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Monday, March 01, 2021

INVITATION: TCEP Brown Bag on High Stakes Testing and Accountability During Covid-19, Friday, March 5th at Noon



Mark your calendars and register HERE for Friday, March 5th at 12:00PM for a Texas Center for Education Policy (TCEP) Brown Bag on High Stakes Testing and Accountability During Covid-19, featuring Texas State Representative Dr. Mary Gonzalez, Dr. Theresa Treviño, Vice President of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA), and Ruben Cortez, Jr. Texas State Board of Education] Member, District 2. 

This Brown Bag will focus on policy proposals that are currently at play in the 87th session of the Texas State Legislature.

Time: Friday, March 5, 2021, at 12:00pm-1:15pm CT 

You will receive the link upon registering HERE.

Compliments of Dr. Theresa Trevino, below are bills that TAMSA is following this legislative session (all can be searched at the Texas Legislature Online website):

SB 142- Rep. Beverly Powell (D)- authorizes state auditor and SBOE to perform an audit to determine if STAAR assessments accurately measure student success and requires parental input.

SB 177-Sen. Kel Seliger (R)-makes IGCs permanent, no sunset

SB 260- Sen. José Menéndez (D)- Eliminates the requirement to use assessments as a criterion for grade promotion or graduation.

HB 378- Rep. Ron Reynolds (D) - eliminates English 2 and US History End-of-Course exams (EOCs), as they are not required by federal law.

HB 382- Rep. Leo Pacheco (D)- eliminates the requirement for passing state assessments for grade promotion or graduation.

HB 999- Rep. Diego Bernal (D)- allow students this year to graduate with IGC more broadly, ie. removing the limitations on current IGC requirements, for the years subject to no accountability.

HB 1192- Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D) - Relating to the   administration of public school assessment instruments and the temporary   suspension of certain accountability determinations for a school district or   campus in a school year in which the operations of the district or campus are   disrupted as a result of a declared disaster and the requirement to use those   assessment instruments as a criterion for promotion or graduation of a public   school student.


HB 1603 Rep. Dan Huberty (R)- relating to the use of IGCs, removes sunset date and offers other alternatives to satisfy graduation requirements. (Companion to Seliger’s SB 177)


HB 1867- Rep., Mary González, Ph.D. (D)- creation of a Commission on Assessment and Accountability.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

UPLIFT AUSTIN is distributing PPE, Cleaning, and Hygiene supplies for Black & Brown communities in Travis Cy on Feb. 27, 2021

Dear Austin Friends and Community:

This is wonderful! Thanks to Uplift Austin for doing this.

-Angela Valenzuela


UPLIFT AUSTIN is a PPE, Cleaning, and Hygiene supplies distribution for Black and Brown communities in Travis County taking place on February 27, 2021. 



Distribution Sites on

February 27, 2021

Sitios de Distribución 27 de Febrero 2021 

10am-12pm

6002 Jain Lane, Austin,TX 78721

This distribution site is sponsored by the Southwest Key. Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

4926 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702

This distribution site is sponsored by PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources). Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

1911 E. Ben White, Austin, TX 78741

This distribution site is sponsored by American Youthworks. Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

5106 Village Square Drive, Austin,TX 78744

This distribution site is sponsored by The Austin Latino Coalition and the Office of Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes . Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

102 E. Rundberg Lane, Austin, TX 78753

This distribution site is sponsored by Parents Support Guerrero Thompson Elementary School . Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

5201 Ross Rd, Del Valle, TX 78617

This distribution site is sponsored by the Del Valle Community Coalition. Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

6601 Felix Ave, Austin, TX 78741

This distribution site is sponsored by Latino Healthcare Forum and Austin Latino Coalition. Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

7201 Colony Loop Drive, Austin, TX 78724

This distribution site is sponsored by The Black Leaders Collective . Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm

1400 Tillery Street, Austin, TX 78721

This distribution site is sponsored by Central Texas Allied Health Institute. Distribution site will open at 10am and close at 12pm


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#WinterStorm #foodinsecurity #covidresponse

Support Congressman Jamaal Bowman's letter US Dept. of Education to Waive Standardized Testing Requirements

Friends, 

Consider signing this petition by New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman. Especially here in Texas where our students have lost SO many days, it's horrible and nonsensical to divert precious instructional time to high-stakes testing.

