By Lynette Monroe, Program Assistant, NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign
Rebecca Francis, like most dynamic leaders of our time, recognized a problem and created a solution. As a former behavioral counselor, fourth grade teacher, and international high school psychology and English literature instructor, Rebecca Francis’ professional resume alone qualifies her to lead in the field of education. But her personal experience as an adolescent in the Bay Area, traveling 45 minutes across town to attend a higher performing school in a more affluent neighborhood, sparked the passion she needed to lead effectively.
Francis has visited over 25 high-performing schools across the nation to learn what it takes to make award-winning, high-quality public charter schools. She believes charter schools offer an alternative option to parents and students who are not satisfied with the options available to them. Although she supports traditional public, neighborhood schools, Francis recognizes the reality that all schools are not created equal and that traveling far away from home can inhibit children’s social development.
“As a little girl, traveling long distances in pursuit of a higher quality education I thought, ‘What is wrong with the school in my own neighborhood? Why does something like this not exist closer to my home?’” Lessons reiterated as a professional, “then, as an educator it became more clear that children on different ends of the income spectrum were receiving vastly different education experiences” Francis said.
Elevate Collegiate Charter School seeks to provide an accessible high-quality option to underserved students in Houston. Their mission is to equip all pre-kindergarten through fifth grade scholars with the academic knowledge and character development necessary to set forth confidently on the path to college. Elevate Collegiate Charter School strongly believes that they are not just responsible for providing a college preparatory education to students, but also to help instill the character traits necessary for them to be positive members in their class, school, and community.
Increased access to opportunity is a major goal of Elevate Collegiate Charter School. “We see education as a tool that all children need to unlock their greatest potential.” Francis says, “To better serve minority and low-income students this charter school will feature double literacy blocks, which we hope will promote advanced literary skills, and an increased prioritization of computer science. In the eight largest tech companies, African Americans make up less than 5 percent of the workforce. So, our challenge is also to figure out innovative ways to infuse coding, robotics, and basic computer software to light that tech spark in the curriculum.”
Title IV, Part C, of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), entitled, “Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools,” supports the increased accessibility of high-quality public charter schools. State entities can even receive grants from the federal government to open and prepare for the operation of new charter schools. ESSA defines a high-quality charter school as an educational institution that shows evidence of strong academic results or growth and has no significant issues with fiscal management or procedural compliance. ESSA gives states more flexibility to states to decide how to incorporate charter schools into their accountability systems, but most state charter school laws hold charter schools to the same standards as their traditional public school counterparts.
Why Houston? Rebecca is an alumna of the University of Houston where she earned Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and there are currently roughly 22,000 students on alternative school option waiting list.
Elevate Collegiate Charter School seeks to provide the individualized learning support towards mastery that ESSA encourages. It will do so by hiring teachers with experience teaching underserved populations and who have the passion to do so effectively and consistently.
To learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the innovative opportunities it affords to Black students check out nnpa.org/essa.
In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child, in order “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”
The movement was sparked by members of School Girls Unite, an organization of youth leaders advocating for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Following their lead, President Barack Obama proclaimed Oct. 10 Day of the Girl in 2013, writing:
“Over the past few decades, the global community has made great progress in increasing opportunity and equality for women and girls, but far too many girls face futures limited by violence, social norms, educational barriers, and even national law. On International Day of the Girl, we stand firm in the belief that all men and women are created equal, and we advance the vision of a world where girls and boys look to the future with the same sense of promise and possibility.”
In a 2016 op-ed, First Lady Michelle Obama wrote that the issue of gender equity is not just a matter of policy; it is personal.
“Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice. That’s why, particularly on this International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve. They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down. I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as First Lady, but for the rest of my life.”
Staying true to her promise, on Oct. 11, Obama and TODAY held a special event on 30 Rockefeller Plaza to “empower and celebrate girls all over the world.” Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor are slated to perform.
The visibility of the event is powerful; still, it cannot, and must not, overshadow the lived experiences of Black girls who, too often, are victimized, criminalized, and erased.
In 2014, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing Black boys. In response, over 250 Black men and other men of color challenged Obama’s decision to focus solely on Black men and boys, and called for the inclusion of Black women and girls, stating in an open letter: “MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?
“If the denunciation of male privilege, sexism and rape culture is not at the center of our quest for racial justice, then we have endorsed a position of benign neglect towards the challenges that girls and women face that undermine their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole.”
