The 2023 Education Summit was introduced by Dr. Bob Sanborn, the President & CEO at CHILDREN AT RISK and Dr. Frazier Wilson, VP at Shell USA Company Foundation & Manager of Social Investment with Welcome & Opening Remarks which included a background on Texas schools using key demographic data.
The first panel focused on Inclusive Education: Bridging Gaps and Promoting Equity for Students with Disabilities. Sharon Watkins Jones, Director of Texas Business Engagement at Public Private Strategies, led a compelling discussion on the challenges faced by students with disabilities. Sharon clarified early on, “Speaking English as a second language is not so much a disability as it is an opportunity. It is not an indication of a child’s intelligence.” The panelists, including Andreya Sampy, a school psychologist and District level Education Leader: Dr. Natalie D. Hudson, an executive director specializing in special and diverse learners at Varnett Public Schools: and Anne Kelsey, a policy analyst for disability rights at the Young Center for Immigrant Childrens Rights, highlighted the importance of creating an inclusive environment and addressing the unique needs of these students. The discussion began with an acknowledgment of Texas’s recurring shortcomings in this area. The panelists emphasized the importance of early identification and screening, universal design for learning catering to all students ensuring that everyone can access and participate in learning, the intersection of disability and immigration and empowering parents so that they may understand the education process and feel heard.
Inclusive Education Panel Participants
Our second segment was “A Conversation with Mike Miles”. Dr. Bob Sanborn’s engaging conversation with Mike Miles, the Superintendent of Houston ISD, provided insights into the current state and future direction of the Houston Independent School District. The conversation began with a brief history of Miles’ involvement in education, noting his previous role as superintendent in Dallas. The discussion delved into the challenges faced by HISD, including the state’s intervention in the district’s management. Miles emphasized the urgency of addressing the achievement and skills gap, especially with the impending impact of AI on the job market. He stressed the importance of a student-focused approach, advocating for more instructional days and professional development for teachers. The topic of vouchers was broached, with Miles emphasizing the need for flexibility in the education system. The conversation also touched on the importance of high-performing schools and the characteristics of a future superintendent for HISD. Throughout the discussion, Miles underscored the need for systemic reform and a focus on equity in education.
Mike Miles and Dr. Bob Sanborn
The third segment covered “Teacher Workforce and Retention”. Susannah Young, one of the performance coaches at Texas A+ Challenge at Children at Risk, introduced the panel, which included Dr. Gregory S. Prince Jr., former president of Hampshire College; Jonathan Feinstein, State Director for Texas Education Trust; Shirley Appleman, Senior Advisor for Bellwether; and Hector Bojorquez, director of operations and education practice for the Intercultural Development Research Association. The panelists stressed the importance of creating a supportive environment for educators, addressing toxic policies, and ensuring that teachers have the resources and mentorship they need to succeed. Jonathan went further into the topic of supportive environments, “High quality teachers are not born, they are developed through observation, mentoring, practice, feedback, and more practice.” Our panel addressed the responsibility to better understand the contour of teachers and the shortages in as the first step to finding solutions for our communities.
Teacher Workforce and Retention Panel Participants
Claire Dutreix, Sr. Associate Director, K-12 Education at CHILDREN AT RISK, led the following panel conversation, “Supporting At-Risk Students”. Byron Sanders, CEO of Big Thought, Shubhra Endley, LCSW-S Director of Mental Health and Wellness with Communities in Schools, Dr. Twyla Williams, Executive Director of Counseling Crisis & Mental Health for Austin ISD, and Brianna Harris, Manager at Child Poverty Action Lab, all explored the various factors that put students at risk and the essential support systems needed for their success. A key takeaway from the conversation was the importance of wraparound service providers who play a crucial role in addressing students’ comprehensive needs, including social, emotional, and academic support. Shubhra recognizes the collaboration and partnerships being able to address be able provide the right solutions the various issues that students are going through. Bryon, ended on this thought, “it is for us to acknowledge that a young person’s ability to thrive in life has a lot more to do with what happens between the four walls of the classroom.”
Our final panel, “Navigating Cultures, Languages, and Success: The Emergent Bilingual and Immigrant Experience in Texas Public Education” shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by emergent bilinguals and immigrant students in the Texas public education system. Led by Gina Martinez, Regional Director of El Paso/Texas Border at CHILDREN AT RISK, panelist delved into the multifaced aspects of their educational journey, explored the intersection of language acquisition, cultural adaptation, and academic success. The panel included Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, Superintendent of Spring ISD, Maria Silva, Director of Academic Language Services in Canutillo ISD, and Adrian Yam, Interim Senior Early Head Start/ Head Start Director with Baker Ripley. The discussion revolved around the challenges faced by emergent bilingual and immigrant students in the Texas public school system. The importance of recognizing and validating students’ native languages and cultures was a recurring theme. Effective strategies for language acquisition and academic success were also discussed, including cooperative grouping, hands-on activities, and integrating the Alps (listening, speaking, reading, writing) throughout the day. The speakers expressed hope for the future of bilingual education, emphasizing the need for students to be proud of their cultural identities and for schools to provide high-quality education that prepares students for success in higher education and beyond. Dr. Hinojosa ended on this note, “At the end of the day, how we address our immigrant students, and our emergent bilingual students is going to determine how the state of Texas succeeds or doesn’t succeed.”
WATCH THE RECORDING
This summit was sponsored by Shell and presented in partnership with the Texas Family Leadership Council (TXFLC), Corebridge Financial, and Amerigroup.
Thanks to our partners for their collaboration: Children’s Defense Fund, Santa Maria Hostel, Empower Schools, Woori Juntos, Girlstart, United Way of Tarrant County, Molina Healthcare, & Early Learning Alliance.
To learn more about the Texas Family Leadership Council and our collaborative working groups, visit childrenatrisk.org/txflc/
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