-Angela Valenzuela



Support Congressman Jamaal Bowman's letter US Dept. of Education to Waive Standardized Testing Requirements

Over the past year, our students have faced unfathomable amounts of trauma and anxiety due to the pandemic. They’ve lost teachers, family members, and their entire way of life. Congressman Jamaal Bowman's letter asks to waive the standardized testing requirement put forth by the US Department of Education. Please fill out this form to sign your organization's name to the Congressman's letter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

“Stop.” A Letter to Our Nation’s Education Leaders and Our Nation’s Teachers

Excellent response to Biden's call for Spring testing (see previous post). Thanks to Dr. Theresa Treviño of  TAMSA for sharing. Beers' statement is so powerful and appropriate to the current moment.

-Angela Valenzuela

#testinginapandemic

“Stop.” A Letter to Our Nation’s Education Leaders and Our Nation’s Teachers


by Kylene Beers, Past President of the National Council of Teachers of English

Reader. Writer. Teacher. Speaker. Current Cancer Fighter

Posted on February 22, 2021

To members of the U.S. Department of Education, The National School Boards Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association and our nation’s teachers:As a long-time Texas educator, nationally- and internationally-known and respected educational consultant on matters of literacy, and an award-winning author of educational books, I have one piece of advice – not requested but offered with a genuine heart: stop.

Stop any conversation you hear (or might have considered starting) that “our kids are behind” and “they must catch up.” I respectfully ask, “Behind what?” “Catch up to what?” Our kids are not behind as a result of a pandemic though at some other time I will happily discuss the insidious systemic racial inequalities that have always existed in our schools, inequalities that have kept many with fewer opportunities than others. But our students are not “behind” now because of this pandemic.

What they are is stressed, anxious, lonely, worried, frustrated, and afraid of what happens next. But they are not behind a reading level or a math skill or a science concept. Rarely have I ever encountered any one concept in any classroom that is only taught once. We teach and reteach; we push kids to apply learned skills, strategies, and concepts in increasingly complex ways across the grades. That will continue to happen and anyone who says, “But they should have learned about mixed fractions in third grade and now we’ll have to do it in fourth grade” is too worried about benchmark learning and not focused enough on what learning should actually be about.

In many ways, our students across all grades have learned skills no one would have expected them to learn at their ages.They have been required to sit at a computer screen for 5, 6, 7 hours a day and figure out different learning platforms. They have had to figure out what to do when a school requires they be in their synchronous learning classroom when the sibling or parent is using the one computer in the home. Many have learned to monitor their own learning while watching siblings, preparing meals for siblings, or being scared while they are home alone. Many have finally returned to schools to be told, “Don’t touch,” “Don’t hug,” “Don’t get too close,” “Don’t share,” . . . . In a world where we want them to experience all they can do, they have been put behind see-through plastic screens on desks pushed that have been pushed six feet apart and told all that they can’t do.

In spite of all that, they have learned critical skills. They have learned empathy; they have – whether they realize it or not – become global citizens. They have learned what it means to stay inside; to substitute “I want to” with “I should.” And too many have learned what happens when parents lose jobs; too many have learned, at far too young an age, what grief is. They have learned that fear in the pit of your stomach when you hear someone you love has contracted Covid. They have learned how to cope with difficulties we never dreamed of preparing them to learn.

They have learned that some neighborhoods had more neighbors to contract the disease; they have learned that some hospitals received fewer supplies or received them later than other hospitals; they have seen, now, far more white people receive the vaccine than people of color or people of poverty. And they have questions about that. Questions they have been told “Don’t ask” and teachers have been told “Don’t answer.” They have learned that kindness counts. They have learned what it means to be without and how good it feels to help and to receive help. They have learned that in the worst of moments, they survived.

