Thursday, December 29, 2022

"DISD recruits in Mexico, Colombia to fill ‘hard to fill’ teaching jobs," By José Luis Adriano

We are in a definite teacher retention crisis in our state and nation. This piece is very informative on one of the Dallas Independent School District's creative approaches to addressing this shortage. 

Some number get hired with a J1 visa. Others with a H-1B visa. Via the former route, learn more here about the J-1 Teacher Program that other districts should know about.

Particularly with a district like Dallas where 45.1% of the students are either enrolled in a bilingual education or English as a Second Language learning programs, recruiting quality candidates like this is a definite stopgap measure. Longer term, instead of outsourcing, the teacher ranks can and should get built from within through improving teacher working conditions and establishing Grow Your Own educator pathways into the teaching profession.

-Angela Valenzuela

DISD recruits in Mexico, Colombia to fill ‘hard to fill’ teaching jobs

School district sponsor special talent visas for foreign professionals

Dallas ISD will hire about 100 professionals from Mexico and Colombia to teach during the 2023-24 school year and alleviate its shortage of teachers.

“We are bringing in the best candidates from Mexico and Colombia to teach our students, which is the most important thing, [and we’re] providing quality educators to our students,” said DISD recruiter Eric Castañeda.

The new educators were recruited at events in late October in Monterrey, Mexico, and in mid-November in Bogotá, Colombia.

Castañeda said hard-to-fill teaching positions in math and science sparked a lot of interest from foreign professionals.

More than 220 people attended the recruiting sessions on Oct. 28-29, in Monterrey. About 80 candidates were interviewed.

The possibility to teach in Dallas generated similar interest in the Bogotá event, held on Nov. 10-13, Castañeda said.

About 71% of the district’s students are Hispanic.

New teachers could make $60,000 annually, about 1.26 million pesos in Mexico, and 290 million pesos in Colombia.

Additionally, bilingual teachers get a $5,000 signing bonus; math, science and special education teachers get a $3,000 bonus.

The teachers selected during international recruiting trips have until Jan. 15, to submit certifications and approve an English proficiency exam as a requirement for getting hired.

Soon after, the district will determine the exact number of teachers hired with either a J1 or H-1B visa. The J-1 Teacher Program is a nonimmigrant cultural exchange program. The H-1B is a visa issued to foreign professionals in specialty occupations. The visas authorize professionals to work in the U.S. for up to six years.

The school district has 50 spots for J1 visas and 50 for H-1B visas to start classes in August 2023.

According to Castañeda, most professional candidates interested in teaching in Dallas are between the ages of 30 to 45, some are career educators, but other applicants are engineers and retired physicians, which fit into the profile of teaching positions DISD struggles to find teachers for —mathematics, physics and chemistry.

“Sometimes people think we bring unqualified teachers, but I can say that these candidates are excellent. They master English as if they were from the U.S. They are very accomplished, hardworking professionals”, Castañeda said.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Ukraine: Zelensky looks to win a war of symbols, by the Editors of Le Monde


I listened to President Zelensky's speech and found it to be powerful and hopeful. Putin has no limits, destroying Ukraine's infrastructure and using the harsh, cold winter as a weapon of war. I fantasized that our country could similarly show a parallel level of compassion and statesmanship for our own humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border where many migrants and refugees find themselves at this very moment in freezing temperatures and without food, shelter, or legal representation. Regardless of increased enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico border, desperation will keep migrants coming.

Congressman Joaquin Castro has been calling for a Central American Marshall Plan without which nothing will change. I couldn't agree more. In the meantime, I ask you to join me in a birthday fundraiser for migrants and refugees crossing the U.S.-Mexico border who need many things, including legal representation.

You can learn more about RAICES below or at their website:
Thank you for joining me in this fundraiser:

-Angela Valenzuela

Ukraine: Zelensky looks to win a war of symbols

By visiting Washington, the Ukranian president wanted to thank the United States. He will probably be eager to pay the same tribute to his European allies.