Specifically, for Black girls in the United States, the intractable scourge of white supremacy stains every corner of their lives; meaning they must battle misogynoir on both institutional and interpersonal levels at every turn.
In the study Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girlhood (pdf), co-authored by Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake, and Thalia Gonzalez, the answers of survey participants provided anecdotal evidence of how dehumanized Black girls are in this country. According to participants:
Black girls need less nurturing
Black girls need less protection
Black girls need to be supported less
Black girls need to be comforted less
Black girls are more independent
Black girls know more about adult topics
Black girls know more about sex
While the above racist and sexist perceptions are false, the institutionalized and systemic ramifications of such dangerous thinking are very real, with Black girls suffering the consequences.
According to the 2015 report “Gender Justice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reform for Girls” (pdf), 84 percent of girls in the juvenile-detention system have experienced family violence; additionally, “[girls] in the justice system have experienced abuse, violence, adversity and deprivation across many of the domains of their lives—family, peers, intimate partners and community.”
AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced today the six Texas teachers that have been named finalists for the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The 2018 awards recognize kindergarten through sixth grade mathematics and science teachers whose innovative methods bring teaching to life in the classroom.
PAEMST is the highest recognition a mathematics or science teacher may receive for exemplary teaching in the United States. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on the behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The 2018 Texas finalists in elementary mathematics are:
Ellaree Lehman – Third grade mathematics and science teacher at R. E. Good Elementary IB World School in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District;
Angelica Nino – Third grade bilingual mathematics and science teacher at De Zavala Elementary School in the San Antonio Independent School District; and
Kirsta Paulus – Third grade teacher at Genoa Elementary School in the Pasadena Independent School District.
The 2018 Texas finalists in elementary science are:
Allison Bearden – Sixth grade math and science teacher at Oakcrest Intermediate School in the Tomball Independent School District;
Celene Rosen – Third grade math and science teacher at Barksdale Elementary School in the Plano Independent School District; and
Brenda Williams – Fourth and fifth grade Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teacher at Argyle Intermediate School in the Argyle Independent School District.
To achieve recognition through this program, a teacher first must apply to enter the competition or be nominated for the award. A state panel consisting of master teachers, content specialists, and administrators reviews the applications and selects the most outstanding mathematics and science teachers for the National Science Foundation to consider for national awardee status. After this initial selection process, a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators may select two teachers from each state and U.S. jurisdiction for the national award.
PAEMST awardees receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a certificate signed by the President of the United States, and a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend recognition events and professional development opportunities.
For additional information about the PAEMST program, visit www.paemst.org.
A spirit of hope and change hovered over the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center in Houston’s historic Third Ward community Thursday, November 15th, as dozens of engaged parents, educators, elected officials and community members were on hand at the Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence, where a lively discussion about the state of education for Black children in the Greater Houston area took place.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board President Rhonda Skillern- Jones, Texas Southern University (TSU) student and Forward Times intern Treyvon Waddy, Educator Larry McKinzie, and Community Activist Monica Riley and her daughter Chirelle Riley
The event was made possible by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to create a three-year, multi-media public awareness campaign focusing on the unique opportunities and challenges of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) and replaced No Child Left Behind, received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015. The regulations are administered by the U.S. Department of Education and went into effect on January 30, 2017.
Under ESSA, states across the country adhere to more flexible federal regulations that provide for improved elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools. The law also ensures that every child, regardless of race, income, background or zip code has the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.
By raising awareness of ESSA policies, the NNPA, which is a national trade association of approximately 211 Black and women-owned U.S. media companies with a weekly print and digital readership of over 20.1 million Black Americans, seeks to empower parents to advocate for instructional strategies that are in the best interest of their students and communities. In addition, this is a tremendous opportunity to increase support around academic issues that will make a difference in closing the achievement gap and ultimately the wealth gap.
Dr. Elizabeth V. Primas, who serves as the program manager for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign and is a life-long educator, was on hand to welcome attendees and talk about ESSA being a tool to help increase the effectiveness of public education in every state, including Texas. Lynette Monroe, who is the program assistant for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign, served as the event moderator.
