Thursday, May 28, 2015

Crunch Time Near for Major Education Bills

The Texas Legislative Session is grinding down to a close. -Angela

Crunch Time Near for Major Education Bills

The opening weeks of the legislative session saw ambitious plans for education reform — expanding pre-kindergarten, overhauling teacher evaluations, creating a private school voucher program and updating the state’s accountability system, to name just a few.
With just over a week left in the 84th Legislature, it’s make-or-break time for bills. Ahead of another big deadline Saturday — when Senate bills must make it out of House committees — here's where the big education measures stand.
  • Pre-kindergarten: Efforts to expand state-funded early education to a full day have failed this session. The Gov. Greg Abbott-backed House Bill 4, which creates a grant program for school districts that choose to implement certain quality standards, has passed both chambers. It now either heads to the governor’s desk or conference committee — depending on whether the House approves amendments added in the Senate. 
  • Accountability: Priority legislation from Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor enacting A-F grades for schools became part of HB 2804, which passed the House last week and awaits Senate approval. That bill makes broader changes to how the state evaluates schools, including bringing in factors like community engagement, Advanced Placement course enrollment, attendance and dropout rates.
  • School Turnarounds: Controversial proposals to allow parents to petition for new management at struggling public school campuses as well as to create a special state-managed district for underperforming schools have both passed the Senate. Those bills — Senate Bill 14 and SB 669, respectively — await approval of the House Public Education Committee, which must vote them out by Saturday’s deadline if they are to have a shot at passing.
  • Virtual Education: A bill from Taylor — SB 895 — that would lift existing limits on the number of online courses students can take has passed his panel but has yet to make it to the Senate floor. This one is likely out of time.
  • Private School Scholarships/Vouchers: As the session has progressed, lawmakers have narrowed down proposals that would give parents financial support to send their children to private schools. What’s left on the table is a plan to allow businesses to contribute to a scholarship fund for low-income students in exchange for a state tax break. The measure, SB 4, has passed the Senate and awaits a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, which it must clear by Saturday.
  • Teacher Evaluation: The prospects of what has been a multi-session push to overhaul the state’s teacher evaluation system succeeding this time around appear to be grim. The two big measures — state Sen. Kel Seliger’s SB 893 and SB 892 — must both be heard in House committee by Saturday to have a chance to make it to the governor’s desk.
  • School Finance: The clock ran out on House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s effort to tackle the state’s outdated school finance system last Thursday, which was the deadline for the House to pass its own bills out of the chamber.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

California Can Hit Accountability Snooze Button

California Can Hit Accountability Snooze Button

Rather than a "snooze button," we need a national moratorium on high-stakes testing.


KLRU/PBS Story- "Academia Cuauhtli Works to Bridge History with Language"

KLRU/PBS Story- "Academia Cuauhtli Works to Bridge History with Language"


Thanks  to videographer Blair Waltman-Alexin with KLRU for doing such a wonderful job covering Academia Cuauhtli in this May 1, 2015 video (posted).   Thanks to everyone in Nuestro Grupo, our community-based organization, , as well as our partners—the Austin Independent School District—especially Chief Academic Officer Dr. Pauline Dow and her excellent staff, and the City of Austin, Parks and Recreation Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Project (ESB-MACC) where Academia Cuauhtli is physically located. Laura Esparza, Herlinda Zamora, Tiffany Moreno, the ESB-MACC board, and all the staff, you have been such great partners.

Thanks, as well, to maestra/teacher Rosa Tupina Yaontonalcuauhtli and Grupo Danza Xochipilli for inspiring us with song and danza.  And thanks to the Sanchez, Metz, and Zavala Elementary fourth- now fifth-grade children—and their parents and grandparents—for honoring us with their presence and participation at Academia Cuauhtli.  We begin with a new group of fourth graders in the fall.

Muchísimas gracias también a los maestros bilingue del distrito escolar—to the participating AISD bilingual education teachers, as well, for giving so generously of their time, intellect, and motivating energy.  Our ancestors surely want us to not only feed the mind but also to feed the spirit through song, dance, edifying values, and love of community.  And so we are grateful to them, too!

Like us on Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AcademiaCuauhtli

AISD Website: http://www.austinisd.org/academics/cuauhtli

-Angela Valenzuela

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pearson Loses Bulk of Texas Student Testing Contract

On another matter, Senate Bill 1200 (by Larry Taylor) gets heard tomorrow in the House and it is related to recommending a new system for student assessment. The hearing begins at 2PM in E2.036.   The bill seeks recommendations to address "the purpose of a state accountability system and the public; support learning activities; recognize application of skills and knowledge; measure student educational growth toward mastery; and valuing critical thinking" (oddly worded). In addition, policy change seeks to promote community-based accountability, "parent and community involvement, and reflect the unique needs of each community." I'm considering testifying. 


