HISD Names New Mascots, Goes With Second Choice at Lamar

Categories: Education

Screen grab from the Alamo website
Fighting for a lot of things
When the Houston ISD school board decided to retire some mascot names that it found culturally insensitive, it opened up the naming process to the community, who were invited to submit their top two choices to HISD administration.

As is being announced this morning at a 10:30 a.m. press conference, Hamilton Middle School's Indians will become the Huskies (the school's first choice). Welch Middle School's Warriors will become the Wolf Pack (also its first choice). And Westbury High School is leaving behind the Rebels to become the Huskies (who knew that name would be so popular? And also their first choice).

Lamar High School will drop the Redskins - although clearly not all students were in favor of that - to become the Texans, the school's second choice and the one that HISD administrators and trustees believe is better to adopt.

Because some people find the Lamar community's first choice - of all the words available to them in the English language - was culturally insensitive as well.

The word was "Texian," which to some people sounds like just some old-fashioned way of referring to the people who came here to live about the time of the state's move to independence from Mexico.

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Teachers in Atherton Elementary Testing Scandal Appeal to the TEA Commissioner

Categories: Education

Screen grab from houstonisd.org
Principal Albert Lemons and Superintendent Terry Grier in what seems to have been happier times
The Atherton Elementary teaching scandal entered its next phase Monday when the attorney for the three teachers who Houston ISD trustees voted to terminate last week, filed a petition for review with the state commissioner of education and slung some serious allegations the superintendent's way.

In the document filed by Larry Watts to the Texas Education Agency on behalf of Jennifer Sterling, Reuel Soca and Veronica Davis, the teachers' lawyer charges that HISD board members never even read the investigative report into the allegations that the teachers helped students cheat on the Grade 5 state-mandated reading and math tests, before voting to fire them.

Responding to a request for comment about the petition, the HISD press office emailed this statement: "The district is aware of a petition filed with the Commissioner of Education. We will respond to the petition in the time frame allotted by law."

Investigators had said the teachers were at fault and pointed to: an above-average rate of wrong to right answer changes, a high number of erasure marks, a decline in the students' passage rate on the HISD Formative Assessments given soon after the STAAR tests.

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HISD Trustees Kiss Dodson Elementary Goodbye and Will Never Speak of It Again

Categories: Education

Harvin Moore knows how to cut through debate
The lineup of guest speakers ready to once again argue before the Houston ISD school board that Dodson Elementary should be saved never got their chance Thursday night.

In an unexpected move, Houston ISD trustee Harvin Moore made a motion that "the item be tabled indefinitely." As people throughout the room exchanged a group "huh?" the school board members quickly voted.

The result was a 5-3 win for Moore's motion. What it means, we were assured, is that Dodson Elementary's closure is a done deal and that (hushed tones here) it can never be brought up again.

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Peek Inside Telemundo's Houston Offices and Their Play for TV News

Photo by bluepoint951
Telemundo dares you not to learn Spanish.
Who isn't familiar with Telemundo? As the second largest Spanish language network, Telemundo has a huge following in Houston. There are over a million Hispanic people living in Harris County alone.

As part of my Spanish for Global Professions class at the University of Houston I was able to take a tour of their local headquarters. I was looking forward to learning how the station is keeping up with competition and the make-up of their audience in Houston.

Just like any other news station Telemundo had to reinvent themselves and introduce new programming to be able to keep up with a changing media landscape, and most importantly attract viewers. But what surprised me the most is how news stations work together sometimes.

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UPDATED: HISD Gets Ready to Fire 3 Teachers, Teachers' Attorney Says Not So Fast

Categories: Education

Attorney's trying to counter "publicity attack" on Atherton teachers.
After a five-month investigation into testing irregularities at Atherton Elementary School, three of the teachers involved are going to be recommended for termination at Thursday's school board meeting, Houston ISD announced in a press release Wednesday.

But Larry Watts, attorney for teachers Reuel Sosa, Jennifer Sterling and Veronica Davis, says he has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in the 61st State District Court trying to block the terminations, saying that the plaintiffs have never been provided or given access to the complete report and were only informed Wednesday of what Superintendent Terry Grier intended to do.

"We're trying to meet the publicity attack that Dr. Grier has done on these teachers," Watts said Wednesday afternoon.

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Nation of Preschool Troublemakers

Categories: Education, Texas

Photo by Andrew Malone
These kids are probably okay, but there's way too many preschoolers getting booted from class.
Texas is fighting a war on multiple fronts: The war against women, the war against minorities, the war against the middle class. Who could have imagined our educational system would wage a war against preschoolers? If we trust in the latest data from U.S. Department of Education, it appears that 4-year-olds are education's newest enemy.

