REL Southwest and Texas Comprehensive Center Showcase Their Work at the 2017 TASA Midwinter Conference

REL Southwest and the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) showcased their work in Texas at a joint session of the 2017 Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Midwinter Conference in Austin on January 30. Titled "Evidence-Based Research on Educator Effectiveness and English Learners in Texas," the session drew 52 participants, including principals, assistant superintendents, superintendents, district staff, and education service center staff.

The focus of the interactive session was on the work REL Southwest and the TXCC are doing in Texas around educator effectiveness, Hispanic STEM outcomes, and English learner (EL) education. As related programs within the U.S. Department of Education, REL Southwest and the TXCC are collaborating on much of this work to coordinate efforts and share resources.

Jason LaTurner, deputy director of REL Southwest and director of the Texas Comprehensive Center, began the session with an overview of both programs. Three presentations followed.

  • Educator effectiveness.  John Spence, deputy director of the TXCC, described how REL Southwest and the TXCC are collaborating to promote educator effectiveness in Texas. This work includes projects supporting the Texas Education Agency's implementation, pilot, and refinement of the state's new educator evalution system.
  • Hispanic students' STEM outcomes.  Spence also presented REL Southwest's report Exploring the Foundations of the Future STEM Workforce: K–12 Indicators of Postsecondary STEM Success. After receiving a synopsis of the report's key findings, participants discussed them in small groups using guided questions.
  • Academic support for EL students.  Jackie Burniske, REL Southwest dissemination director, shared an overview of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Facilitator's Guide. This guide is designed to help teacher teams apply the evidence-based recommendations in the Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School practice guide, produced by the What Works Clearinghouse.

Burniske also featured the series of 23 videos that accompany the facilitator's guide. The video series include examples of teachers applying the strategies in the classroom at multiple grade levels. Participants watched a sample video, "Using Graphic Organizers in Writing, 4th Grade Class," and then used the provided video viewing guide to debrief the lesson delivery, including the resources the teacher used, how she engaged students, and the feedback she provided. When asked if their professional learning communities would find the video useful, participants expressed unanimous support.

All participants received a follow-up email with a full set of the resources shared in the session.

Arlene Longoria, project manager at the Texas Center for Educator Effectiveness, expressed her appreciation. "The session was one of the BEST I attended!" she wrote. "Thank you for the work you are doing for our ELLs."

Longoria also noted that she has shared the PLC Facilitator's Guide with Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and would stay in touch to relay the district's feedback.

About the TASA Midwinter Conference

The TASA Midwinter Conference is an annual event held in Austin, Texas. The most popular state conference for school leaders, the event provides opportunities for collaboration, learning, and networking. In 2016, the total number of conference participants was 6,500. School leaders from more than 950 Texas school districts, including nearly 800 superintendents, attended as well as staff from all 20 of the state's regional education service centers.

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