Can You Hear Us, Now?

Can You Hear Us, Now?

By: Paula Chase, Co-founder, The Brown Bookshelf

Young Adult (YA) authors, Paula Chase and Varian Johnson had never met in person. One lived in Maryland and the other in Texas. One was a spokesperson for small city government while the other designed bridges. But, they shared two things in common: they wrote YA fiction and were tired of watching quality work go unnoticed.

Chase explained that she was tired of “hearing people say that there was no YA literature for African American teen readers,” when, “At the time, there were at least five YA series featuring Black characters, but parents, teachers, and even librarians didn’t know about them.” Chase and Johnson knew that if they “wanted more books about us to be available, we had to do a better job of supporting Black YA literature authors and illustrators.”

Determined to launch an initiative that would shine a spotlight on the many African American authors writing for young readers, Chase and Johnson collaborated with author Kelly Starling Lyons and award-winning illustrator, Don Tate. The Brown Bookshelf was born.

Today, nearly 12 years later, the Brown Bookshelf is a collaboration of ten authors and illustrators including: Crystal Allen, Tracey Baptiste, Tameka Fryer Brown, Jerry Craft, Gwendolyn Hooks, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

Now, their 28 Days Later initiative takes their original goal to highlight Black authors a step further. The initiative is designed to highlight Black authors with recently released books or books that have “gone unnoticed.” During Black History Month, every day,  a different book and author will be featured. We hope that “by us showcasing the twenty-eight best voices in African American children’s literature, parents, teachers and librarians will walk away with a full arsenal of recommendations for young readers. To date, we have featured 308 authors and illustrators.”

The Brown Book Shelf believes that every book has a reader and every child can be a reader. The trick is in helping the readers find the books that speak to them. Thanks to the sheer volume of books produced annually, it can be especially difficult for young readers to find books by Black authors and/or that feature Black characters. 28 Days Later is a beacon for those seeking both classic children’s books by Black authors as well as the latest in Black kid literature.

They believe spreading a love of literacy beyond February is essential to nurturing a generation of avid readers. They work to ensure that Black voices in children’s literature are not just heard, but also included across the spectrum for all children. The Brown Bookshelf is made up of authors and illustrators with a body of work spanning picture books to young adult fiction and we’re pleased to introduce parents to our work. Check out a list of culturally relevant books below:

Contemporary Picture Books

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Humorous Picture Books

One More Dino on the Floor by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)

Parby:Tay: Dance of the Veggies by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Eloise Greenfield (Author)

Historical fiction Picture Books

Hope’s Gift by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)

Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Michael Mahin (Author)

Non-Fiction/Biographical Picture Books

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)

If You Were A Kid During the Civil Rights Movement by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)

Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma Sit-ins by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich (Author)

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Tonya Bolden (Author)

Chapter Books

Block Party by: Gwendolyn Hooks

Jada Jones: Class Act by: Kelly Starling Lyons

Contemporary Middle Grade

So Done by: Paula Chase

The Parker Inheritance by: Varian Johnson

The Great Green Heist by: Varian Johnson

Two Naomis by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich

Middle Grade Fantasy

The Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste

Rise of the Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste

Minecraft: The Crash by: Tracey Baptiste

Humorous Middle Grade

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Spirit Week Showdown by: Crystal Allen

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: The Wall of Fame Game by: Crystal Allen

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Mya In The Middle by: Crystal Allen

Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Mama’s Boyz: In Living Color by: Jerry Craft

The Offenders by: Jerry Craft

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow by: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Contemporary Young Adult

So Not The Drama by: Paula Chase

Don’t Get It Twisted by: Paula Chase

Saving Maddie by: Varian Johnson

For a full listing of books recommended during the Brown Bookshelf’s panel at the 2018 National Council of Teachers of English conference, Using Black Children’s Literature to Amplify All Student Voices, visit:


Kevin Hart’s Help From The Hart Charity Launches a New $600,000 Scholarship Program with UNCF and KIPP

Kevin Hart’s Help From The Hart Charity Launches a New $600,000 Scholarship Program with UNCF and KIPP