Each year the U.S. Department of Education collects key educational data on all 97,000 of our nation's public schools to be disaggregated into a database called the Civil Rights Data Collection. Since 2000, the information published on the CRDC is available for policymakers, researchers, journalists, and interested citizens.

It's very hard to fathom how the behavior of a child between the ages of 2 and 5 could merit suspension, expulsion or arrest, but it happened almost 5,000 times during the 2011-2012 school year. That same data suggests that Texas accounts for roughly 30 percent of those expelled preschool students.

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Some HISD Trustees Frustrated by Dodson Elementary Do-Over

Categories: Education

Photo by Margaret Downing
Board President Juliet Stipeche wants a do-over
Two of her fellow trustees took Houston ISD Board President Juliet Stipeche to task at an agenda workshop Monday for her decision to reopen the Dodson Elementary closure case, supposedly settled in a 5-4 vote last month.

After thanking trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Wanda Adams for supporting her in bringing the matter before the board again - scheduled for this Thursday's board meeting -- Stipeche who last month voted to close Dodson said: "I want to say thanks for the patience of my fellow colleagues on the board for allowing this to be reconsidered as well."

Saying she had received new information, Stipeche explained: "My concern was in terms of the information concerning the zoned area for the Dodson community only having 343 students that were enrolled in this particular zone to begin with." HISD has a school quota policy calling for most elementary schools to have at least 500 students. "I also learned that there were 211 applicants that asked to go to Dodson," she said, adding that while she recognizes that all of them wouldn't have finally chosen to go there, still based on prior years' examples, enough children would have attended to bring Dodson close to the 500 threshold.

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Under a Different Name, HISD Trustee's Daughter Talks About "Bully" Principal

Categories: Education

Screen grab from Facebook.com
Houston ISD trustee Manuel Rodriguez told us yesterday he wasn't going to take a public position on the much-debated-question in recent months of whether the principal at Patterson Elementary is any good or not.

"It's not a board member position to handle administrative or personnel positions," he said taking the high road in response to our question about principal Jeannie Castano.

But in the past few months a lot of teachers, parents and concerned citizens have registered as public speakers to address trustees at their board meetings about Patterson. On February 13 a woman named Esmeralda Sanchez was among them.

Except that isn't her real name. She's actually Angelina Rodriguez, Manuel Rodriguez's daughter.

And even though her father was sitting right there at the trustee table as the video shows, neither he nor his daughter corrected the mistake when Angelina came to the speaker's mike after board president Juliet Stipeche called out "Esmeralda Sanchez."

Which also begs the question: Why did Angelina Rodriguez answer to another name, clearly spoken by attorney Stipeche?

Screen grab from houstonisd.org

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AG's Action on Diploma Mill May Just Be the Beginning

Categories: Education

Online home schooling industry is a circus.
Last week, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the assets of Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy, would be frozen and a restraining order was issued to prevent them from doing business. Both claimed to be accredited by the National Home School Accreditation of America. The only problem is that the NHSA is not an accrediting body. It's merely a website. Many consumers confused the NHSA with the legitimate organization, the Texas Home School Coalition.

Efforts by the Consumer Protection Division of the AG's office were prompted by over 100 complaints against the two academies. A simple search on the Internet reveals poor reviews of the diploma mill for well over a two year period.

School choice in Texas is a hot topic right now, and it's more difficult than ever for parents and students to choose wisely. The choices include public schools, magnet schools, charter schools (both public and private), home-rule charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and online cyber-schools; within each one of the confusing categories are hundreds of schools, all with different missions and student populations. Opportunists are perfectly aware of the confusion and it provides them with plenty of prospects to deceive and mislead.

This is precisely the reason that Lincoln and Brownstone fell through the cracks of Texas' oversight; in addition to the fact that the number of TEA personnel who monitor such schools is limited since the agency's staff purge a decade ago.

In the Houston area alone, there are nearly 100 charter schools. And horror stories abound locally.

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Affordable College Textbook Act Would Help Students, But Publishers Aren't Hearing It

Categories: Education

Photo by nika217
Carla Medrano, University of Houston broadcast journalism major, just paid $220 for a new TV Production textbook, no small amount just for one class. Every year students have to worry about how they will pay for their college textbooks. Some students receive scholarships and other financial assistance, while others are placed in a bind trying to figure out how to get their hands on cheap books. That soon may change because of the Affordable College Textbook Act.

Had this bill already passed Medrano would have extra money in her pocket. She said this bill could save her at least $100 each semester.

The Affordable College Textbook Act is a bill that would create grants for colleges and universities to provide free textbooks online in collaboration with professors and other organizations. The books would be licensed to the public where they would be able to customize and distribute the material as they please.

"Imagine all the money I could save," said Medrano. "Instead of buying books I could invest in more classes." Now, you're talking. But, book publishers argue that it's money out of their pockets.

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