Dec. 22, 2022 | Le Monde

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a Ukrainian national flag to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as US Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during his address to the US Congress in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022. 

Continue reading here:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

School vouchers are getting a renewed push at upcoming Texas Legislature


We know that there is a connection between demonizing public education, teachers, and school vouchers that involve taking our precious and hard-earned taxpayer dollars that go toward funding public schools and directing them to charter and private schools. 

Economic Opportunity Director Jaime Puente at Every Texan, points to a poll from the Charles Butt Foundation which shows that parents generally love their public schools. The pro-voucher campaign depends of defaming public education for their sway for vouchers to have a chance. Not that public schools are problem-free, but rather that their problems will multiply under a privatization model once robbed of already much-needed revenue.

Be sure to read Jaime Puente's excellent piece titled, "Vouchers: The 'Lost Cause' Fight of Our Generation."

Great interview, Jaime!

-Angela Valenzuela

School vouchers are getting a renewed push at upcoming Texas Legislature

Parents rights’ advocates are pushing for school vouchers in 2023 after two years of pushback at public school board meetings. Despite the controversies that have swirled around public schools since the pandemic, polls show support for public education in Texas remains strong.

By Sarah AschDecember 19, 2022 1:55 pm

                Patricia Lim/KUT

With the Texas legislative session just around the corner, groups that advocate for parents’ rights in education have started to push for school vouchers.

Vouchers, which allow students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars, are popular with many Republican politicians who argue that vouchers protect parental choice in education.

However, many see vouchers as effectively taking money out of the public school system to send students to private or charter schools. Education advocates against vouchers say efforts over the last year at school districts across the state challenging library books or curriculum about racism may have served as a precursor for the push to expand vouchers in Texas in 2023.

Jaime Puente, the director of economic opportunity with progressive advocacy group Every Texan, said a poll from the Charles Butt Foundation shows that Texans love their public schools. According to the poll, the share of public school parents giving their local public schools an A or B grade is up 12 percentage points in two years — to 68%.

“Parents love the schools and love the teachers that are educating their kids. And the only way to get parents to give that up, or to maybe second-guess their love for their local neighborhood community schools, is to try to tear them down,” he said. “That’s what we’ve seen with attacks on our social studies curriculum, attacks on ethnic studies, attacks on our librarians and the books that they choose. And so really what we’re seeing and what we have seen in the last couple of years is the precursor to what we are expecting in the next legislative session, which is an-all out assault on public education, and an attempt to dismantle our public school finance system through vouchers.”

Vouchers have historically been popular among politicians including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Puente said, adding that not every parent raising curriculum concerns at school board meetings is doing so in the name of advancing vouchers. However, he said, in some cases private school parents — or those who haven’t had children in school for a long time — get involved in the debate with different goals in mind.

“The nature of this argument has been to create a seeming groundswell of support for vouchers, when we know through data courtesy of organizations like the Charles Butt Foundation, parents of public school students love their schools,” he said. “I know most Texans love the public education system. While it has problems, and they know it has problems, they believe in public schools and their ability to educate our students.”

Vouchers often come up during the Texas legislative session. Usually, a coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers representing rural districts prevent vouchers from passing into law. Puente said that despite the renewed push for vouchers, he does not expect them to pass given the strength of the opposition among key lawmakers.

“What I am looking forward to is a bipartisan, broad-based coalition of folks who know and love the public schools and are willing to fight for public education,” he said.

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Taunted for being Black, a student fought back, civil rights complaint says. The 30-second fight derailed her life.


This is so shameful and unacceptable what's happening in Slaton and Lubbock-Cooper independent school districts in West Texas. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for students' and parents' complaints to go unheeded and even worsened by district responses. 

All students are deserving of a healthy, positive school climate free from racial bullying, discrimination, and harassment.

