“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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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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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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ESSA and the Progress of Education Policy toward Parental Engagement


Parent engagement is a critical component of student success, especially in large urban areas. Schools and local districts are increasingly investing in connecting with parents and families in ways that recognize their cultural backgrounds and unique needs.

In particular, educators are working to connect families to critical resources such as medical care, legal aid, housing support, financial literacy, language development, and access to higher education opportunities. This work allows educators to deepen the value of schools as institutions within all communities, especially those communities that have been historically marginalized.

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Grading President Trump’s Education Budget

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

This week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before a Senate subcommittee on President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education.  Sadly, this budget receives an “F” as it slashes critical funding for public education and raises serious questions about the administration’s commitment to protect the civil rights of Latino and other historically underserved students.

At a time when schools, teachers, and low-income kids across the nation need greater support and resources to close achievement gaps, this budget cuts federal education spending by $9.2 billion or 13 percent. This includes a cut of approximately $4 billion from investments in public school programs authorized by Congress through the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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