To dare to say our kids are behind, is to demean all the parents and teachers in this nation who have done their best under circumstances we never dared to imagine but experienced each and every day. These circumstances, for many teachers, were made worse when ridiculous requirements such as how long they must be at their computers, what they must do to show they are indeed teaching, how much they must cover of a curriculum that mattered little this year, how they must buy their own personal protection equipment and use their own dollars to supply classrooms with sanitizers, and teach face-to-face with no vaccines were never ending. This year has caused even our most veteran of teachers to question how they keep going and has reduced our novice teachers to questioning if they will stay in teaching. And now, now they are reminded they must never, ever forget the forthcoming TEST.

Stop relying on that ridiculous state test. It doesn’t measure a critical thing about what was learned this year or what was taught. If universities can set aside the lauded SAT/ACT this year, then what are we saying to our children, parents, and teachers when we say, “Oh, yes, we’ll be giving THE TEST this year”? What are we showing we value? Yes, let’s have a long-overdue conversation about this test. But for now, STOP the demands to “Make sure the kids are ready.”

To the U.S. Department of Education, stop waiting for states to ask for waivers to give THE TEST. Step in and stop the insanity.

To Dr. Jill Biden, thank you for your support of teachers and please see if you can perhaps push a little sanity into decisions being made right now.

And to all teachers: Stop listening to those who say your kids are behind. That’s a statement without merit, offered in unprecedented times, that is uttered by those who value testing, not learning, and statistics, not students. To those who say such things, I say they have not seen you delivering food to homes with little or none, staying online to talk to the kid who is alone, accepting work at any point in the unit, crying when one kid finally shows up because your heart has worried about that child/teen, and laughing with your students when a cat arrives to sit upon your shoulders. They haven’t seen all you have done to explain the unexplainable while you, too, wonder at this nation’s insanity.

Dear teachers, stop saying, “I can’t” because you have. You have shown up. You have done what you did not think you could. You have taught your kids under the worst of situations because it’s what you do. You are tired, stressed, anxious, worried, and feeling alone. I wish I could make those feelings go away. But I can remind you that feelings of inadequacy should be shoved aside. Please don’t think you can’t, because you did. You gave our nation’s students needed normalcy (though a new normalcy) and you showed them grace when few extended the same to you.

Our nation owes you so much and gives you so little. I wish we would all stop any belittling remarks toward teachers and those administrators who do support them. So, to all of the rest of us; stop saying what your child’s teacher did not do and start thanking that teacher for what was done.

Respectfully,

Kylene Beers, Ed.D.

Co-author with Bob Probst of Forged by Reading, Disrupting Thinking, Notice and Note, and Reading Nonfiction

National Leadership Award recipient by the National Council Teachers of English

Teachers Choice Award recipient for Disrupting Thinking

Past President of the National Council of Teachers of English


States Still Must Give Standardized Tests This Year, Biden Administration Announces

Disappointing news. 

Many of our Texas schools are still not open due to the winter storm damage such that our children will have missed so many days of instruction and now they want us to divert precious instructional time and resources toward this? 

This is patently wrong-headed and unconscionable. This whole testing regime is a bipartisan bad idea. 

-Angela Valenzuela

States Still Must Give Standardized Tests This Year, Biden Administration Announces

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 22, 2021

States will not be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized exams this school year despite the pandemic, though they will be offered significant flexibility in how they give those tests and how they’re used, the U.S. Department of Education informed state education leaders Monday.

In a letter to states, the department said that it will not invite state requests for “blanket waivers of assessments” required by the Every Student Succeeds Act; states received such waivers last spring. However, the department said it would allow states to administer shorter versions of state exams in English/language arts, math, and science, or let states administer exams this summer or even into the next school year.

The Education Department also told states that it will allow them to seek waivers from federal requirements for school accountability, including the mandate to identify certain low-performing schools, for the 2020-21 school year. Such flexibility would include a waiver from the requirement that states test 95 percent of eligible students.

 “It is urgent to understand the impact of COVID-19 on learning,” Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education, wrote to states. “We know, however, that some schools and school districts may face circumstances in which they are not able to safely administer statewide summative assessments this spring using their standard practices.”