Following on his generous $100,000 scholarship gift made in 2015 through UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) to four deserving college students, actor and comedian Kevin Hart has joined forces with UNCF and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) to help 18 more KIPP students earn a college degree. Through a new UNCF scholarship program launched in partnership with Kevin Hart’s Help From The Hart Charity and KIPP Public Schools, the $600,000 scholarship will provide funding to support KIPP students from eight different cities who are attending 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

UNCF is the largest provider of college scholarships for students of color in the U.S., awarding more than $100 million in college scholarships annually to deserving students. The 18 Help From The Hart Charity Scholarship recipients have been selected based on their academic and personal accomplishments and may receive substantive renewable awards based on need.

“The Help From The Hart Charity Scholarship will not only support students, but will also demonstrate support for HBCUs,” said UNCF CEO and President Michael L. Lomax. “Research shows that HBCUs matter, and that HBCU students are having a positive college experience, but they also have an unmet financial need. Together, Kevin and KIPP have made an investment that will have a significant impact. We can’t thank them enough for their support.”

“Education and knowledge are powerful,” said Hart. “I just wanted to do my part in providing opportunities for our future leaders, especially from my Philly hometown, and show support for HBCUs. This is just the beginning; trust me when I tell you there are a lot more kids who want to go to college who don’t have the money to make it happen.”

The 18 students receiving college scholarships are high school graduates who attended KIPP public charter schools in eight different communities: the Arkansas Delta, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. A recent survey of KIPP alumni  across the country showed that the KIPP graduates who attend HBCUs reported a stronger sense of belonging, better mental health, and were more likely to have a mentor than those attending non-HBCUs.

Nothing brings me greater joy than to see the hard work of these 18 KIPP students recognized by Kevin Hart and UNCF through this generous scholarship program,” said John Fisher, chair of the KIPP Foundation Board of Directors. “Michael Lomax has been a longtime KIPP supporter and friend and a tireless champion for young people. We are incredibly grateful to both UNCF and Kevin Hart for their partnership and support to help our students thrive in college and achieve their dreams.”

Hart’s gift to fund this new scholarship program puts him in line with many other renowned celebrities—like Lou Rawls, Ella Fitzgerald, Clifton Davis, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Anthony Anderson, Beyoncé, Chris Rock, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Ray Charles, John Lennon, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis who, realizing the value of a quality education, have supported UNCF over the years. “Giving back to build better futures is the name of the game, and we hope that others like Kevin will understand why educational investments are so important, especially now, and step up to help more deserving students,” said Lomax.

Lomax also added, “Over the last decade, UNCF has been building a relationship with the KIPP public school network, and we are so excited that KIPP’s board of directors and Chairman John Fisher are behind this outstanding new venture. There are more than 1,300 KIPPsters currently enrolled at HBCUs, and together, we are bringing resources and shining a spotlight on these students who are doing all they can to get a college education. This unique partnership will help UNCF continue to bridge the gap from high school success to college achievement and enables UNCF to help more students get to and through college.”

DESE Recognizes 2018 Pioneers in Education

DESE Recognizes 2018 Pioneers in Education

Six educators will be honored as Pioneers in Education on Monday, July 30, for their commitment and contributions to public education in Missouri.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will recognize the 2018 Pioneers during the 57th Annual Cooperative Conference for School Administrators at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach. The ceremony will take place during a luncheon where more than 600 school district leaders are expected to be in attendance.
The following individuals will be honored:

Joe Aull, Lexington, attended Lexington schools from kindergarten through high school. Upon graduating from Westminster University, he became a math teacher and basketball coach in Slater. As his career progressed, Aull served as a school principal in Lexington and Fulton, and he was named superintendent in Lexington and Marshall. He also served in the Missouri House of Representatives, was vice president of academics at Wentworth Military Academy and College, served as Lexington city administrator, and hosted a radio sports show.
Hugh Dunn, Macon, may be best known for his four-decade tenure as head football coach at Macon High School, home of Hugh Dunn Field. He attended Missouri Valley College and was a member of the football and track teams. Upon graduation, he began teaching and coaching in Macon. His teams won six league titles and made the state playoffs four times. Dunn was inducted into both the Missouri Coaches Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He is a decorated World War II veteran who earned a Purple Heart with Cluster and a Silver Star. Despite having lost an eye to infection as a child, he memorized the eye chart so he could enlist.