  • For the first time in three decades, a new company is poised to develop and administer the state-required exams Texas students begin taking in the third grade. 
    The state is in negotiations with Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to take over the bulk of the four-year, $340 million student assessment contract, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. Company Vice President John Oswald said ETS is "privileged and honored" to land the work. Final contracts are still being negotiated.
    The London-based Pearson Education has held the state's largest education-related contract — most recently, a five-year $468 million deal to provide state exams through 2015— since Texas began requiring state student assessments in the 1980s. Under the new agreement, the company would still develop the state's assessments designed for special needs and foreign students. That portion of the contract is worth about $60 million.  
    As the Legislature moved to reduce the state’s standardized testing program in response to widespread outcry from parents and school leaders in 2013, the state's contract with Pearson became the focus of much criticism. Many lawmakers, including former Senate Education Committee Chairman and now Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, attacked what they viewed as the company's excessive influence in the policy-making process and called for called for greater scrutiny of testing contracts. 
    In 2013, the state auditor concluded that the state education agency did not adequately oversee the contract with Pearson. At the time, Education Commissioner Michael Williams thanked the auditor's office for its recommendations, which he said would be put into effect immediately.
    Disclosure: Pearson is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

    #TxLege #TxEd #STAAR

     The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Hispanic population on the rise [in Austin]

    Unfortunately, this piece makes no mention of gentrification or the need for policies that make housing affordable.  As mentioned, we are also a "dual language education district," in AISD but our much-needed, highly qualified teachers also tend to find living in Austin beyond their reach.

    For starters, here is a link to a policy guide from the American Planning Association on the kinds of steps we can take to address affordability and sustainability.


    Hispanic population on the rise

    The Hispanic population has been the largest-growing segment of the
    population in Austin for the past few years, and Southwest Austin is
    seeing that growth in action, city of Austin Demographer Ryan Robinson

    He said a large number of middle-class Hispanic families are moving to
    suburbs such as the Southwest Austin area south of Hwy. 71, west of
    I-35, north of FM 1626 and east of FM 1826 rather than Central Austin.

    “The overall level of residential segregation for middle-class and
    upper-middle-class Hispanics is probably at an all-time low,” he said.

    The Hispanic share of Austin City Council District 8, which includes
    Oak Hill neighborhoods, grew from about 15 percent in 2000 to 18.5
    percent in 2010, Robinson said.

    “Now, probably one in five individuals [in District 8 is Hispanic.] …
    And so I think that’s telling,” he said.

    About 30 percent of Austin City Council District 5 in Southwest Austin
    is Hispanic. In nearby districts 2 and 3, Hispanic populations are
    greater than 60 percent, with large concentrations of Hispanic
    residents east of I-35, Robinson said.

    More and more Hispanic professionals are looking to Austin as a hub
    for traditional Hispanic-owned businesses such as restaurants as well
    as options in more high-growth industries such as technology, said
    Mark Madrid, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber
    of Commerce.

    “We are still on the heels of recovery from the recession, so all this
    is going to impact the Hispanic community, the children in our schools
    and the cultivation of Hispanic leadership. … But it’s also going to
    affect our economy,” Madrid said.

    The future of Austin

    Surveys show the majority of residents younger than age 18 in Austin
    are Hispanic, Robinson said, noting that majority has remained the
    case since about 2009.

    “This growth has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Robinson said.

    In the next 20 years the Hispanic population could go from being a
    minority to being a plurality in Austin—not a majority, but close to
    50 percent of the population, he said.

    Strong schools are among factors drawing Hispanic residents to
    Southwest Austin, but lack of affordable family housing may push
    residents further outward, Robinson said.

    “I think what we are experiencing is a collapse of affordability in
    this city,” Robinson said. “As affordability becomes a bigger and
    bigger issue, a bigger and bigger obstacle to living in the central
    city, that is indeed affecting some of our working-class Hispanic
    households,” he said.

    Austin’s poverty rate for 2012-13 dropped by about 3 percentage points
    because Austin is displacing its poorest residents to other areas, he
    said. Robinson said he would not call Southwest Austin “affordable,”
    citing high home prices in Circle C in District 8 as well as in
    neighboring districts.

    “I think the housing is [also] becoming more expensive in District 5,
    and that’s going to be a challenge for not just Hispanic families, but
    any young families.”

    At a March 30 Austin ISD board of trustees meeting, trustee Paul
    Saldaña pointed out that 15 years ago Latino students made up 45
    percent of the school district’s student population—children who live
    within AISD’s attendance zone.

    “Today, Latino students make up 60 percent of our student population,
    and limited English proficient students make up now almost 30 percent
    of our student population,” Saldaña said.