Rosenblum said states would still have to publicly report data by student subgroups, as required. He also specifically encouraged states to extend the testing window for English-language proficiency tests.

Rosenblum did not give a deadline for when states would have to seek flexibility from accountability or other requirements. However he also said the department recognized that “individual states may need additional assessment flexibility based on the specific circumstances.” He added that in such cases, the department “will work with states to address their individual needs and conditions while ensuring the maximum available statewide data to inform the targeting of resources and supports.”

Whether to let states cancel these exams has been a major question looming over the Biden administration. Leading Democrats for K-12 policy in Congress and others have said the tests are crucial to informing educators about how students have been affected by the pandemic. Yet teachers’ unions and some Republicans are among those who have pushed for students and schools to be let off the hook when it comes to these exams. States like Michigan and New York have sought testing waivers from the department for this spring.

During his confirmation hearing, Miguel Cardona, President Joe Biden’s nominee for education secretary, said that assessments are crucial to learning where students stand but did not take a firm position one way or the other on letting states cancel them. Before his nomination, Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, told his state last year that he planned to press forward with annual state exams. Cardona has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Last year, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said her department would not grant blanket testing waivers for this year, although that position no longer mattered after President Joe Biden won the November election.

In response to Monday’s news, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the decision not to grant waivers a “frustrating turn” of events.

“It misses a huge opportunity to really help our students by allowing the waiver of assessments and the substitution, instead, of locally developed, authentic assessments that could be used by educators and parents as a baseline for work this summer and next year,” Weingarten said.

Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, encouraged states to apply for the waivers being made available, but also disparaged the value of the state exams during the pandemic: “Standardized tests have never been valid or reliable measures of what students know and are able to do, and they are especially unreliable now.”

Meanwhile, Carissa Moffat Miller, the CEO of the Council of Chief State School Officers, indicated support for the department’s approach to assessments this year.

“We appreciate that the Department will provide flexibility on how to administer statewide assessments and modify accountability systems as state leaders manage the continuing effects of the global pandemic,” she said. “In addition, we are pleased that the Department has committed to working with states that may need additional flexibilities.”


Andrew Ujifusa

 

FOLLOW

Assistant Editor,  Education Week

Andrew Ujifusa is an assistant editor who covers national education policy and politics.





Sunday, February 21, 2021

***Academia Cuauhtli Winter Storm Emergency Fundraiser***

As mentioned in yesterday's post, he past few days on the heels of Texas' winter storm, our Academia Cuauhtli (AC) program coordinators, Itzel Garcia and Alejandro Quiahuihtl Martinez, have been calling our AC families representing the 40 students that we serve to see how they are doing. The majority are working class immigrant students living in East Austin who bore the brunt of this storm with few resources.

Specifically, several of our parents have mentioned that they have limited supplies of food and water. Additionally, a large portion of them have mentioned that due to inclement weather, they have not been able to work, such that they are struggling to pay their upcoming rent. 

Thanks to many of you who made donations over the holidays, we were able to donate the $2,500.00 we raised to our families in $50.00 amounts. Today, we ask for additional help so that we can address this big crisis situation they are currently in. 

It is my understanding rent is roughly $500 per month, per family, and possibly more. Today, we are reaching out to donate funds for our families. Thanks to Education Policy and Planning doctoral student, Maria Unda and Texas State University undergraduate, Monica Villafuerte who moved on this right away, we have already raised over $2,000.00, as we have a list of 13 families that are in need of immediate assistance.  

Any amount is greatly appreciated and will go a long way toward helping among the most marginal families in our Austin community. 

Thank you! Gracias!

-Angela Valenzuela





Saturday, February 20, 2021

Texas government is broken. We deserve one that works. Sign Congressman Joaquin Castro Petition

Friends,

This past week without power for more than 48 hours in single-digit, and otherwise, very low temperatures—ice and snow on the roads—was intense, to express this mildly. At least our home has insulation and a gas-run fireplace that we kicked into action. Our stove burners, too.  Later, I learned of how risky that might be. With 30 people in Texas alone—and counting—who lost their lives, many others—far too many—were not so fortunate. 