Attendee and parent Johnny Taylor addressing the panelists
The panelists were asked questions regarding several topics, including how the Texas Education Agency funding structure promotes or inhibits equitable school funding, their views on standardized testing overall and specifically African American student performance, effective ways to communicate and foster engagement with African American family members, how to increase community engagement, and things the Texas Education Agency or other entities can do to better prioritize the needs of students who receive special education services.
“You must get engaged in your child’s education to ensure they don’t become a statistic,” said parent and community activist Monica Riley.
Monica was one of the five panelists, along with her daughter Chirelle Riley, who participated in this powerful panel discussion, which also included Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, educator Larry McKinzie, and Texas Southern University (TSU) student and Forward Times intern Treyvon Waddy.
Monica, who is the mother of seven girls and a product of the public school system, talked about the passion she developed about education, particularly after having to make tough choices about her children’s educational future. After sending her children to public school, private school and even choosing to home-school them, Monica became an educational advocate in order to tackle the issues she saw that were not being addressed by the school administrators tasked with addressing those issues.
Black Parents’ Town Hall attendees listening to panelists
Chirelle, who is an 18-year-old sophomore at Houston Community College, spoke about her educational experience from a millenials perspective and emphasized the need for school leaders to ensure students are being taught information that can benefit them beyond simply taking a test.
Skillern-Jones spoke about her own experiences dealing with the educational choices for her kids, which is what drove her to run for public office and become a school board trustee and seek to bring about change from within. Skillern-Jones stated that the elected decision makers at the state level have made things difficult for school districts to solve many of the problems African American children face. She remained optimistic, however, that community engagement could change the current state of the educational system in Texas.
“I think that teachers should contact parents in some way on a consistent basis, not just to say your child is doing this well or this what your child did in class that day, because that’s not personal enough,” said Waddy, who is a graduate of HISD and attends TSU. “Teachers should seek to build trust with the parents and seek to know the parents on a first name basis, so they can stay in the loop. I think that will go a long way and would open the door to discuss more personal things that may be affecting the child.”
McKinzie, who is a 24-year-educator, parent of two public school students and a community activist, states that parents must talk to all elected officials and administrators and be an activist for their children. He believes that the charter schools, which are only located in Black and Brown communities, take away the necessary resources from the public schools in those same communities which disparately impacts those schools.
This regional town hall meeting was a follow-up to the National Town Hall which took place on June 26th at the Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church in Norfolk, VA, which was a part of the NNPA’s Annual Conference. This regional town hall meeting was one of several that are taking place across the country, with the focus being on encouraging parents to get involved and stay engaged in their child’s education.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who is in a fierce race for the Senate, has hit his opponent, Republican Sen.Ted Cruz, for wanting to take money away from public schools, and for being the “deciding vote” in favor of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation.
“At a time when nearly half of the school teachers in Texas are working a second job just to make ends meet, Ted Cruz wants to take our public tax dollars out of their classrooms, turn them into vouchers,” O’Rourke says in a new campaign ad. “He was the deciding vote in putting Betsy DeVos in charge of our children’s public education. I want to pay teachers a living wage. I want to allow them to teach to the child, and not to the test. And when they retire, I want it to be a retirement of dignity. Those public educators have been there for us. Now it’s time to be there for them.”
It’s true that Cruz has been a big proponent of private school vouchers. And he was the author of a provision in the new tax law that allows families to use 529 college-savings plans for K-12 private schools.
Do you worry about being able to hire VI teachers? Do you have to search high and low to fill vacancies? If so…
It’s the time of the year to recruit teachers of the visually impaired! To address the shortage of VI teachers and the needs of a growing number of students with visual impairments, think about the opportunity to “Grow Your Own VI Teacher” . The Texas Tech University on-line program is a great opportunity for teachers to get certification as a teacher of the visually impaired. Funds are available through the Reach Across Texas Grant to assist with the cost of tuition. The Texas Tech application deadline for Spring 2019 is November 1, 2018. Once one university VI course is completed and the teacher is enrolled in another course, he/she is eligible to be the TVI of record with an emergency permit! For information, see VI and O&M Preparation in Texas on the TSBVI website.
Former Houston ISD superintendent Richard Carranza is speaking out about his disappointment in HISD’s failure to pass major reforms while he was here. Carranza, who now leads the New York public school system after abruptly quitting HISD, said the district lacked the appetite for changes that would boost outcomes for lower-income and minority students.
“As soon as I left, it seemed like people just didn’t have the stomach to take the fight,” Carranza said.