Glad to see the NAACP, the Intercultural Development Research Association, and the Texas American Civil Liberties Union working together toward a federal complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of these Black students experiencing discrimination. 

-Angela Valenzuela

Taunted for being Black, a student fought back, civil rights complaint says. The 30-second fight derailed her life.

Reports of racist bullying at Slaton High School are part of a pattern of discrimination in and around Lubbock, Texas, civil rights groups say. They’re filing complaints and calling on the federal government to investigate.

SLATON, Texas — The Black girl’s hands were shaking as she approached a white classmate in gym class.

“I told you,” Autumn Roberson-Manahan said, her voice quivering, “to stop using that word.”

Autumn, a 17-year-old senior at Slaton High School, said she’d asked the boy four days in a row to stop saying the N-word in class. And for four consecutive days, according to Autumn and a half-dozen other students later interviewed by the school principal, the boy had disregarded her pleas.

He’d said the slur while talking trash on the basketball court, Autumn recalled: “Oh! I’m ballin’ on y’all n----s.” And while cleaning up at the end of class: “These dumb n----s left the balls out again.” That day, Oct. 27, he’d said it again, smirking after having dribbled past a student and hitting a jump shot, Autumn said.

By then, Autumn, a straight-A student and one of only two dozen Black students at her small-town high school outside Lubbock, had been complaining about racial harassment involving three other classmates since the second week of school, according to interviews with Autumn and her family, messages they sent to administrators and a civil rights complaint filed Monday with the U.S. Department of Education. In September, she’d secretly recorded two boys in class calling her the N-word. When the alleged harassment continued, Autumn told administrators she was struggling to focus on her schoolwork. Her parents tried to intervene, demanding to speak with the principal and writing to the superintendent.

But the racist comments didn’t stop, according to the federal complaint.

That’s why, Autumn said, when the boy in gym class said the slur yet again, she snapped. “My mindset was: ‘This is the only way it’s gonna stop. This is the only way he’s gonna learn.’”

A classmate noticed what was about to happen and hit record on a cellphone. The grainy video appears to show Autumn — who had no major disciplinary history — grabbing the boy by the hood of his sweatshirt and yelling at him between each openhanded slap to the top of his head: “You’re gonna learn! … To stop! … That f------! … N----- shit!

As the student wriggled out of Autumn’s grasp and darted away, she continued to shout at him, tears forming in her eyes as a substitute teacher stepped between them: “It’s not OK!” Autumn screamed. “It’s racist!”

The violent outburst, which had been building for months, lasted barely 30 seconds — but it was long enough to derail Autumn’s life.

Slaton administrators sentenced her to 45 days in an alternative school for students with severe disciplinary problems, according to the complaint and records reviewed by NBC News. Distraught and convinced that her future was ruined, Autumn’s family said she ran away from home last month and made a plan to kill herself. Now out of the hospital and recovering, the girl who’d entered this school year hoping to be named valedictorian is no longer sure she’s going to graduate on time.

“They took my beautiful baby girl — who my husband and I worked so hard to mold and love and support — and they broke her,” Autumn’s mother, JaQuatta Manahan, said in an interview. “They didn’t protect her. They cast her aside like she was trash.”

Autumn's parents, Broderick and JaQuatta Manahan, said they repeatedly asked Slaton administrators to address racist harassment.Mike Hixenbaugh / NBC News

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Book banning is bad policy. Let’s make it bad politics.

Book banning totally needs to become the bad policy that it is. Most parents—and teachers and administrators—oppose schools becoming battlegrounds in our current culture war against books—a war characterized by shrill, exaggerated expressions of the books children are exposed to in schools.

I agree with author E. J. Dionne, Jr., that it should not at all be the case that the most upset parent can determine either a school's library holdings or what kids read in school, suggesting the need for parents and communities to step up to the plate and challenge this nonsense. Here are the most concerning observations Dionne offers:

report by the freedom of expression group PEN America found 1,586 instances of individual books being banned between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, affecting 1,145 unique book titles. In September, the American Library Association reported that there would be more challenges to books in 2022 than there were in 2021, which was a record year.

