“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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How Two Ohioans Found Common Ground in Their Passion for Education

By Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator, Education, NCLR

NILSL Fellows Jesús Sanchez (left) and John Montoleone (right)

John Monteleone and Jesús Sanchez are members of the same gym in Lorain, Ohio. Besides their shared affinity for physical fitness, you might not think they have much else in common. Jesús is originally from Puerto Rico, while John is a native Ohioan. Jesús is an environmentalist, having studied biology, wildlife management, and plant ecology and physiology, while John’s roots have been firmly planted in Ohio’s public schools; where he ascended from teacher, to principal, to assistant superintendent. It was when they finally struck up a conversation that they realized they had a lot in common. They share a deep history with Lorain City Schools – both attended during their childhoods, and Jesús’s mother was a teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent there. The two also found that they are both passionate about education and strong advocates for the youth in their communities. In the fall of 2015, they both learned that they would be participating in the two-year National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellowship.

Currently, John is the Assistant Superintendent for Oberlin City Schools and Jesús is the Education Director at Cuyahoga Environmental Education Center in Ohio. Both are actively participating in NCLR’s NILSL fellowship; a program established in 2011 to bridge the divide between school practitioners and education policymakers. One of NILSL’s requirements tasks fellows with leading an advocacy project or policy-related activity related to the new education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in their home state. A NILSL fellowship, though only lasting up to two years, is intended to provide the connections and training needed to create diverse education leaders for life. In the cases of John and Jesús, it appears to be doing just that.

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Local Educators Become Advocates

The fight continues at the federal level for educational equity, but states will be key to protecting Latino students

By John Marth, Senior Content Specialist, NCLR

The New York cohort of National Institute of Latino School Leaders

Nine educators met in New York’s Financial District for a two-day training about using their experiences with students and parents to advocate for state-level policies. It was the first of three training modules they’ll attend over the next eight months.

The group represents the sixth cohort of the National Institute of Latino School Leaders, or NILSL. NCLR developed the program five years ago to train educators working with Latino students to become more involved in education policy.

Previous NILSL groups consisted of fellows from across the country learning about lawmaking on the federal level. With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) about to take effect, the program was modified to focus on states. “Now that ESSA’s passed, we need to make sure states are following it,” said Jessica Rodriguez Boudreau, NCLR Education Outreach Manager, who led the training. This year’s fellows come from Colorado and New York.

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The Senate Has Voted to Rollback Civil Rights Protections for America’s Children

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law last year, there was bipartisan support for strong systems that would hold schools responsible for the success of each child. However, yesterday the Senate stripped these provisions from the law on a narrow vote of 50-49. As ESSA is a civil rights law, it’s critical that the nation’s signature education policy include protections for our nation’s underserved communities. The protections the Senate voted down would have helped ensure that states are developing accountability systems that serve all of America’s children.

“Today’s repeal undermines important civil rights protections under ESSA that NCLR and other civil rights groups have worked so hard to secure for Latino students, English learners, and other underserved children,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

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Eliminating ESSA Accountability Regulations Will Not Help American Students

Including strong accountability regulations in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was critical to NCLR’s support for the law. We worked closely with stakeholders and the Obama administration to help draft and provide meaningful feedback on those rules, which are designed to better track and improve children’s educational performance. However, the recent House vote to strip ESSA of those accountability protections is cause for concern. If the repeal succeeds, it could have dramatic consequences for children around the country.

The accountability regulations guiding states on how to craft their ESSA state plans were finalized this past November. Under ESSA, states were given considerable leeway to create their own accountability plans. However, ensuring equity requires a strong federal responsibility to step in when schools consistently fail to meet the needs of low-income and minority children. The Trump administration has been vocal about their opposition to these accountability protections, and this sentiment was acted on by the House vote to overturn them. Even though a letter from Secretary DeVos encouraged states to continue their planned timelines, she also emphasized that the U.S. Department of Education would be assessing the law in hopes of requiring only what they view as absolutely necessary under ESSA.

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On the Betsy DeVos Nomination: We Oppose

Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos. Photo: betsydevos.com

Yesterday NCLR sent a letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.

One in four children in U.S. schools are Latino, and that number will only rise. It is critical that their needs are addressed by the U.S. Department of Education, but for this to occur, the nominee for secretary of education must be committed to upholding civil rights. However, during her hearing, DeVos was only asked one question about civil rights, related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and expressed unfamiliarity with the law. Due to the limited questioning, it is uncertain that she would protect the civil rights of minority children.

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Empowering Educators to Support Latino Youth

 A Review of the 2016 Escalera Training

By Cindy Zavala, Education Programs Associate, NCLR

The 2016 Escalera training at NCLR’s Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Last month, the Escalera program brought 31 educators to NCLR’s Washington, D.C. headquarters for a three-day training on how to best prepare students for college and beyond. The Escalera educators are part of the NCLR Affiliate Network, which includes schools and community-based organizations that are grantees of the Escalera, Early Escalera, and Escalera STEM programs. The goal of the training was to provide Escalera teachers with better resources to implement the Escalera curricula in their schools and communities.

2At the Escalera training, Affiliates discussed their current work, explored the college-going process, and provided feedback on how to improve the program. For Early Escalera instructors, this was their first opportunity to meet and discuss the new curriculum. It was also a great opportunity for them to meet with other educators, such as the Escalera STEM team, who have been implementing their program for over two years.

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Janet Murguía Testimony at ESSA Hearing: Full Remarks

JM_ESSAHearing

Today our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, testified before the before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ hearing, “ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders” to provide the civil rights perspective. Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery:

“NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, an American institution recognized in the book Forces for Good as one of the leading nonprofits in the nation. We represent over 250 Affiliates—local, community-based organizations in 41 states and the District of Columbia—that provide education, health, housing, workforce development, and other services to millions of Americans and immigrants annually. Many of these Affiliates operate as charter schools, provide early education, or offer after-school programming or family literacy services. Their experiences inform NCLR’s federal agenda.

“NCLR was proud to support the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act as a much needed update to our federal education law. Notably, for the first time, English language proficiency will be included in states’ accountability systems. However, passage was just the first step. It is critical that ESSA be implemented in a manner consistent with the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure its promise for all students.

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