Houston Independent School District

Take Action to Protect Dreamers

Like many of our peers in education (Chiefs for Change, Houston ISD, Boston Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools), at least five former U.S. Secretaries of Education, and millions of Americans, we were stunned by the Trump administration's decision this week to eliminate protections for 800,000 DREAMers.  As a nationally-focused organization that works in a range of urban contexts to advance socially just teaching, we know many of the teachers and students who bring their talents and stories to the learning communities we serve are DREAMers: undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children by parents who wanted their families to join in the promises of the American Dream.  Through our direct support to school systems and teacher leaders, we work to cultivate equitable classroom environments where each student and teacher’s experiences are affirmed and celebrated so that, the moment they step foot in a classroom, their minds are  focused on working to harness their limitless potential.  Denying DREAMers the protections afforded through DACA creates inhumane chaos and directly challenges their opportunity to thrive. This decision affects us all and requires our persistent attention.

Much of the conversation since last Tuesday has focused on the qualities and contributions of DREAMers: 700,000 DACA recipients are in the workforce and pay taxes, 45 percent of DACA recipients are currently in school, 100 percent of DACA recipients have not committed a felony or other serious crime.  Yes, these facts negate baseless economic and security justifications for ending DACA, but the reality is that there’s an even more important rationale for keeping and expanding the protections of DACA: DREAMers are humans. They are our friends, our neighbors, our students, and our colleagues.   They live and work alongside us every day, adding beauty and richness to the social fabric of the only country they have ever known. Listen to some of their stories.  They have upheld their promises to meet the requirements set forth by DACA, so it is our responsibility to ensure that our nation upholds its promise to them by demanding a permanent legislative solution.  

So, as educators who work with and alongside DREAMers, what can we do?

  • Build knowledge: Several education organizations including Educators for Excellence, the American Federation of Teachers, Stand for Children, Teach For America, and the Education Trust are hosting a tele-town hall on Tuesday, September 12 to share stories, take your questions, and provide information about opportunities to support undocumented students in your classroom and beyond.  You can register here.

  • Help students and parents understand their rights: Many districts have policies in place to prevent immigration officers from entering a campus without special authorization.  Research your school or district’s policy and provide accessible materials such as these from Remezlca.  

  • Support DREAMers in renewing DACA by October 5: Individuals whose DACA expires between September and October have until October 5 to renew for 2-years.  Once a person’s DACA has expired, they will not be able to re-apply.  United We Dream provides more information here.

  • Amplify DREAMer voices:  Brave individuals like Leslie Arreanza and Jose Gonzalez are using their personal stories to challenge misconceptions and build momentum for Congressional action.  Seek out opportunities to learn from their first-hand experiences as you have conversations with those around you.

  • Contact your Congressional Representatives: Direct appeals from constituents have been a powerful force in driving congressional action this year.  Platforms such as this tool from FWD.us make it easier than ever to make your voice heard.  It takes less than 1 minute to sign the petition AND get on the phone with your representative’s office.

We commit to taking action, and we value your partnership and accountability in doing our best for our undocumented students and peers.  Will you join us?

Bonus: Watch this powerful statement from Superintendent Ricardo Carranza of Houston Independent School District.

Building Up Teacher-Leadership in Houston

This year, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has partnered with TNTP to design and implement four teacher-leader roles as part of its In-School Collaborative Design pilot program. Across the district Instructional Practice Coaches, Intervention Specialists, Technology Peer Leaders, and Data Tracking and Analysis Specialists spend time outside of the classroom supporting teams of teachers at their schools. To introduce teacher-leaders to their new roles and provide them with intensive support throughout the 2012 – 2013 academic year, Leading Educators was tasked with designing and delivering a series of formal trainings and  small facilitated groups called Problem Solving Communities wherein teachers examine common challenges.

At the start of the school year, HISD teacher-leaders explored the foundations of leadership with our sessions Stepping up to Leadership and Influence without Authority. Their professional development then continued with role-specific, customized sessions: Stabilizing InstructionObservation and FeedbackProject ManagementNext Generation Instructional Technology, and Data Driven Instruction, respective to the different teacher-leader roles. Alongside this training, we developed two Problem Solving Communities (PSCs) to further familiarize role-alike participants to their new positions and to create a space for them to share best practices and troubleshoot common challenges. We also trained internal HISD Teacher Development Specialists (TDSs) in the facilitation of these PSCs in November and December.

“Since the first training, I’ve been using the tools,” said one teacher-leader in response to a written survey. “They help us to think about how we can work with teachers to make their jobs easier.”

The trainings built upon those tools last month with the third and final formal training day of the year, when all the teacher-leaders attended a Middle Leader, Know Thyself! session and then separated by role into sessions on Coaching for GROWthThe Growth Mindset, and

Next Generation Instructional Technology II. Two new PSCs were also designed for this spring semester, focusing on Time Management and Situational Leadership; HISD Teacher Development Specialists are leading these sessions in February and March.

One teacher - leader described the sessions as “Very positive and supportive. I feel with these individualized trainings, HISD is committed to teacher leadership roles. "In addition to participants’ anecdotal feedback, our partners in HISD and at TNTP have shared some very useful data on the outcomes of this year of training and support. The chart to the left maps survey responses aggregated from each of the three training days, and is complemented by the many inspiring anecdotes and verbal feedback the Leading Educators team has received from teacher-leaders who have found this professional development to be transformative.