Dallas ISD teacher selected for national committee

Martin Osae, a middle school science teacher at West Dallas STEM School, is going national. Osae was recently selected from across the nation to serve on the steering panel for the 2028 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science Assessment Framework project.

For over five decades, the NAEP, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” has provided information on the achievement and performance of students in the United States. Periodically, the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent nonpartisan board created by Congress to set policy for the NAEP, reviews the existing assessment frameworks to determine if changes are needed. 

In 2021, the governing board led a review of the NAEP Science Framework, last updated in 2005, and agreed upon the need for an update. The governing board then set the process of determining and notifying the accomplished members of the Steering Panel for the 2028 project in motion. 

“Being selected as one of 30 educators from around the country is truly an honor and one of the highlights of my career as a science educator,” Osae said. “Having served in our district as a science teacher, science coach, professional development facilitator and instructional lead coach, this opportunity serves as the icing on the cake of all my work in science education.” 

Osae attained his National Board certification in 2008 and currently mentors national board candidates from across the state through the Region 10 Education Service Center. For several years, he served as an instructional lead coach and provided mentoring and support to science teachers in Dallas ISD, but he has since returned to the classroom to teach and build capacity for science at West Dallas STEM School. 

Osae is passionate about providing opportunities for students and teachers alike to engage in hands-on science exploration. He recently founded STEM In The City, an initiative geared toward promoting STEM careers among minority and immigrant youth in the community, and he is looking forward to serving as a member of the Steering Panel. 

The NAEP Science Assessment Framework project will bring together a panel of subject matter experts, practitioners and members of the general public to develop updated recommendations, followed by a collection of public feedback. The process culminates with governing board approval of the recommended framework, with updates to the NAEP Science Framework scheduled to be completed in fall 2023. The updated framework from this project will be reflected in the 2028 NAEP Science Report Card, which allows time for assessment development, including a pilot administration in 2026. 

Do some good

If you want to help others and have the opportunity to wear jeans to work, now is your chance by supporting the district’s United Way of Metropolitan Dallas employee fundraising drive. To add a little more fun and excitement to the United Way giving campaign and to accommodate diverse schedules, district employees can wear jeans one day per week during the campaign in exchange for a $5 donation per day starting this week through Dec. 16. Learn more about how to give by visiting the district’s United Way page or by watching this video


Research-based strategies make learning visible

Professor John Hattie, a leading researcher in the education fields and author of “Visible Learning” and “Visible Learning for teachers,” visited C.A. Tatum Jr. Elementary School and Ann Richards STEAM Academy on Oct. 26 to provide insights on research in action. 

Hattie’s work encourages teachers to evaluate their own teaching practices, see learning through their students’ eyes and support students in becoming their own teachers. 

At both Tatum Elementary and Richards Academy Hattie met with a team from the school to hear their successes and growth areas, toured classrooms to observe teachers and organized a debrief to determine next steps. 

One of the main focuses at Richards Academy was incorporating success criteria into each lesson to accelerate student growth. 

“Referencing my learning goals and success criteria, as well as having students hold themselves and me accountable for what is needed for success in that lesson, helps them know what is expected for them to learn and demonstrate each lesson,” said sixth-grade math teacher Audrey Wilcox. 

Hattie encouraged campus leaders to ensure that their teachers understand the impact they are making each day as they follow the “Visible Learning” practices. Overall, he said he was pleased to see how the students were interacting in the classroom. 

“I saw everybody engaged—every student—and that’s very rare,” Hattie said. “It was quite impressive to see so much engagement, and hearing from the students, they are on task. Even when it was difficult, they were not turned off by that.” 

The Tatum and Richards communities will continue to use “Visible Learning” strategies, including the success criteria, to enhance student learning, increase engagement and allow students to play a more active role in their education. 

ESSER update: SPED online assessments increase efficiency

More and more experiences are going digital these days, including the Special Services Department’s online assessments. These assessments are used to determine what support a student who is referred for these services needs to thrive, making it especially important for them to be both timely and of high quality. Thanks to federal dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, the online rollout has been a success.  

“In the past, we would have to purchase protocols, like a paper rating scale that we would have to give to parents or to the student. Our evaluators would send them out, and they would get lost,” said Anabel Meyer, executive director of Special Services. “Now we can email rating scales, and the systems can score the protocols automatically, and, in essence, help us write our reports. They really do help increase efficiency and capacity.” 

Last school year, $250,000 from the ESSER funds went toward providing the online assessment platforms—Q-Interactive and Q-Global—and any other necessary technology required to complete the protocols. Not every assessment is best suited to the online format, but the Special Services team plans to use ESSER funds to keep the momentum going for an additional two years. 

This year, they received a funding increase of $100,000 and anticipate using $350,000 for online assessments, because, in Meyer’s words, “We see the need; we see how much the online assessments helped.”