Ina Claire Lister, Bedford, Iowa, grew up in Iowa and entered Northwest Missouri Teachers College, returning to Iowa to begin her teaching career. When her family moved to Missouri, Lister taught in Hannibal and Savannah, eventually earning her Master of Science from Northwest Missouri State University. She served as a principal and became one of the first female superintendents in Missouri when she took the position in North Nodaway in 1986. Lister earned her doctorate in 1994. She has served as an adjunct instructor at Northwest Missouri State and as facilitator with DESE’s Northwest Regional Leadership Academy.

John Martin, Kansas City, was born in St. Joseph and grew up in St. Louis. He graduated from Harris Teachers College and began his career as an elementary social studies, math and physical education teacher in St. Louis. He became the first black principal of Flynn Park Elementary School in University City in 1980, where he was promoted to assistant superintendent of personnel. Martin and his family moved to Virginia for several years, and in that time, he earned his doctorate at Virginia Tech. Upon the family’s return to Missouri, Martin became superintendent in Grandview, where he retired after 10 years. He has since served assignments as assistant superintendent in St. Louis Public Schools and superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools. Martin was appointed to the State Board of Education in 2014 and served until 2017.

Carol Reimann, Cape Girardeau, was born in Cairo, Ill., but spent her entire life in Cape Girardeau. She earned her Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Southeast Missouri State College (SEMO) and began teaching first grade. Reimann later received her master’s degree from SEMO. In 1997, she was named the Missouri Teacher of the Year. One of her first-grade students grew up to become Missouri’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, the first time in Missouri that a Teacher of the Year has been taught by a Teacher of the Year. Reimann left the classroom and began working at DESE’s Southeast Regional Professional Development Center, where she stayed for 17 years. She retired on July 1, 2018, after a 50-year career in education.
Laurel Rosenthal, Carthage, said she wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, when she was chosen to be in charge of handing out pencils. Rosenthal graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City and earned her degree in education from the University of Missouri. She taught kindergarten for 21 years. In 1988, Rosenthal became principal at Mark Twain Elementary School in Carthage, which was the first school in Missouri to become a No Excuses school. No Excuses is a program that stresses college and career readiness among students from a young age. Rosenthal was named Carthage citizen of the year in 2009.

“These Pioneers are role models for educators everywhere,” interim Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Roger Dorson said. “They have dedicated their lives to promoting excellence in education, and we are proud to honor them with this well-deserved recognition.”
This marks the 44th consecutive year that state education officials have presented

COMMENTARY: Remembering the Historic Brown Decision

COMMENTARY: Remembering the Historic Brown Decision

On Thursday, May 17th, marked an historic milestone in American history. Regrettably, most Americans were totally unaware of the 64th anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.

Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement and helped establish the precedent that “separate but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racially segregated public facilities were legal, so long as the facilities for blacks and whites were equal. The ruling constitutionally sanctioned laws barring African Americans from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites — known as “Jim Crow” laws — and established the “separate but equal” doctrine that would stand for the next six decades.

But by the early 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was working hard to challenge segregation laws in public schools and had filed lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs in states such as South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. In the case that would become most famous, a plaintiff named Oliver Brown filed a class action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, after his daughter, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools.
In his lawsuit, Brown claimed that schools for black children were not equal to the white schools, and that segregation violated the so-called “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment, which holds that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The case went before the U.S. District Court in Kansas, which agreed that public school segregation had a “detrimental effect upon the colored children” and contributed to “a sense of inferiority,” but still upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine.

When Brown’s case and four other cases related to school segregation first came before the Supreme Court in 1952, the Court combined them into a single case under the name Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Thurgood Marshall, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, served as chief attorney for the plaintiffs. (Thirteen years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson would appoint Marshall as the first Black Supreme Court justice.)

