Kate McGee

Education Reporter

Kate is the education reporter at KUT, covering the Austin Independent School District, public, and higher education in Texas. She got her public radio start at Fordham University's WFUV. Her voice has been heard on the East and West coasts as a reporter and producer for WNYC and KUNR in Reno, Nevada. She has also appeared on NPR's Morning Edition,  All Things Considered, The Takeaway  and more. In her spare time, Kate enjoys discovering new music, traveling and trying local beers. 

Ways to Connect

Nathan Bernier/KUT

South Austin residents hoping Austin ISD will open a public magnet school in their neighborhood, similar to the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, may be waiting a while. This week’s school board meeting revealed just how far away the district is from making a decision. 

The number of school districts in Texas that did not meet state standards in 2016 rose slightly over 2015, though almost 94 percent of districts statewide did pass.

1,131 districts met the standards, while 66 failed. At the individual school level, 7,667 campuses met the 2016 standards, which is a small improvement over last year.

As the Texas Tribune notes:

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

Austin public school teachers and principals say they believe students of color are disproportionately disciplined in Austin ISD schools, according to a recently released results from the District Equity Self-Assessment. The survey results show many stakeholders believe there is room to improve equity in student outcomes, student access to academic programs and discipline.


US Army Corps of Engineers/flickr

When Austin resident Katy Ludlow was pregnant, she remembers how concerned many parents were about vaccinating their children. Actor Jenny McCarthy was speaking openly about her belief that her son’s autism was linked to vaccinations and Ludlow grew worried.


Nathan Bernier / KUT

Public school districts in Texas are no longer supposed to file criminal charges against a student for missing too much school. They’re supposed to use the court system only as a last resort. It’s part of last year’s sweeping change to the state’s truancy law that put more emphasis on preventing dropouts and truancy rather than criminalizing that behavior. But school districts are still waiting for some state guidance on how to do that.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

State education leaders want 60 percent of Texans 25 to 34 years old to have some kind of post-secondary certificate or degree by the year 2030. But to get there, students need to be ready to take college-level classes, and it can take leaders time to agree just who qualifies as prepared.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

This fall, the Manor Independent School District is starting a new kind of lending library: Students will be able to check out and take home backpacks filled with books from their teachers.  It’s part of a larger effort to get more books in front of younger students and their families. But, that can be difficult in the small Austin suburb, especially during the summer.


Robert W. Hart / Texas Tribune

School districts in Texas will have more money next year to implement pre-kindergarten programs. The state awarded $116 million last week to school districts as part of legislation passed in 2015. For many Central Texas school districts, that money will go toward additional training for teachers.


Spencer Selvidge / KUT

In the photo, a curly-haired woman stares into the camera wearing a red lifeguard bathing suit, holding a long, red rectangular flotation device over her shoulder.

Texas Tribune

The next legislative session is still more than six months away, but the Austin Independent School District has already chosen its focus issues for the next session. The first one isn’t surprising: school funding. The other is mental health. Austin ISD provides nearly 2,000 students with on-site counseling every year. 


Mengwen Cao for KUT

For some Austin residents in the Windsor Park neighborhood, the problems began two years ago. That's when charter school Austin Achieve built a new school right next to the neighborhood — 16 feet away from some homes, to be exact. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

When students graduate high school, people typically say they have the whole world ahead of them. But some of their future can be predicted just by looking at their high school transcript. New data show that if students in Central Texas take advanced math courses, they have a higher chance of graduating college.


Nearly 100 students enter the gym at the Texas A&M International University in Laredo. They’re practicing for their graduation. As they enter, "Pomp and Circumstance" fills the gymnasium as it's played into a microphone off a phone. 

Principal Israel Castilla takes the students through the ceremony.

"You’re going to be shaking hands and then you have three seconds with the picture," Castilla says.

These students, though, aren’t graduating from college. These are high school students, but many of them are already halfway toward a college degree – thanks to their school: Laredo Early College High School.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

These stories were produced in partnership with PRI's Global Nation project.

For many first-generation college students, high school graduation is seen as a major milestone for them and their families.

Many of those students in Austin say they wouldn’t have graduated or been accepted to college without the help of Breakthrough Austin. It’s a non-profit that helps first generation college students get their degree.

Many immigrant parents who did not graduate high school or college struggle to navigate the education system in the United States. 

Breakthrough meets these students in middle school, pairs the students with a counselor and help them get into good high schools in Austin and succeed academically.

They also help them understand the college application and the financial aid processes.

This week, some of those graduating students and their families share their stories. 

Jon Shapley for KUT

New data from the education non-profit, E3 Alliance, shows that students who enter kindergarten and speak a language other than English are actually twice as likely to pass the third grade STAAR test.


Mengwen Cao / KUT

School’s out, but the Austin School Board is already thinking about classes next fall. The board wants to talk about adding an ethnic studies course in the district, and some school board members want to make the class a graduation requirement.


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

Ella is 14 years old. She loves theater and clothes. She's smart, too.  She was on the Kealing Middle School quiz bowl team, an academic quiz like "Jeopardy." She was also accepted into the Austin ISD’s best high school next year: the Liberal Arts and Science Academy.  

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

For nearly five million students in the U.S., English isn’t their first language. In Austin ISD, some of those students are sent to a special school for international students, a school where dozens of languages are spoken. There, the idea is to help the students learn English before sending them back to their neighborhood high school. But something else happens as well.


Mengwen Cao / KUT News

There’s a fight brewing at City Hall over what regulations Austin charter schools must abide by to build new facilities. City staff says there are loopholes that allow charters to construct buildings without the same regulations as other public school districts, but charter schools disagree.


Charlotte Carpenter / KUT

Austin’s Robert E. Lee Elementary school has a new name: Russell Lee. The Austin School Board voted 8-1 to change the name Monday night. But for some school board members, the decision wasn't an easy one.


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