In an interview with Atlantic Magazine, Carranza who was with the district for 18 months, said HISD leaders resisted changes that would benefit historically underserved students, creating inequitable access to quality education among students from all backgrounds.
The Atlantic article largely focused on his immediate reform efforts in New York City, but Carranza didn’t mince words as he talked about HISD’s current campus funding model and the geographic layout of its magnet schools, which he said have favored students from more affluent and white backgrounds. In the months before his departure from HISD, Carranza proposed shifting toward a more centralized funding model that largely would benefit schools in lower-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
“You would think if you want to integrate schools and really provide a robust push for the entire system, you would place some really sexy magnet schools in those African-American neighborhoods. No! They were all concentrated in white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods, so that if you’re an African-American student, you have to leave your neighborhood to go to those programs,” he said.
Carranza’s comments cut to key questions about the district’s dedication to impoverished and minority students, while also raising the specter that Carranza’s abrupt departure contributed to the proposals stalling. During his tenure the district dealt with
Ultimately, HISD trustees tweaked the district’s current campus funding model and shelved the magnet proposals, to Carranza’s dismay. However, it is arguable whether trustees resisted Carranza’s proposal because they “didn’t have the stomach to take the fight.” Some trustees embraced Carranza’s proposal, but others thought the district administration was moving too hastily and did not provide enough details about the proposal’s merits.
“Carranza didn’t leave any definite plans on the table. Only ideals,” HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “For me, there were conceptual changes that were never fully vetted or fleshed out by the administration.”
The district also was dealing with a large budget deficit and a looming threat of a state takeover of the school system resulting from a state law that required the Texas Education Agency to control operations of any school district in which one or more schools failed to meet state academic standards for five consecutive years, prompting a few trustees to question whether HISD was tackling too much at one time.
Countdown to Class 2018 school uniform drive has begun
DALLAS – July 31, 2018 – Texans Can Academies, a non-profit organization giving young Texans a second chance at life through education, today announced that they are sponsoring a back-to-school fund drive, Countdown to Class, for their students who need assistance getting ready for the approaching school year. As summertime comes to an end, students across the state of Texas are gearing up for the upcoming first day of school. While some are out shopping for new clothes or visiting their campus to pick up their school uniforms, others are faced with the dilemma of affording new clothes. Texans Can Academies understands the challenges a lot of families face with back-to-school expenses and wants their students to begin the school year with confidence and refreshed outlooks.
From now until September, Texans Can Academies is hosting their annual Countdown to Class 2018 Uniform Drive to raise funds that will benefit students at their 14 campuses across the state of Texas. The open-enrollment public charter high school has campuses located in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The funds from the drive will benefit students and their families by providing brand new clothes that fit properly to wear as the school’s uniform of khaki pants and white collared shirts. A $75 donation will provide one pair of pants, two shirts, socks and a belt for one student.
“We know the expense of school supplies and clothing can put a major dent in the household budget for a lot of families,” said Richard Marquez, President and CEO of Texans Can Academies. “All donations will help our families provide back-to-school items so that their children will feel proud and comfortable during the school year. It’s especially important for teenagers to feel confident in what they are wearing when they are in school so they focus on learning.”
A 2018 study by Deloitte found that the average United States household planned to spend $510 per child on back-to-school shopping. The National Retail Federation estimates that families shopping for students this year will spend the most on clothing, about $237 per school-age child.
The cost of clothes and school supplies for teenagers can create financial and emotional strains on families that cannot be met and can lead to a child dropping out of school. Texans Can Academies takes steps every year to offer solutions to any obstacles students face outside their classrooms to help them remain in school and graduate.
“We know that if children don’t have school supplies or the proper clothes to wear to school, they may decide to stay home,” continued Marquez. “Our goal throughout our campuses and programming is to break down barriers to educational success. We are asking for help to raise funds for our kids to have clothes they are proud to wear to school throughout the school year. All children deserve to come to school wearing clothes that fit comfortably and feeling like they look their best.”
Texans Can Academies believes in providing the highest quality education for all students. The high school’s curriculum has been designed to prepare their students for life beyond high school graduation with skills and concepts such as Marquez Reading, thinking skills, college preparation, workforce etiquette and more. Classes are structured with a learning, yet nurturing environment that touches on student-centered decision making.