At first, the justices were divided on how to rule on school segregation, with Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson holding the opinion that the Plessy verdict should stand. But in September 1953, before Brown v. Board of Education was to be heard, Vinson died, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced him with Earl Warren, then governor of California.

Displaying considerable political skill and determination, the new chief justice succeeded in engineering a unanimous verdict against school segregation the following year.

In the decision, issued on May 17, 1954, Warren wrote that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” As a result, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs were being “deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”

Although racial minorities have made several educational advancements since Brown v. Board of Education, the decision failed in a wholesale dismantling of school segregation. In New York City, for instance, more than half of public schools are reportedly at least 90 percent Black and Hispanic, and in Alabama nearly a quarter of black students attend a school with white enrollment of one percent or less.

Many civil rights advocates even point to what they believe is a “resegregation” trend. According to a report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, low-income black children are currently more racially and socioeconomically isolated than at any time since the 1980s.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Continues legacy of leadership

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Continues legacy of leadership

Defender Network LogoBy ReShonda Billingsley

When Hurricane Harvey rolled through Houston causing massive destruction, the men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity stepped up to the plate to help the community rebuild.

“We’re unique men who feel the need to help others. Our constant goal is to make sure mankind is doing better,” said Jeffery Williams, who serves as the Life Membership Board Regional Director for the Ninth District (Omega chapters in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas).

Williams also leads the Houston coalition of area Omegas, which is hosting their regional convention in Houston on March 21-25. (More than 3,000 members are expected to attend the conference). The Coalition began as a way to work together on programs and activities mandated by the fraternity and consists of seven graduate chapters (Nu Phi-Houston, Theta Chi-Prairie View, Rho Beta Beta-Houston, and Rho Xi-Freeport, Rho Nu – Galveston, Alpha Mu Mu – College Station, and Mu Mu Nu – Conroe, TX) and five undergraduate chapters: Tau Epsilon (Texas Southern University), Omega Theta (University of Houston), Rho Theta (Prairie View A&M University), Eta Mu (Sam Houston State University) and Nu Delta Delta (Texas A&M University). Rho Nu (Galveston) joined the coalition to comprise 10 chapters.

While many people know the “Ques” as they’re called for their ability to throw off-the-chain parties and step, Williams said service is really at the core of everything they do.

“There is a lot more to it than that,” Williams said. “It’s about service. It’s all about helping men become better men.”

“Yes, we have a good time, but what we do goes so much more deeper than that,” added Marvin Alexander Jr., Southwest Texas State Representative. “We have a Thanksgiving Meal on Wheels, Achievement Week, where we work with high school students, the Charles R. Drew Blood Drive, Real Men Read, where we partner with local schools to read to students, and that’s just a few of the things we do.”

For Antonio Brown, a 15-year member of the fraternity and basileus (president) of the Rho Beta Beta Chapter, joining Omega simply meant that he could continue the foundation his parents had laid.

“The principles we stand for are right in line with everything I believe in,” Brown said. “The good things we do for our community is right in line with how I was raised. Our organization promotes ‘manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift.’ That’s what we’re all about.”

Brown said the organization is committed to future generations and a leaving legacy that uplifts the Black community.

“This is important. We understand the village mentality,” Brown said. “If we know that we’re responsible for each person next to us, we tend to do better. We tend to make sure we’re doing the right thing in that person’s presence. And not just when we’re there but even when they’re not.”

Omega Signature Events

Go Western Scholarship Dance

The dance, established in 1961, was generally held on the third Saturday of February. This Go-Western gala hosted by Nu Phi has been considered the oldest, longest-standing, Black Go-Western in the Greater Houston area.  The proceeds generated from this affair are used to provide scholarships and to support the numerous community programs that the Chapter conducts and sponsors.