On top of our state putting us at risk through its utter negligence, us Texans simply aren't prepared for weather like this. We barely have coats, some of us. It was therefore absolutely incumbent on our governor and state leaders to prepare us all last week with what was to lay ahead. Lives would have been saved with more planning, without a doubt. Every life is precious.

I was therefore very pleased to read this must-read Austin American-Statesman's blistering opinion-editorial written by Executive Editor, John Bridges, for which he also received national attention this morning on CNN.

Expressed with the righteous anger and indignation felt by so many of us, this should totally be a wake-up call to the importance of voting and elections and the impacts they have on our lives and well-being—or lack thereof, as in the Texas case. So neglectful our leadership, and with enormous consequence and harm to our families and communities. And all with our taxpayer dollars.

We serve many parents associated with our Saturday school here in Austin, Texas, named Academia Cuauhtli. Working with our students and coordinators, it has been a real team effort. And a sacrifice, too, considering just how much work the winter storm seemed to create.  We literally had to get warm in order to warm up back to each other quickly in an unanticipated manner.

I feel so blessed and so humble to be a part of this beautiful, caring community. My next post will be a fundraiser we are having for our families in hopes that you will make a donation. No amount is too small. 

Thanks to Education Policy and Planning doctoral student, Maria Unda and Texas State University undergraduate, Monica Villafuerte, for the flyer and website resources updates for our families. We all deeply appreciate your initiative. Thanks to Dr. Chris Milk for helping us to strategize our response. Martha P. Cotera and Dr. Emilio Zamora, too. 

Thanks, as well, to our coordinators, Itzel G. Garcia and Alejandro Quiahuitl Martinez for reaching out to all of the family members to determine their needs and well-being. 

Thanks to Dr. Emma Mancha-Sumners for forwarding website resources and problem-solving as a Sanchez-Metz parent with the PTA to see how we can work with the principal to help get resources to them.  Thanks to our ESB-MACC familia, namely, Lori Navarrete, Olivia Tamzarian, and Executive Director Michelle Rojas for your unflagging support, helping us to secure a space that will allow us to get resources to our families. It's all in process at this very moment. Will post our fundraiser soon.

As citizens and residents, I recommend that we all accord greater consideration than we currently might, to what good government can and should do, as opposed to those who pursue elective office with no real intent or desire to actually govern. So anti-social and against society, against the people. Not for the people. So sad and so pathetic. This posture before and toward "the people," is so brazenly exclusive, arrogant, and injurious.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comes to Texas and raises $3 million while Ted Cruz takes the quickest exit out. And not just any exit, as we know...

We all need to tune in and get up-to-speed, myself included, on energy policy and politics in our state and nation. We all pick our fights, but this arena of policy and politics is a special case and clearly merits our attention even as this human-made disaster gets full exposure to the light of day.  In this vein, also read this truly illuminating piece titled, "Shoring up the grid: What El Paso can teach the rest of Texas."

Special thanks to John Bridges and the Austin American-Statesman. 

We appreciate everything and anything you can to hold our officials accountable and to keep democratic governance alive.

Are y'all feeling just a little bit upset about this whole scenario, my friends?

Yeah, me, too. 

Here's what you can do. 

Sign this petition put forward by Congressman Joaquin Castro: 


We as a polity must hold all these folks accountable.

-Angela Valenzuela


John Bridges, Executive Editor 

Austin American-Statesman Feb. 19, 2021




“The government you elect is the government you deserve,” Thomas Jefferson famously said. Tom must've never made it to Texas.
Texans deserve better government.
For too long, Texans have elected people more interested in dismantling government than actually running one. As we painfully learned this week, small government sounds good right up until the power goes out and the faucet runs dry.
Texans deserve a government that puts the people, the governed, first.
For too long, our elected leaders have put their own political interests first, their cronies second and business interests third. 

