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Ten Must-See Events at This Year's SXSW EDU

Every spring, educators, philanthropists, and policymakers flock to Austin, Texas, for SXSW EDU, a four-day festival that “fosters innovation… through opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and engagement.” The event, now in its tenth year, takes place March 9-12, and the Commit Partnership is thrilled to host panels featuring a diverse array of classroom teachers, systems leaders, and elected officials.

With dozens of options, trying to decide which sessions to attend can be overwhelming, so we’ve listed some of our favorites below.

Commit Panels

Overcoming Politics to Invest in Public Education

March 10, 2020 | 2:00PM – 3:00PM

Austin Convention Center | Room 12AB

In the 2019 legislative session, Texas lawmakers worked across the aisle to achieve near-unanimous approval of House Bill 3, an $11.5 billion school finance reform package that put student outcomes at the center. Commit CEO Todd Williams served on the bipartisan Texas Commission on Public School Finance, which created recommendations that helped shape House Bill 3. Here, he’ll lead a discussion with three of his fellow commissioners, all high-ranking members of the Texas Legislature, about how school finance measures can be used to drive student achievement and equity, and how to build the bipartisan coalition needed to do so.

Black Kids are English Language Learners, Too!

March 9, 2020 | 12:00PM – 12:30PM

Hilton Austin Downtown | Salon C

For early learners, speaking a dialect different from the one taught in class (e.g. African-American Vernacular English) can create an obstacle to literacy acquisition similar to speaking a different language. To effectively close literacy gaps, educators must be aware of these unique challenges. Dominique McCain, managing director of the Best in Class coalition, will lead a discussion on this topic, featuring Dr. Miriam Ortiz, a professor of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University, and Shareefah Mason, a Texas public school teacher, Gov. Abbott-appointee to the State Board of Educator Certification, and author of an essay which inspired this discussion.

Increasing Pre-K Enrollment Through Collaboration

March 11, 2020 | 12:00PM – 12:30PM

Austin Convention Center | Ballroom G

Too often, public school districts are presented as competitors for a market share of students. But district leaders across Dallas County recognized that increased participation in early education benefited the entire community and came together to pursue a first-of-its-kind collaboration: Each district contributed funds for a media buy that advertised Pre-K access for low-income students across the county. The enrollment rates for the region have now surpassed the state’s. Early education leaders from across the county, led by Early Matters Dallas manager Chelsea Jeffery, discuss how you can replicate this model in your community.

‘Alexa, Enroll Me in College’ : Higher Ed & Blockchain

March 11, 2020 | 12:30PM – 1:30PM

Hilton Austin Downtown | Salon J

Big data technology has the potential to transform the college-going process. Dallas-based blockchain company Greenlight Credentials has already begun partnering with the Dallas County Community College District to create a next generation transcript that can be used by higher education institutions and employers alike. Eric Ban, managing director of the Dallas County Promise, will lead a discussion how these technologies can empower students to have agency over their own data, and how they can be taken to scale. He’ll be joined by Chancellor Joe May of the Dallas County Community College District and representatives from Greenlight Credentials and Amazon Web Services.

Partner Panels

Early Learning & Care as a 2020 Election Priority

March 9, 2020 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM

Austin Convention Center | Room 12AB

Most families struggle to find and afford high-quality care for their children. Thankfully, voters, candidates, and elected officials have elevated early learning into the political mainstream. This discussion on policy and politics will feature Libby Doggett, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education.

A Changing Texas: How Pub Ed Needs to Respond

March 10, 2020 | 11:00AM – 12:00PM

Austin Convention Center | Room 12AB

Texas is growing and changing. How can our state best address the challenges of an increasingly diverse and economically disadvantaged population? This discussion will feature Michelle Smith of Raise Your Hand Texas and Texas 2036’s Margaret Spellings.

Why Everyone in Texas Is Talking About Dallas

March 10, 2020 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM

Austin Convention Center | Room 12AB

What can schools across the state can learn from the Dallas Independent School District? Eva Marie-Ayala, education reporter for the Dallas Morning News, will discuss with DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and Texas Education Commissioner, and former DISD board trustee, Mike Morath.

Talent Management in the Age of Teacher Shortage

March 11, 2020 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM

Austin Convention Center | Room 18CD

Talent management is more important than ever for our education system to maintain and grow an effective, diverse workforce. This panel discussion features the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources of Lubbock ISD, an important partner to our Best in Class coalition.

Free College: The Reality & the Promise

March 12, 2020 | 11:00AM – 12:00PM

Hilton Austin Downtown | Salon H

What lies between the promise and the reality of “free” college education? What’s missing from draft policies, and how can advisors help students navigate the real cost of college? The panel attempting to answer these important questions includes Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, an important partner with the Dallas County Promise.

Learning to Lead on Racial Equity

March 12, 2020 | 12:30PM – 2:00PM

Hilton Austin Downtown | Salon F

This session will focus on helping leaders in K-12 schools and districts, community colleges, and four-year postsecondary institutions understand what is required for leadership on racial equity. This conversation will be hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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