Annual Boat Ride

Boat Rides have been a part of Omega’s history for a long time. The first Houston-area Omega Boat Ride took place in 1987, “Moonlight Cruise with the Ques.” Nu Phi and Theta Chi jointly sponsor a Memorial Day cruise, which leaves from Galveston, where patrons loaded up at the San Jacinto Battleground to enjoy a five hour cruise and dinner. Rho Beta Beta sponsors a Labor Day event.

Achievement Week

Achievement Week is observed each November and is designed to recognize those individuals at the local and international levels who have contributed to community uplift. A High School Essay Contest is held in conjunction with Achievement Week.

*Not a comprehensive list

Fraternity history

Omega Psi Phi was organized Friday on Nov. 17, 1911 in the office of Ernest  Everett Just, a professor of biology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The organizers were three juniors in the College of Liberal Arts: Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman. They envisioned a creative idealistic national organization that would unite thousands or young men in aim, thought and loyalty.

They selected the name of the organization, Omega Psi Phi, represented by three Greek letters which mean, “Friendship is Essential to the Soul.” The meaning of the letters was adopted as the fraternity ‘s motto. “Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift” were adopted as the fraternity’s cardinal principles

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Readers are Leaders: Buy Your Children More Books

Readers are Leaders: Buy Your Children More Books

By Elizabeth Primas (Program Manager, NNPA/ESSA Public Awareness Campaign)

We are our children’s first teachers, and what we teach them makes a difference.

According to research by Betty Hart of the University of Kansas and Todd Risley of the University of Alaska, by age 3, poor children have an accumulated experience with 30 million less words than their wealthier counterparts; a greater percentage of the words that poor children accumulate were discouraging compared to their wealthier peers.

We have to read more to our children and encourage them to read more for themselves.

This year let’s help reduce the 30-million-word gap by adding more books to our shopping list.

Books not only promote literacy, they also encourage our children to see themselves as an integral and valued part of the society in which they live. Walter Dean Myers, author of the critically acclaimed “Monster,” asserts that culturally relevant books help young people to validate their existence as human beings.

A Guide to Purchasing Culturally Relevant Books

Birth to 7 years-old:

Children in this age group enjoy books with vibrant colors, a predictable pattern, and interactive pages.

Our Picks:

“Please, Baby, Please” by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee describes the behind-the-scenes look at the chills, spills, and unequivocal thrills of bringing up baby.* You can purchase “Please, Baby, Please” at

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“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” by Mill Martin Jr. uses an alphabet rhyme to race to the top of a coconut tree. You can purchase “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” at

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“Chicka Chicka 1,2,3,” also by Bill Martin Jr. is the counting-themed complement to the popular “Chicka Chika Boom Boom.” You can purchase “Chicka Chicka 1,2,3” at

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“Brothers of the Knight” by Debbie Allen is a modern retelling of the classic tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Reverend Knight can’t understand why his 12 sons’ sneakers are torn to shreds each and every morning, and the boys aren’t talking. They know their all-night dancing wouldn’t fit with their father’s image in the community. Maybe Sunday, a pretty new nanny with a knack for getting to the bottom of household mysteries, can crack the case. You can purchase “Brothers of the Knight” at

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8 years-old to 12 years-old:

Children in this age group are familiar with story line. They understand setting, plot, and characters.

Our Picks:

“The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street” by Sharon Flake explores the meaning of being a good friend and “happily ever after.” You can purchase “The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street” at

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“Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington” by Jabari Asim tells the story of a young Booker T. Washington, the cherished American educator and advisor to presidents, journey five-hundred mile journey to Hampton Institute immediately after emancipation. He arrived with only fifty cents in his pocket. You can purchase “Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington” at

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“Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money” by Christopher Paul Curtis takes readers on an exciting adventure with best friends Steven, Russell, and Zoopy. Steven was given a mysterious dollar bill from Mr. Chickee, an elderly blind man in the neighborhood. When Agent Fondoo from the U.S. Treasury Department finds out about it, he wants the currency back; but the team of secret government agents may have met their match in the three best friends. You can purchase “Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money” at

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13 years-old to 18 years-old:

By this age, teens have established what they like to read, and some have decided that they don’t like to read at all, but with the right books, that can change.

