TALAS E-newsletter – September 17

Posted on September 17th, 2020
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Texas News
Texas SDC Stakeholder Report
After organizing an Education Stakeholder Task Force comprised of almost 50 local teachers, administrators, parents, and other individuals, the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus sent a letter to TEA Commissioner Morath to relay their top concerns as well as their recommendations. The letter, along with the recommendation details, can be viewed at this link.
TALAS Leaders at TASA’s Racism, Equity, and Diversity Steering Committee
TALAS President Rick López and Executive Director Stan Paz were invited to participate in the Racism, Equity, and Diversity Steering Committee organized by TASA. We will send out updates as we continue to learn more.
Texas education board rejects three new charter school operators, greenlights five others
The Texas State Board of Education Friday vetoed three out of eight new charter school operators seeking to open schools across the state. They voted to take no action on the other five, effectively approving them.

Heritage Classical Academy, CLEAR Public Charter School and Rocketship Public Schools will not be able to open schools in Texas, after traditional public school leaders and advocates argued the state could not afford to fund new charters during a destabilizing pandemic. The board’s actions are just the latest in a longstanding political debate in Texas over the growth of charter schools, funded by the state but managed privately by nonprofits.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath recommended the eight charter operators at the end of an in-depth process, including mandatory public meetings in target communities and interviews with state officials. The other five —Brillante Academy, Doral Academy of Texas, Learn4Life-Austin, Prelude Preparatory Charter School and Royal Public Schools — will be allowed to open schools next academic year, unless Morath or the board takes further action within the next 90 days.

Texas gives preliminary approval for revised school sex ed policy that excludes LGBTQ issues
The Texas State Board of Education gave preliminary approval this week to a sex education policy that includes teaching middle schoolers about birth control beyond abstinence — its first attempt to revise that policy since 1997.

In jam-packed meetings held Wednesday through Friday, the 15-member Republican-dominated board came one step closer to revising minimum standards for what Texas students learn about health and sex. It is expected to take a final vote in November.

The board voted to teach seventh and eighth grade students to “analyze the effectiveness and the risks and failure rates … of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods in the prevention of STDs, STIs and pregnancy,” in addition to the importance of abstinence. Currently, learning about birth control methods beyond abstinence is only a requirement in high school, where health education is an optional course.

But the board rejected proposals to teach middle school students about the importance of consent or teach any students to define gender identity and sexual orientation.

Dallas ISD considering staggered approach to return students to campus
Dallas ISD laid out its plans to return to in-person school with a staggered approach starting Sept. 28.

However, the superintendent said if the county threat level goes back to red, the plans could be called off. His comments add more uncertainty for parents who, school board members say, already feel like they have been getting a different plan each week.

Just after the Dallas ISD outlined plans for a phased-in return to school, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said ultimately the district will follow the advice of Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang if COVID-19 cases take a turn for the worse.

Teacher survey reveals alleged COVID-19 violations in schools across the state
School districts across North Texas have been detailing reopening plans in light of COVID-19 for weeks. Many have produced videos showing the lengths taken to spray down buildings and add partitions in classrooms.

”When everybody started talking about back to school and planning, we were adamant that we needed to do so in a safe manner,” said Ovidia Molina, President of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA).

In a statewide report the TSTA released this week, its members outlined a variety of COVID-19 violations and concerns in a survey. It includes issues educators and other school staffers are allegedly witnessing on campuses across the state.

Rethinking Kindergarten for the Pandemic: With Colorful Masks and Many New Rules, Mrs. Hogan’s ‘Honeybees’ Arrive for Class in Texas
Just after 9 a.m. on their first day of in-person learning, Mrs. Hogan’s “honeybees” turn to one of the most important tasks of the year: drawing self-portraits.

“Are we going to draw ourselves itty-bitty tiny?” Hogan, a petite woman wearing leopard sneakers, a black mask and a pink rhinestone face shield, asks the classroom.

“No!” chorus back 16 kindergartners.

“Mrs. Hogan wore her best face shield and mask today,” she continues, sketching her own portrait on a projector at the front of the classroom. “So when she draws her face, is she gonna draw her mask?”

“Yes!” the class bellows back. She moves on — How many arms should Mrs. Hogan draw? — as two boys in the back of the classroom discuss, through the clear, three-sided shield dividing their desks, whether to include eyelashes.

ABC13 hosts town hall on educational inequality for Hispanic students
While students deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fall semester, minority students started the new school year already at a disadvantage.

Statistics are clear there are disparities in testing, performance and access to resources between white and minority students. On average, Latino students are roughly two to three years of learning behind white students of the same age, according to researchers at McKinsey & Company.

ABC13, Houston’s news leader, brought together education leaders for a town hall Tuesday night, exploring the consequences of the academic achievement gap for students of color in southeast Texas.

Proposed Texas Historic Site Would Tell Story of Latino School Segregation
For much of the 20th century, Latino students in the tiny Texas borderlands town of Marfa – like many of their peers across the Southwest – were not allowed to go to the same school as white children.

From the early 1900s to 1965, Latino students in this onetime cattle ranching and military hub attended the Blackwell School, located south of the train tracks that split the town in half, while their white counterparts went to another school.

At Blackwell, some former students have recalled, the kids were instructed to only speak English. At one point, they were even made to participate in a mock funeral – the “burial of Mr. Spanish” – where they pledged to avoid speaking what for many was their native tongue.