Texans deserve a government that actually does the hard work to build and safeguard the critical systems on which we all depend.
For too long, our politicians have been more interested in wedge issues to win party primaries increasingly dominated by extremists.
How much time did our Legislature spend debating transgender bathrooms? How many new ways can we find to restrict access to abortion and promote out-of-control gun culture? How many times can we sue the federal government for political sport? ("I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home," Greg Abbott boasted when he was attorney general, starting a tradition his successor has been proud to continue, even when it means trying to disenfranchise millions of voters.)  
Our government has dismantled the social safety net and outsourced what's left.
Our regulatory agencies work to protect the businesses they regulate, not the people they serve.
Our state officials repeatedly undermine local governments. The last Legislature restricted local taxing authority, much of which is spent on public safety. Now the governor wants to forbid cities from controlling their own police budgets. 
This all might have seemed liked good political theater until we take stock of what it has wrought.
This week, Texas could not keep the lights on. Texas could not keep the water flowing. Texas could not keep the roads open. 
And our leaders struggled to tell us why. They gave us no warning that power failure could be coming. When it did, they disappeared for the critical first day and have since offered precious little explanation or guidance.
In Texas, the buck doesn't stop here — it just gets on a plane to Mexico.
Rather than face up to the fact that they've been warned about Texas power grid vulnerabilities for a decade, numerous Texas officials sought to shift blame to other agencies or to frozen wind turbines, because renewable energy is somehow a liberal conceit. Gov. Abbott spent more time talking about the Green New Deal than the old raw deal he and others have dealt this state.
Abbott's predecessor, Rick Perry, said Texans would rather endure a few days of blackouts than have the feds (the department he recently and ironically ran as U.S. energy secretary) involved in our energy grid. Speak for yourself, Rick, not for the Texans shivering in their own homes, burning candles for warmth and harvesting snow to flush toilets.
If Texas wants its own power grid and to run it the Texas way, its government must tirelessly regulate, inspect and enforce to ensure that Texans have life-sustaining electricity in the brutal heat of summer and killer cold of winter. Our leaders must be open, forthright and transparent with us about the system's failures and the costs to fix it.
To use an already-overused cliché, the failures we've seen in Texas this week are a feature, not a bug, of the style of government and the character of people that we have elected.
Before the storm, Texas failed in its response to the coronavirus. When local officials tried to establish or enforce capacity limits and mask wearing, state officials stepped in to object because, like windmills, masks must be liberal. Given months to plan for the vaccine rollout, both state and local governments failed to develop and communicate a workable plan. More than 41,000 Texans are dead.
Texans don't ask much of our government. But is it too much to ask that government not try to kill us?
Texans deserve better. Let's remember these frozen, powerless, waterless nights on Election Day.

Bridges is executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"The Song of Grandmother Cricket" and the Bolivian people's struggle for water rights

Friends, 

Check out this amazing short video that is great for the Ethnic Studies, especially Native American Studies, classroom sent to me compliments of Indigenous elder and teacher Dr. Carlos Aceves titled, "The Song of Grandmother Cricket." Here's the published description:

This beautiful animated short film, inspired by a myth from the Bolivian lowlands, was created by a group of Bolivian animators in collaboration with The Animation Workshop of Denmark. When Abuela Grillo (Grandmother Cricket) sings, it rains, and in a country marked by water shortages, the film is a response to the privatization of Bolivia’s water resources by foreign corporations. The Cochabamba water wars of 2000 was a series of massive protests by the indigenous community to retain access to their water supply, which eventually pressured the government to revoke the international contract. Voiced by Bolivian singer Luzmila Carpio, traditional Quechua singing weaves indigenous melody throughout the film, further illuminating the cultural roots of this fight for the universal right to pure water.

    Referencing the struggle over water rights, the film poignantly illustrates the immorality of privatizing water.  Along these lines, I also encourage you to see a movie featuring Gael García Bernal titled, "Aún la lluvia," ("Even the Rain"). Here's the trailer. You can even view this very impactful film in English or Spanish.

    As a global community, time really is of the essence. We must liberate water from corporate ownership everywhere.

    -Angela Valenzuela