognized that Frida’s life was worth emulating in various ways so she wrote “What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly” out Oct. 20. In the book she breaks down how to live like Frida with each chapter dedicated to a certain topic including “confidence,” “love,” “identity,” and “creativity.”

Davis–who is half Black, half Puerto Rican–is the digital director at O magazine and a long time fan of Frida’s. While the book contains biographical elements, it’s not extensive but rather it’s about the lessons we can all learn from her life. “Frida was, above all else, a master of self – the author of her own story,” she writes.

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