Serving the education system for 33 years, Texans Can Academies provides open enrollment, public high schools of choice for students who have struggled in traditional high school settings. To participate in Texans Can Academies’ 2018-2019 Uniform Drive, please visit www.texanscan.org/countdown2class2018.
About Texans Can Academies Celebrating 33 years of providing the highest quality education for all students, Texans Can schools are graduating thinkers. Texans Can Academies are a unique network of 14 charter schools located in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The schools are tuition-free, open enrollment, public high schools of choice serving students who have struggled in a traditional high school setting. To date, more than 143,000 youth have been given a second chance at life with the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Cars for Kids is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization benefiting Texans Can Academies and is the only car donation program in Texas that is operated by the charity it serves. For more information, visit: www.texanscan.org or www.carsforkids.org.
Jennifer Harris, Senior Vice President at Texas Bank and Trust and a community volunteer, has been selected as a recipient of the 2018 Heroes for Children Award for District 9 from the State Board of Education. Harris is one of only 15 awardees statewide who will be given such honor by the State Board of Education (SBOE). Awardees will receive a plaque and a resolution at the State Board of Education board meeting on September 14, 2018.
Jennifer Harris has been a long standing advocate for Pine Tree ISD. She is a past president of the Pine Tree Education Foundation and has served on the board since 2010. In addition to her volunteer commitment with Pine Tree ISD, Jennifer is also active in the Longview community. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Longview, a member of the President’s Advisory Council of LeTourneau University, and volunteering with organizations such as Buckner Children & Family Services, the Crisman School, and Longview 2020. Jennifer was named a 2014 Star Over Longview by Longview Regional Hospital for her compassion and lobe for all she does for the Longview Community.
Jennifer has volunteered for Play it Safe East Texas, an event offering free heart scans to area teens. This screening can help detect the heart conditions that bring down healthy teens during or just after an athletic event.
This coupled with the fact that my stepchildren and their friends are young athletes weighed heavy on me so I wanted to try and help kids in our community that perhaps have undiagnosed heart conditions.” She also volunteers with the Greater Longview United Way to support Day of Action specifically working with the Boys and Girls Club with her employer.
Jennifer is a native of East Texas and the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Texas Bank and Trust. Jennifer has been employed with Texas Bank and Trust since February 2009. She is married to Scott Harris and has two children PTISD and a 2017 graduate of PTISD who is currently a student at Texas Tech.
Former Houston Texans player and FBISD Alumni Devard Darling recently awarded college scholarships to deserving students through his As One Foundation.
The $1,000 scholarships were awarded to ten Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) high school seniors at the 10th Annual Devard & Devaughn Darling Scholarship Award Ceremony at Center Stage Art Gallery, in Sugar Land, Texas.
The As One Foundation was established in 2007 by Devard Darling, an NFL wide receiver, in memory of his twin brother, Devaughn Darling, with the mission to unlock and unleash the full potential of youth while encouraging them to achieve their dreams in the face of life challenges.
Since Devaughn’s tragic death during a pre-season conditioning workout at Florida State University due to sickle cell trait exertion, the mission later became to educate and increase awareness of sickle cell trait while encouraging youth to achieve their dreams in the face of life challenges. The Devard & Devaughn Darling Scholarship Awards is Darling’s way of turning the loss of his identical twin brother, into something positive. It’s also a way to say thank you to the people who helped them both succeed as student-athletes.
Devard Darling, As One Founder and Scholarship Recipient Alice Opiyo
“I just know Devaughn is smiling down to know we’ve awarded $100,000 in scholarships in these first ten years of the As One Foundation,” says Darling. “It is so important to show these young people they are worth our time and money. So many did that for me and my brother, now this is my chance to pay it forward.”
The As One Foundation takes its name from the fact that the doctor had been hearing two hearts beating As One while their mother carried them, unaware she was having twins. Devard lived on to fulfill his and his brother’s shared dream to play professional football and to give back to both their homes – Houston, Texas and their native Bahamas.
The 2018 Scholarship recipients are: Tyra James, Kyser Lim, Baylee Suzanne Redmond and Robert Wilson of Austin High School; Jane Akwitti, Samantha Alarcon and Wade Freeman III of Bush High School; Alice Opiyo of Clements High School; Oluwatoni Ajala of Dulles High School and Camden Kelly of Elkins High School.