District Leader: Transforming Education
is looking for new guests to feature!
District Leader: Transforming Education would like to invite you to be a guest on its podcast. District Leader is a podcast dedicated to highlighting district leaders in public education from across the country. Each week, host Luis Valentino, Ed.D., interviews superintendents who share their inspiring stories. District Leader is a podcast about moving and inspiring educators and non-educators alike to believe in the power of education, its leaders, and its transformation. You can listen to the podcast at this link, as well as on iTunes, TuneIn, and most podcast platforms. If you are interested, please email Luis Valentino at luis@districtleader.net.
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Supporting Your Career
Five philosophies of career success
People have many different beliefs about what drives career success. These different beliefs lead to different philosophies of career advice, which have different implications for how to choose a career.

Here I outline what I take to be five common philosophies of career success, some rough thoughts on which is correct, what they imply, and why most of them differ from mainstream careers advice.

10 tips for a successful virtual school board meeting
When they can’t meet in person, school boards have to find ways to connect and conduct their business. During the global pandemic—and generally in any emergency circumstances—many states permit school boards to meet and make important board decisions virtually.

A virtual school board meeting could be as simple as a conference call that the public can join or as complex as a video-based meeting or webinar involving dozens of people. Either way, these online gatherings have to be planned and prepared for in advance in order to achieve the highest level of productivity, participation, and collaboration.

National News
Predominantly white schools more likely to start in-person classes than mostly Black, Latino schools: analysis
Predominantly white schools are more likely to begin classes in-person this year than those with predominantly Black and Latino student populations, according to an analysis published Friday by The Associated Press and Chalkbeat.

The analysis, which included survey responses from 677 school districts covering 13 million students, found that most U.S. students will begin the school year online. The surveys were sent to the biggest school districts across categories established by the National Center for Education Statistics: urban, suburban, town and rural.

The responses showed that 79 percent of Hispanic students, 75 percent of Black students and 51 percent of white students won’t have the option of in-person learning this year.

After backlash, USDA agrees to extend free-meal program for children
After an outcry from educators, the U.S. Agriculture Department is extending a school meal program that has provided free meals to millions of children since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in the spring.

The program allows families to pick up free food from any convenient school campus, regardless of whether their child is enrolled there and even if they do not qualify for free and ­reduced-price meals. It’s a form of meal delivery typically offered only during the summer months. But due to the pandemic, the Agriculture Department — which oversees the nation’s school lunch program — launched the program ahead of schedule in March and has kept it running ever since.

Until this week, however, federal officials were planning to let certain key components of the meal program expire at the end of September. Most notably, starting in August, families would have had to pay for their food and pick it up from the school their child attends.

All-Women Panel Discusses the Erasure of Latinos in Hollywood During Academy-Sponsored Series
On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new inclusion standards that studios would have to meet if they wanted their films to be eligible for an Oscar for Best Picture starting in 2024. Two days later, the Academy invited a panel of Latinas working in Hollywood to talk about the importance of inclusion and the increasing invisibility of Latinos in the industry.

The series, “Academy Dialogues: It Starts with Us,” continued Thursday afternoon with a conversation on “The Erasure of Latinos in Hollywood,” which is now available to watch in its entirety on YouTube. The panel was moderated by the Academy’s Lorenza Muñoz, executive vice president of member relations and awards.

Panelists included Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of production for Marvel Studios; Carmen Cuba, casting director (The Martian); Nadia Hallgren, director (Becoming); Eva Longoria, actress, producer, director and activist; and Ivette Rodriguez, founder and president of American Entertainment Marketing and co-founder of LA Collab.

How Is Online Education Affecting Latinx Children During COVID-19?
Officials have fought tooth and nail to reopen the economy, reopen schools, and though the sane decision was to continue virtually, it is furthering a digital divide that has always been present.

Regardless, school is officially back in session. Fall weather is upon us, and the uncertainty as a result of the divide and what the future holds is thickening the air.

Some of the country’s most deep in the divide are its Latinx students.

A study conducted by the Independent Analysis Unit at the Los Angeles Unified School District found that Hispanic and Black students had the lowest participation rates for middle and high school after they went virtual in response to COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Is Hurting Teacher Diversity
The Schenectady, N.Y., school district realized it needed to do better by its students of color: The vast majority of its teachers were white, while less than a third of students are. A couple years ago, the district began ramping up its efforts to hire more teachers of color, as well as provide anti-racist training for its staff.

The Albany-area district was highlighted by the state education department and other groups for its efforts, which included recruiting a more diverse pool of educators, building relationships with historically Black colleges and universities, and creating affinity spaces to help educators of color feel supported once on staff.

It seemed like momentum was gaining. But earlier this month, more than 100 teachers and social workers, most of whom were hired during this recent push for diversity, logged onto a Zoom call and were told they no longer had jobs. Altogether, the district, which has been hit with statewide budget cuts, has laid off 320 educators, nearly half of whom are educators of color.

Journalist Maria Hinojosa Tells Latinos, Silenced Voices: ‘We Need You’
Maria Hinojosa has dedicated her career to telling the stories of Latinos and other communities often ignored by the media.

The Emmy award-winning journalist and longtime host of Latino USA on NPR is now telling her own story in a raw, very personal memoir, titled Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America.

Hinojosa, who came to the U.S. from Mexico with her family as a child, worked as a reporter at CBS, NPR and CNN when journalism was whiter and even more male than it is now. In an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, she recalled the prejudice she faced in newsrooms as a Latina.

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