Our picks:

“Firebird” by Misty Copeland tell the story of a young girl with fragile confidence who questions her ability to reach the heights that Misty has. You can purchase “Firebird” at

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“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the coming of age the story of an Nigerian-American girl discovering the meaning of “blackness” in the United States of America. Her companion Obinze, was not able to join her in the states due to post 9/11 immigration policies and they eventually stop contact. He chose to try his chances as an undocumented person in London; as an alternative to the American dream. However, they reunite years later in a newly democratic Nigeria. You can purchase “Americanah” at

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“Tears of a Tiger” by Sharon M. Draper uses the grief of a young Andy to refute the belief that strong boys don’t cry. After allowing the death of one of his close friends consume him, a series of letters, articles, homework assignments, and dialogue makes clear that indeed tigers do cry. You can purchase “Tears of a Tiger” at

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Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act at

Dr. Elizabeth Primas is an educator, who spent more than 40 years working towards improving education for children of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Dr. Primas is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow Dr. Primas on Twitter @ElizabethPrima3.

*Book summaries from

Texas public school students are in districts where teacher certification isn’t required

Texas public school students are in districts where teacher certification isn’t required

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DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — More than half of Texas public school students are in districts that don’t require teachers to be certified, according to state officials, due to a recent law giving schools more freedom on educational requirements.

A 2015 law lets public schools access exemptions from requirements such as teacher certification, school start dates and class sizes — the same exemptions allowed for open enrollment charter schools. Using a District of Innovation plan, districts can create a comprehensive educational program and identify provisions under Texas law that would inhibit their goals.

Data from the Texas Education Agency found that 604 rural and urban districts with innovation plans have received an exemption from teacher certification so far. Texas Association of School Boards spokesperson Dax Gonzalez said most of those districts are using the exemption so industry specialists — such as engineers, nurses and law enforcement officials — can offer hands-on learning to students in career and technology classes.

But the move has some education experts worried that districts are laying the groundwork for having uncertified teachers handle core subjects like math, science and language arts, despite a promise not to do so. Although uncertified educators have been able to teach core classes through waivers and permits, those are approved on a case-by-case basis.

Usually, in order to teach in Texas classrooms, candidates must obtain certification by earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, completing an educator preparation program, passing the appropriate teacher certification exams, being fingerprinted for a national criminal background check and submitting a state application.

In Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, Tim Soto is one of eight uncertified teachers, all responsible for career and technology courses. The electronic technician was hired to teach classes on hands-on tool usage and safety and electrical field practices.

This is Soto’s first year as a teacher, but he has worked for Harlingen CISD for 26 years as an apprentice electrician and a technology specialist. Soto, a college graduate, said he “jumped at the chance” to to give back to the district. And, he said, he’s received nothing but support from other teachers and his students’ parents in creating his curriculum.

“I was nervous, but things just fell into place,” Soto said. “I’ve found that my years of experience are invaluable for students. Instead of having them just read out of a textbook, I can show them how to use the proper tools and help them avoid making mistakes as an apprentice.”

But districts aren’t required to limit the exemption to only career and technology courses. The blanket certification exemption legally allows them to hire uncertified teachers for staple classes like Algebra I or Biology, and even for special education or early childhood classes.

“We don’t want it to expand,” said Kate Kuhlmann, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators. “There are a lot of people that have great content knowledge, but it’s also really important they have a strong understanding of and training in what it means to be a teacher.”

Because there are already avenues around teacher certification — such as waivers and permits that have to be accepted by TEA, the commissioner of education or the school board — a broader exemption should not be necessary, said Texas State Teachers Association spokesperson Clay Robison. Robison called the innovation plan exemption a way for districts to “cut corners” without the same accountability.

Many states have responded to a national teacher shortage by allowing emergency-type hires, said Desiree Carver-Thomas, a research and policy associate with the Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in California. More than 100,000 teachers were unqualified based on their state’s certification standards, according to data between 2015 and 2017, Carver-Thomas said.

