“Hungry for Change”: Spotlight on NILSL Training in Nashville

By Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator, UnidosUS

2017 NILSL Fellow Graduates

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room,” John Monteleone, National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellow, shared with his nine co-fellows during their final training module in Nashville in late September. These were the very words John’s relative shared with him after his first NILSL training module back in 2015. At that time, John was questioning why he had been accepted into the group and what he would be able to add. He felt like an imposter, overwhelmed and intimidated and yet, little to his knowledge, many of his co-fellows identified with these feelings too. However, two years and seven training modules later, you would not believe that John, nor any of these leaders, ever experienced such insecurities.

NILSL modules are held throughout the fellowship in different locations across the United States. This particular cohort traveled to New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Nashville to receive trainings in leadership, communications, advocacy, and education policy. In other words, fellows learn ways to advocate for Latino students and English learners, receive updates on federal and state education policy, learn how to maximize outreach strategies using both traditional and social media to effectively communicate local and national education issues to diverse audiences, and network with fellow leaders in education. Each training is designed to prepare fellows to become stronger, better-equipped leaders and advocates for Latino students and English learners in their respective districts and states.

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The 2017 CASA National Institute Gets Underway in Los Angeles

By Cindy Zavala, Education Programs Associate, UnidosUS

UnidosUS service-learning program—Cultura, Aprendizaje, Servicio, and Acción (CASA)—works to develop culturally aware youth leaders who serve as agents of change to address issues that impact their communities. Through active engagement, students develop complex critical thinking and reflective skills while gaining high levels of academic learning.

The CASA National Institute took place on September 7 and 8 in Los Angeles with 22 instructors from 10 Affiliates, who will be implementing the CASA program during this school year. CASA will launch across four states (California, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas) through these 10 Affiliate organizations. All 10 will launch cohorts of a minimum of 30 middle school students and will be implementing the CASA program from fall 2017 through spring 2018.

At the CASA National Institute, each Affiliate received two Samsung Galaxy tablets with the new after-school and in-school curricula as an online file for instructors. Instructors were divided into two tracks, after-school and in-school, where they received more in-depth training for the implementation of CASA at their organization.

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Are States Making Sure Latino Kids Count?

This week, states submit their final plans to the Department of Education about how they’ll measure student success based on rules set in the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. The measurements provide data that affect major issues like school funding and allocating other resources. Today, a panel discussed how states have developed plans that address some of the unique barriers facing students of color and English learners.


One of the major victories when ESSA passed in 2015 included federal regulations that states would have to measure the success of English learners, students of color, students with disabilities, and other historically overlooked groups. Congress later weakened those regulations, giving states more flexibility in choosing how to measure schoolwide success, meaning those students could be overlooked again.

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Providing English Language Learners the Support Needed to Succeed

By Para Los Niños

Keeping in step with our integrated approach to educating the whole child—emotional, social, and psychological needs—within the context of their family history and needs, Para Los Niños is building a foundation for engaged learning and academic success for our English Language Learner (ELL) students. These students face the unique challenge of becoming proficient in English while also learning grade-level content in English.

Our charter schools offer students a rigorous academic experience, but we know students have the best opportunity to succeed when their families are valued for the assets they bring to our schools. By creating a culturally and linguistically aware community, Para Los Niños puts families at the center of their child’s education.

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The Importance of Getting Families Involved in Education

By Tommy Valentino Ramirez, Director, MAAC Community Charter School

A friend and colleague of mine loves the quote “people don’t know what they don’t know.”  This has been used to explain many blunders: from the inconsequential to the very damaging.  Having worked for an alternative community charter school near the border for almost 16 years now, I have seen the very real negative consequences “not knowing what you don’t know has had on the lives of thousands of youth and families. “Not knowing what you don’t know” often comes from a place of ignorance, or unintentional damaging “guidance” at the hands of people we have empowered to guide and educate our youth and families. To prevent this damage from occurring, we must ensure that families have a voice in their children’s education and the tools necessary to get involved. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has great potential to improve the educational lives of millions, if we are knowledgeable about ESSA and use our power to ensure that families have a voice in the educational system.

Because there is so much important information contained in ESSA, we as educators, leaders, and people in positions of power have an obligation to break down the potential consequences, positive and negative, and explain them to children and their families. By doing this, we support those who will be directly impacted by this policy to have a true voice in a very complex, at times confusing or intimidating, political process.

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