Special Services Executive Director Michelle Brown agreed: “Typically, when you think of a special education evaluation, you might think it’s only one person. But sometimes it can be up to four or five people who are evaluating the same child, so having digital tools makes it easier for the team to work together to ensure that they are having a quality evaluation looking at all disciplines.” 

Not only have the online assessments increased Special Services’ overall capacity, but they have also reduced maintenance costs and made it easier for evaluators to access the most current information. 

One area they are hoping to develop further is access to bilingual online assessments. Some companies that Dallas ISD has worked with in the past have not offered Spanish evaluations, so Special Services is researching bilingual assessment options as they become available to expand the offerings they have. Meyer said the goal is to let families know that they are receiving the “gold standard and the highest quality” for their students. 

“Time is of the essence,” Meyer said. “Students who need specialized services of any sort have some of the biggest gaps in their learning, so we know that early intervention is key; early identification is key. The quicker we can be with providing those evaluations and getting them linked into services the better so those students can feel successful early on.”

Be careful plugging it in

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Dallas ISD’s Information Technology is sharing tips to stay safe online. Although IT experts recommend using cloud storage, this week we share some tips to safely use removable media:

  •  Never keep sensitive data on portable devices
  • Do not plug in unknown USB drives into your computer
  • Always scan USBs for viruses before using them
  • Always ‘safe eject’ flash drives to ensure files are completely transferred on the device
  • When applicable, use passwords and encryption on USBs to protect your data

National Cybersecurity Month has been celebrated since 2004 led by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) in a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise cybersecurity awareness nationally and internationally. 

This year’s theme—See Yourself in Cyber—shows that everyone is part of cyberspace and that it’s up to each person to make smart decisions to keep important information safe.

Transforming lives through mentorship

National Mentoring Day is being celebrated on Oct. 27 to recognize the extraordinary leaders who are sharing their skills and experiences with those around them. Dallas ISD’s Mentor Teacher program was developed to create those transformative connections, and this year, 746 mentors were paired with 967 mentees to impart the confidence and skills they need to thrive. 

“Ensuring that every student in Dallas ISD has access to an effective teacher is a top priority,” said Charissa Govan, executive director of Professional & Digital Learning. “Additionally, we believe that nurturing and retaining teachers is critically important. Dallas ISD mentor teachers are champions who support and coach new teachers on their journey as professional educators. Our mentors have shown a passion for the profession and serve as a model for lifelong learning and leading to promote excellence in the classroom.”

Heaven Odanga, a pre-K/kindergarten montessori guide at Harry Stone Montessori Academy, is one of those new teachers. The proud Skyline High School graduate was inspired to join Dallas ISD as a teacher when she learned about the national teacher shortage. 

“I saw the vacancies, and I thought, ‘That’s my district. Those students may not have anyone to teach them, or they are going to have a different substitute every day,’” Odanga said. “It was my push to go ahead and apply.”

But starting off as a first-year teacher and a first-year Montessori guide is no easy feat. Luckily, Odanga was matched with Janet Washington, a lower elementary Montessori guide who has been teaching in Dallas ISD for the past 15 years. 

The two of them were working together to support the school’s cheerleading team before the mentorship program was even announced, so Washington said their mentor/mentee relationship was a natural transition. 

Harry Stone’s mentorship program kicked off with a comparison reading about marigold plants and walnut trees. Odanga explained that marigolds are scientifically proven to help other plants grow and flourish, while walnut trees have been shown to release a chemical that keeps plants around them from growing. Each mentor pair was given a marigold plant to symbolize their teaching goals, which Odanga keeps in her classroom. 

“We are responsible for making sure that this community flourishes, and I take pride in having that responsibility. Ms. Washington will even say, ‘How is my marigold doing?’” Odanga said. “At the same time, sometimes we may have a walnut tree moment or we might have a hard day, and that’s when we can go back to our mentors and talk to them.”

Washington is passionate about giving Odanga whatever support she needs to succeed. That passion began when she received her own mentor, Charlotte Govan, as a first-year teacher in 2007. 

“When I first met her, I modeled everything—the way she walked, the way she talked, the way she delivered lessons,” Washington said. “She was definitely the guiding force that made me and helped me, and I wanted to give back and do that for someone else.” 

Her advice for other mentor teachers is to remember what it felt like to be new to the profession. As for mentees, she said, “Don’t forget to ask.” The concept may be simple, but Washington said she has seen time and time again that mentorship can be “life changing.” 

“It’s so important for new teachers to have a mentor in their life,” Washington said. “I wanted to be a marigold for a teacher in this building because I wouldn’t have made it without my mentor. She’s retired now, but we still talk to this day, and now Ms. Odanga is mentoring our cheerleaders. That cycle of giving back is awesome to see, and by the end of this year, she’s going to be a great teacher.” 

Attendance matters all year long

Students, staff and families play a vital role in making sure students are in class every day, and Dallas ISD is sharing ways to promote and celebrate attendance all year long through the Strive For No More Than Five campaign. 

