“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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