    Saldaña urged moving forward with a district self-assessment on
    equity, diversity and inclusion during the March 30 meeting.

    AISD is also in the process of rolling out an extension of its
    dual-language program to middle schools, and some trustees have said
    dual-language programs could help attract and retain families in the
    district, which has seen significant enrollment declines for the past
    three years.

    Spanish is the first language of more than 90 percent of AISD’s 23,000
    English Language Learners, or ELL, students, said Olivia Hernández,
    bilingual director for AISD’s department of ELL.

    AISD launched dual-language programs in 2010 in elementary schools.
    Starting with the 2015-16 school year, four middle schools will add
    dual-language, including Paredes Middle School at 10100 S. Mary Moore
    Searight Drive. Schools were chosen based on several factors,
    Hernández said.

    “One of our challenges is to retain our bilingual teachers and recruit
    more bilingual teachers,” she said.

    As AISD is hiring teachers, the district is now looking for candidates
    who have bilingual certification because they could potentially teach
    some classes in Spanish, she said.

    “We want to set the baseline in 2015-16,” she said.

    It costs more money to educate ELL students, and AISD receives federal
    and state funding to bridge that gap, she said.

    Austin’s Hispanic population is not monolithic, as it includes
    Mexican, Central American and South American influences among those in
    the population, Madrid said.

    In 2014 the GAHCC released its Hispanic Business Research Study data, he said.

    “We have a projection through our study that there could be upwards of
    50,000 Hispanic-owned businesses by 2020 in the [five-county] area,”
    Madrid said.

    In early 2015 the GAHCC launched Small Biz U, an educational event for
    entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

    Madrid said AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz is the district’s first
    Latino superintendent, and there are three Hispanic Austin City
    Council members.

    “Things are changing,” Madrid said. “I think you see that pace
    accelerated here. ... We want Austin to be a go-to place not only
    because more people are moving here than any other place in the
    country, but because there are opportunities here.”

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 1980 - 2013

    Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 1980 - 2013

    MAY 12, 2015

    Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 1980 – 2013

    There were 54 million Hispanics in the United States in 2013, comprising 17.1% of the total U.S. population. In 1980, with a population of 14.8 million, Hispanics made up just 6.5% of the total U.S. population. Read the accompanying report, “English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos.”
    Click on the charts below to explore Hispanic population trends with an interactive version of the chart.

    The Hispanic Population, by Nativity

    1. Chart
    2. Data
    3. Embed
    population estimates, in millionsU.S bornForeign born1960197019801990200020100204060
    Source: For 1960 and 1970, see Passel and Cohn’s 2008 population projections. For 1980-2000, Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Decennial Census data. For 2006-2013 American Community Survey (IPUMS).
    Since 1960, the nation’s Latino population has increased nearly ninefold, from 6.3 million then to 54.0 million by 2013. It is projected to grow to 119 million by 2060, according to the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau (2014). The foreign-born Latino population has increased by more than 20 times over the past half century, from less than 1 million in 1960 to 19 million today. On the other hand, while the U.S.-born Latino population has only increased sixfold over this time period, there are nearly 30 million more U.S.-born Latinos in the U.S. today (35.0 million) than there were in 1960 (5.5 million).
    Continue here.

    Thursday, May 14, 2015

    Academia Cuauhtli Graduation

    Academia Cuauhtli Graduation

     KC, Consuelo’s eldest daughter provides a quick re-cap of their recent visit to Austin as part of the closing ceremony and graduation of children in our first, fourth-grade cohort—children that are moving on this coming fall to the fifth grade in Sancez, Met, and Zavala Elementary Schools in east Austin.  It was a real treat having Consuelo Kickbush present to our children and parents—first on Friday evening and then again on Saturday. She is such a gifted speaker and person. 

    Among the many special moments, a very touching one was when the children surrounded Consuelo Kickbus and dedicated to her the song, "Aguila," a beautiful, very personal song that asks the eagle to take us on its winged flight throughout the universe in order to show us the road to our own hearts. She was very moved by this choreography of love and kindness, as were all of the rest of us watching on. Thanks to Rosa Tupina Yaotonalcuauhtli and Grupo Xochipilli for the beauty and joy they brought to these children's lives—as well as to our community as a whole. 

    What a truly fulfilling and gratifying way to end the year in the presence of the community and that we as a community and AISD school district have collectively cultivated in and around the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center.

    It was a real team effort. Thanks to everyone in Nuestro Grupo, the community-based organization that launched Academia Cuauhtli, for making this dream come true. 

    Like us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AcademiaCuauhtli?fref=ts

    The children are an inspiration, and their teachers,too! The genuine love and caring of our community is uplifting, as well!  

    -Angela Valenzuela