But Texas exemption standards are among the broadest nationally, Kuhlmann said. Many states just offer permits or waivers for districts that need to fill classrooms with uncertified teachers. And while states like Kansas and Alabama have innovation district models that offer a teacher certification exemption, Kuhlmann said they have built-in parameters for how many districts can qualify and what classes fall under the exemption.

Still, receiving a response for case-by-case applications in Texas can take nearly a month, and there’s always the possibility of being rejected. And unlike the permit or waiver process, choosing exemptions under a District of Innovation plan involves community input, two-thirds buy-in from the district’s board of trustees and approval from a district-level decision-making committee, said Bruce Gearing, Dripping Springs ISD’s superintendent.

Gearing said he doesn’t foresee his district hiring uncertified teachers outside of career and technical education. Even if that need arises, he said, the district would have to go through a public amendment process to change the implementation of the teacher certification exemption.

“It’s about trust,” Gonzalez, the TASB spokesperson, said. “You either trust local school boards and administrations to go out and find the best teachers for students, or you don’t. And again, this exemption just allows a flexibility that charter schools already have.”

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Betsy DeVos Approves Six More ESSA Plans

Betsy DeVos Approves Six More ESSA Plans

Education Week logoU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has given six more states the thumbs-up on their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act: Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, and New Hampshire.

These approvals bring the grand total of approved state ESSA plans to 33, plus Puerto Rico’s and the District of Columbia’s. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted plans last spring, and all but one of those states, Colorado, have been approved. Another 34 states turned in plans last fall, and so far, 18 have been approved.

So what do the approved plans look like? Below are some highlights of the state’s draft applications…

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information:

Video: ESSA Explained in 3 Minutes


Source: Education Week Politics K-12

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

By Stephen Sawchuk, Alyson Klein, and Andrew UjifusaEducation Week logo

EDUCATION WEEK — This week, Education Week is bringing its trademark analysis to the remaining state plans for fulfilling requirements of the Every Student Succeeds law. On Monday, we had a look at the states’ proposed “school quality” indicators, €”the required but nonacademic portion of each state’s plan to judge schools. Today, we’re going to take a look at states’ goals for raising student achievement and their timelines for doing so in the plans awaiting federal approval.

One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.

So, what kinds of goals are states setting?

Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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Source: Education Week Politics K-12

How One District Cut Student Homelessness by 25 Percent – Education Week

How One District Cut Student Homelessness by 25 Percent – Education Week

Education Week logoCommentary — By Kerry Wrenick

Editor’s Note: This Commentary is part of a special report exploring game-changing trends and innovations that have the potential to shake up the schoolhouse.
Read the full report:
10 Big Ideas in Education.

I have spent many years working in education as a teacher and social worker, and it is clear that schools are no longer just a learning environment for young people. As the number of students affected by homelessness or living at or below the poverty level continues to increase, the demand for services for those affected also increases. Schools have become sanctuaries that provide food, warmth, and support, with a little education thrown in. The reality is that learning takes a back seat for a child whose basic needs are not met.

Shining a light on youth homelessness galvanizes districts to confront the prevalence of homelessness and begin creating solutions. Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Act more than 30 years ago, issuing landmark legislation that recognized a shared responsibility among community members to care for young people who live without safe and stable housing. And in 2012, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness began a coordinated effort across federal agencies to end youth homelessness by 2020. Despite these efforts, homelessness continues to have a big impact on the academic and economic success of our students. Homelessness can contribute to students’ failing classes and affect their social-emotional well-being. For school districts, it can topple graduation rates.

About the Author

Kerry Wrenick is the state coordinator for homeless education at the Colorado Department of Education. Based in Denver, she was the president of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth from June 2016 to October 2017.

It has been my challenge to find a better way to support these students to help them reach their full potential.

In 2015, I was the McKinney-Vento liaison for Kansas City Public Schools—which are located in the highest-poverty county in the state of Kansas. The community had nearly 1,200 identified homeless students and counting, and families were turning to our schools for help. But a lack of resources and funding to provide assistance compounded the problem. We couldn’t count on federal grant funds alone, which then rounded out to about $50 per student.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.