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June 10, 2015 3 min read
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| NEWS | Learning the Language

English-Language Learners Headto the Top of the Class in Houston

Twenty-five former English-language learners in Houston are graduating at the top of their classes this year, the most in district history, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The district also will graduate 14 salutatorians who began their schooling as English-learners.

The 215,000-student school system has 47 high school campuses.

In the past three years, the number of dual-language campuses in the Houston system has nearly quadrupled, and district leaders have plans to add 10 to 15 more per year, the newspaper reports.

Despite the gains, problems still persist in the district.

English-learners in Houston often still lag behind their fellow students on state standardized tests.

The district has also struggled to meet its overall graduation-rate targets. The latest data show that about 55 percent of ells graduate within four years of entering high school. The district’s overall graduation rate is nearly 80 percent.

–Corey Mitchell

| NEWS | Time and Learning

Baltimore Takes Top Honors for Its Community Schools

Community schools in Baltimore, which helped respond to the needs of local residents during the city’s recent civil unrest, have received four of seven top honors from the Coalition for Community Schools.

The other recipients of the National Community Schools Award for Excellence are in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. The Washington-based coalition making the awards is composed of national, state, and local organizations that advocate for and help connect schools with resources for disadvantaged students.

Community schools are neighborhood hubs. They bring together a broad array of government agencies, social services, and local youth- and family-development groups to provide everything from academic and economic support to health care and enrichment activities for students and families living in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.

The Family League of Baltimore, which manages, coordinates, and supports a network of 45 community schools in partnership with the Baltimore school district and the mayor’s office, won along with three individual schools in the league’s system. They were credited with improving attendance, raising academic achievement, reducing the teenage-pregnancy rate, and increasing the number of students attending after-school enrichment and tutoring programs.

The 22,000 students enrolled in those schools live in the city’s most underresourced neighborhoods.

Julia Baez, the senior director of initiatives for the Family League, said community schools were also some of the first to respond when protests erupted in Baltimore over the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, while he was in police custody.

“On the day that was happening, our schools were making sure that kids had a safe place; our community schools became food hubs in neighborhoods all over west Baltimore because all of the grocery stores and corner stores had been shut down,” Baez said.

–Kathryn Baron

| NEWS | Teacher Beat

Mexico Suspends Teacher Evaluations In the Midst of Protests and Strikes

Members of a radical wing of Mexico’s national teachers’ union went on an indefinite strike last week in an attempt to block President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education overhaul package, according to news reports.

The strike disrupted classes for millions of students as the country headed toward national midterm elections on June 7, which the dissident teachers’ group—known as the National Coordination of Educational Workers, or CNTE—has called on voters to boycott.

Members of the group have reportedly vandalized and blockaded electoral offices in the southern part of the country, most visibly in the state of Oaxaca. Thousands of teachers have also participated in protest marches in Mexico City.

Apparently bowing to pressure from the group, Mexico’s government announced that it would suspend plans to implement teacher evaluations, a key part of Peña Nieto’s education plan.

According to the Associated Press, the CNTE, which has its strongest representation in the country’s poorest states, has argued that the competitive teaching tests used for the evaluations do not effectively measure instructional skills, especially in the “special knowledge needed to teach in Indian and rural areas.”

The union vowed to continue its protests until the rest of the overhaul package is scrapped. In addition to teacher evaluations, the education law includes provisions for teacher performance pay and promotion, tests for new teachers, and greater government oversight of schools.

–Anthony Rebora

A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2015 edition of Education Week as Blogs

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