For more information, do check out PEN America's report titled, "Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights (April 2022)

Clearly, bans against books and the teaching of controversial topics—under the auspices of the disingenuous "anti-CRT" instruction agenda, are "red meat" issues that don't square with most parents and youth who are in the majority of those seeking a truthful and fair rendering of society and our nation's history. 

If you need Texas data on this, check out the Butt Foundation report titled, Connected Through Our Schools). If these folks decrying alleged indoctrination via "porn" that's getting taught in our schools really cared about public education, they'd be pushing for funding it and stemming the teacher turnover crisis. Instead, they opt for engaging in a contrived culture war that is cynical and damaging of the the trust that should emanate from the hard work and good faith efforts of our teachers, administrators, and librarians.

-Angela Valenzuela


Book banning is bad policy. Let’s make it bad politics.

by E. J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post, December 18, 2022

Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021, with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

There was a time when the term “Banned in Boston” was one of the best things that could happen to a book, a play or a movie. From roughly the 1880s to the mid-20th century, a censoriousness rooted in the city’s Puritan past supported especially aggressive laws aimed at suppressing material seen as salacious or dangerous. For many, the label was a guarantee that whatever was banned must have been, well, interesting.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Texas moves toward revoking largest teacher prep program’s accreditation

I just learned from this piece that "[o]f the state’s nearly 132,000 candidates in teacher prep programs in 2021, more than half were enrolled through Texas Teachers of Tomorrow." The program's enrollment moreover, "neared 70,000 last year. Fewer than 6,000 people completed the program and fewer than 5,500 gained their full teaching certification, according to self-reported data."

Problems like these can most definitely adversely impact our state's teacher shortage.

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas’ largest teacher preparation program failed to show enough improvements on probation, so the state is moving toward revoking its accreditation, according to documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

Now the fate of Texas Teachers of Tomorrow is in limbo as it likely faces a lengthy trial to determine whether it can continue to certify would-be educators.

Any action taken against the company could trigger huge reverberations across Texas schools when the educator workforce is already stretched thin.

State officials gave the company several months to show it improved long-standing issues with how it prepares teachers for the classroom. But despite additional scrutiny over the past year, Texas Teachers of Tomorrow continued to deal with customer complaints, and the monitor tasked with overseeing its work determined the company failed to correct all problems.

Associate commissioner Emily Garcia informed company leaders on Nov. 18 that the Texas Education Agency found they didn’t meet the terms of their agreement to improve, according to a letter obtained by The News. The agency is issuing a recommendation to revoke its accreditation, she wrote.

The State Board for Educator Certification is set to hear an update on the company during their Friday meeting. The board members will have the ultimate say on what happens to the program.

Before that happens, the Texas Education Agency and Texas Teachers of Tomorrow are expected to present arguments before a judge in the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Such cases can stretch for months or years.

Teachers of Tomorrow CEO Trent Beekman said in a statement that the company believes it is in compliance with the law and its agreement with the Texas Education Agency. New leadership has dedicated additional resources to improving its operations, company officials said.

“Teachers of Tomorrow has worked diligently to completely update our process and procedures to demonstrate compliance with both the letter and the spirit of TEA’s standards,” Beekman said. “We will demonstrate that there were fundamental errors in the analysis of the compliance review data.”

Because of the process for contesting the agency’s findings, he declined to comment further.

“While discussions with SBEC progress, we remain committed to doing our part to alleviate the teaching shortage by training, preparing, and certifying future educators in Texas,” he said.

Should the company’s accreditation eventually be revoked, the program wouldn’t be able to produce state-certified teachers. Business can continue as usual in the meantime.

Of the state’s nearly 132,000 candidates in teacher prep programs in 2021, more than half were enrolled through Texas Teachers of Tomorrow.