The initiative engages and challenges students and parents to commit to limiting absences to no more than five days for the entire school year. Having five or fewer absences annually is considered great attendance, and Dallas ISD’s Parent Services department believes all students can do it. 

“We want to aim for perfect attendance, but we understand that absences are sometimes unavoidable,” said Sally Salinas, a specialist with Parent Services. “Instead, we are challenging students and parents to commit to limiting absences to no more than five for the entire school year.” 

Salinas said best attendance practices for families include scheduling doctor, dentist and other appointments outside of school hours and planning vacations when school is not in session, if possible, and submitting excuse notes to their school’s attendance office. They can also keep track of their student’s absences by using the Parent Services attendance tracker

Dallas ISD teachers and staff can support the Strive For No More Than Five campaign by displaying attendance yard signs and posters—which can be found on the Parent Services’ website—around campus and by encouraging families to take advantage of the attendance tracker. 

Students who finish the year with five or fewer absences will be eligible to receive a prize. In past years, Dallas ISD has partnered with Six Flags Over Texas to provide a free admissions ticket for each student with the purchase of an adult ticket. This year’s prize is still being determined, so stay tuned for the final announcement of the Strive For No More Than Five prize.  

“Attendance has an impact on students’ academic performance and success in the long run, so from the minute that a student is actually enrolled in school, we want to help them create good attendance habits,” Salinas said. “If our students can Strive For No More Than Five, then it is going to show that these students have limited their absences and have prepared themselves to be successful in school and begin good attendance habits that will last a lifetime.”

To learn more about the district’s annual attendance campaign or to find additional resources, visit Parent Services at https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/57331.

Focus the day on reducing your stress

When anxiety and stress set in, they can make it difficult to manage many aspects of everyday life, including work and relationships. Dallas ISD is bringing awareness to and prioritizing the health and well-being of all students, staff and families, so join the district in recognizing National Stress Awareness Day—celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in November—and learn to recognize the signs of stress and ways to manage it. 

Many people experience anxiety and stress when they are facing a difficult situation, but anxiety can also appear unexpectedly and last for hours or days at a time. Common symptoms include irritability, headaches, excessive worrying, sweating, shortness of breath, shaking, restlessness, disrupted sleep, panic attacks, muscle aches and digestive problems. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with and ease stress and anxiety. Review the following self-care practices, and consider what other routines might help you feel better when you are struggling. 

  • Deep breathing
  • Journaling
  • Reading a book or poem
  • Sharing your concerns with a trusted friend or relative
  • Reminding yourself that you are safe
  • Exercising regularly 
  • Expressing gratitude 
  • Meditating 
  • Practicing spirituality
  • Changing your physical position (i.e. going from standing to sitting)
  • Adopting a calming mantra 
  • Taking a mental break
  • Socializing with friends, family members and co-workers
  • Reframing negative thoughts 
  • Speaking with your primary care physician and/or mental health provider 

In the words of an anonymous proverb, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, it turned into a butterfly.” Take some time to assess how you are feeling and ask for help if you need it. No one has to go through their struggles alone, and Dallas ISD is here to support you. 

The district’s confidential, secure Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks has countless resources available online for free. From on-call counselors to practical mental health tips, employees can find what they need, when they need it. Contact LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

Source: Mayo Clinic Health System 

Doing good together

It’s time for Dallas ISD’s two-decade-old employee giving fall tradition in support of United Way Metropolitan of Dallas. To date, the district has raised over $5 million to support many organizations that support district students and families, and this year is expected to raise $100,000 through Dec. 16.

One of the first steps in the campaign, which kicks off Monday, Oct. 24, is for departments and campuses to identify an individual who will serve as United Way Champion for the campaign. UWMD Champions are the core of the employee-giving campaign. Selecting the right individual who embodies the district’s cultural tenets is key to each department/campus reaching its fundraising goal. This individual should be someone who understands the importance of collaboration, is goal-oriented, has a philanthropic spirit, and has a go-getter attitude. Champions will receive bi-weekly calendar invitations to attend virtual check-ins with the campaign coordinator to cover questions and receive fundraising tips and best practices.

Departments/campuses are encouraged to create an individual fundraising goal based on the number of employees on the team with a suggested minimum donation of $10 per employee. As a bonus, participants will have the opportunity to participate in jean days throughout the campaign. Stay tuned for additional information.

Register your department or campus United Way Champion using the following form: https://forms.gle/rfCzEzzfhtdaYLmi7.

Participating in this campaign sends a strong that employees not only work for the district but also support the community. Dallas ISD has selected the Dallas Education Foundation (DEF) as the charity of choice. DEF serves as the district philanthropic arm and has supported grants for teachers, campus needs, programming, technology, and much more. 

Employees can set up a donation in Oracle for payroll deduction or make a credit or debit card donation through GiveUnited. Payroll deductions would start in January 2023.