The educator preparation company came under fire for misleading potential teachers with its advertising, not supporting candidates with required mentors and failing to demonstrate that its training was based in research, according to a 2021 state audit.

It was also the subject of an excessive number of complaints from teacher candidates, some of whom left the profession in frustration after receiving poor advice from company officials.

The News reported last spring on Texas Teachers of Tomorrow’s long standing issues that disrupted many would-be educators’ journey to the classroom.

Documents obtained through public records requests revealed that the Texas Education Agency in 2021 found the company — also known as A+ Texas Teachers — out of compliance in key state standards including admission, curriculum and governance.

And it wasn’t the company’s first troubling audit. In a 2016 review, TEA regulators found Texas Teachers of Tomorrow out of compliance in five of eight broad categories. The agency released a compliance plan at the time, and the company continued operating.

But this time, the State Board for Educator Certification decided to place Texas Teachers of Tomorrow on probation in July. They appointed a monitor to analyze operations and ensure the company hit certain benchmarks by the fall.

Teachers of Tomorrow operates across several states. The for-profit program recruits many people in search of a second career and trains them on how to be an educator through primarily online coursework.

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow enrollment neared 70,000 last year. Fewer than 6,000 people completed the program and fewer than 5,500 gained their full teaching certification, according to self-reported data.

Too big to fail?

Texas Teachers of Tomorrow has hired new leadership, and officials pledged to tackle the problems head-on. When the educator certification board voted to place the company on probation over the summer, its former interim CEO Ignacio “Nacho” Giraldo told members: “We’ve been working very diligently since we found out about the audit.”

But the monitor found Texas Teachers of Tomorrow fell short in several categories, according to documents obtained by The News.

For example, TEA staff identified 350 candidates going through the program and sought evidence that they had sufficient field-based experience. But the company only “provided sufficient evidence” for 79% of the sampled candidates. It needed to hit a 90% threshold, according to the agreement between the state and company.

TEA staff also noted that the company did not prove that all candidates spent enough hours observing classroom settings as part of their training.

And while TEA determined that the company provided evidence that the vast majority of sampled candidates were assigned a mentor, Texas Teachers of Tomorrow could not prove that enough of those mentors were trained or qualified for that role.

“TEA staff determined that [the company] provided evidence that the mentor reported the candidates’ progress to the field supervisor for only 15% of the sampled candidates,” according to the report.

Depending on the outcome of the expected administrative court hearing, the State Board for Educator Certification could eventually vote to revoke the company’s accreditation or give them another chance to correct their problems.

Until such a vote, the company will remain on probation and teacher candidates can continue working toward the classroom.

If a program’s accreditation is revoked, it means that it can not continue producing certified teachers.

Lingering problems

The company had 19 formal complaints with TEA last school year, more than all other educator prep programs, according to documents posted ahead of Friday’s meeting. The complaints were related to processing issues, non-responsiveness and lack of support.

Over the summer, SBEC members also learned that 18 candidates weren’t able to earn full teaching certifications because they completed their “internship year” entirely online last school year.

Teacher candidates are not allowed to do virtual internships or virtual observations.

“That was a confusion on our part and our interns’ part,” Giraldo said at the time, adding the company was working with impacted candidates.

Jodie Zeyer was one of them.

She started working with Texas Teachers of Tomorrow in 2020, plodding through coursework and tests — without a mentor, she said. She was eventually hired for a virtual position in Leander, teaching social studies to middle schoolers.

Zeyer expected to earn her full certification in the summer of 2022, the culmination of a grueling year-and-a-half of work that she juggled alongside caring for her own children.

Instead, she was stunned to learn that she would not become a certified teacher after all.

“For Texas Teachers to apologize and say oops with a mild reprimand seems more than unfair,” she wrote in a letter to state education officials, explaining her situation.

She now substitute teaches occasionally but plans to move on from the profession. She is still waiting for accountability, she said.

“I lost 18 months of my life,” Zeyer said.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.