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, where she got her bachelor's degree in American Studies and History. 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. 

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School Finance
4:48 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Texas Judge Reopens School Finance Trial (Update)

Judge John Dietz (right) speaking with lawyers on both sides of the school finance trial, which reopened Tuesday with opening arguments. The trial will see if actions during the 2013 legislature should change the judge's initial ruling.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Update: Travis County District Judge John Dietz heard opening arguments today in the second round of Texas' school finance trial. The two sides are arguing over whether actions taken by the legislature last year change the judge’s preliminary ruling that the state’s public education finance system is unconstitutional.

When the legislature reconvened last year, it added back $3.4 billion for public education after it cut $5.4 billion during the 2011 session. Lawmakers reduced the number of required standardized tests for graduation from 15 to five.

At issue: were those changes enough to create a fair and equitable system to finance public education and allow schools and students to meet the state standards?

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AISD
6:00 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Austin School District Brings Diversity to District Leadership

Meria Carstarphen, Pauline Dow and Nicole Conley, the three female members of the Superintendent's senior cabinet. Carstarphen and Conley are the first female CEO and CFO in AISD's history.
KUT News

When Meria Carstarphen became superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, she became the first female Superintendent in the district’s history.

During her tenure, there have been more women in the superintendent’s senior cabinet than ever before, including female Chief Financial Officer, Nicole Conley and Chief Academics Officer, Pauline Dow.  

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AISD
8:40 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Enrollment Dip Worries Some Teachers, Parents at East Austin Public Schools

Luke Muszkiewicz with his daughters, Margot (left) and Hannah. Muszkiewicz and his wife transferred his daughters to Metz Elementary, a school that has seen declining enrollment over the last decade.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Enrollment at many East Austin schools has been declining in recent years. This week, demographers predict those neighborhoods will continue to see a decline in children for the next five to ten years.

Some schools are projected to see enrollment drop to under 75 percent of capacity, including Metz elementary school in the Holly neighborhood just off East Cesar Chavez. Student enrollment there has declined by more than 100 students — or about 22 percent — in the past decade, which worries parents and teachers who are watching the neighborhood change around them. 

“Most of those families who can afford to live here in and around Metz, the demographers tell us are middle and high income families who tend to not have kids or don’t have kids young enough to attend elementary school," Metz Elementary parent Luke Muszkiewicz says.

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Education
10:22 am
Tue January 14, 2014

As Austin Grows, Enrollment May Plateau in Some AISD Schools

AISD's Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of a stasis in the number of students attending Austin schools in the next 10 years.
Photo by KUT News

As more people are expected to continue to move to the Austin area, the Austin Independent School District predicts enrollment in city schools to stay relatively flat over the next ten years. At an AISD school board meeting last night, board members suggested by the year 2023, the Austin school district is predicted to have about 350 fewer students than it does right now.

In a district of 86,000 students, that doesn’t seem like much. But Beth Wilson with the district’s Planning Services department says it reflects a major trend in Austin.

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AISD
7:41 am
Mon January 13, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Austin Independent School District's Transfer Policy

Keeping schools diverse is one reason AISD approves in-district school transfers.
flickr.com/laffy4k

Austin parents have until the Jan. 31 to request to transfer their child to another school in the district next fall. Around ten percent of Austin ISD students transferred between schools in the 2012-2013 school year. In recent years, it’s become a contentious topic as the district must balance overcrowded and under-enrolled schools, while also providing academic options to students within the district.

There are essentially four ways for students to transfer to different schools in the district according to Vincent Torres, the Austin School Board President.

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2014 Governor's Race
8:44 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Education Funding to Play Key Role in Texas Governor's Race

State Senator Wendy Davis, the presumed Democratic nominee for Texas Governor and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the presumed GOP nominee.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera & Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

The first time State Senator Wendy Davis made waves as a Texas lawmaker was during the 2011 legislative session when she filibustered a budget that cut four billion dollars in funding for public schools.

“It’s the first time that we’ve ever done this in state history and the funding of public education and it’s a cut that I simply cannot stand for," Davis said during that filibuster.

But stand she did, pushing the 2011 legislature into a special session, where the budget plan were eventually approved anyway with the cuts included.

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Education
9:02 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Manor School Focuses on Relationships to Boost Attendance

Manor ISD boasts some of the best attendance in the country, placing nationally in the Get Schooled initiative in Fall 2013.
Courtesy of Manor ISD

A high school in the Manor Independent School District is being honored for winning a nationwide attendance challenge in the fall through the Get Schooled program and the E3 Alliance.  The school district has been putting more attention on improving student attendance rates, but it's especially excited about this particular school’s success in that area.

Manor Excel Academy is a small school with two buildings and about 124 students. Some are as old as 21. It’s what’s called an accelerated diploma high school that helps at-risk students. Students may be behind in credits or failing standardized tests when they enter the school. They could qualify for free or reduced lunch and, at the same time, be raising children or working to make ends meet. 

“It's a school of opportunity," says Kevin Brackmeyer, Manor ISD superintendent."The school allows students to have a second chance."

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Education
9:34 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Leander ISD Using 'Sensory Gardens' to Teach Disabled Students

Leander ISD students with special needs can learn to grow herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables in sensory gardens.
flickr.com/dklimke

Some elementary schools in the Leander School District are using gardens to teach life skills to students with disabilities by using their five senses.

For students with some physical or developmental disabilities, even the simplest tasks can be difficult. That makes it hard to learn reading and writing—as well as life skills, like knowing their address or phone number, how to interact with other people and personal responsibility.

In the garden, students can use their senses to learn about plant life and where food comes from, as well as help students with physical development and coordination. The students can touch the dirt and the leaves, smell the herbs, water the plants and watch them grow.

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Education
10:02 am
Fri January 3, 2014

How Two Austin Principals Are Improving Test Scores at Low Income Schools

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

On the outside, Blackshear Elementary and Graham Elementary schools in Austin don’t have a lot in common. Blackshear has around 230 students, while Graham has nearly four times than that.  In East Austin, Blackshear’s building was built more than a hundred years ago. Graham Elementary—in the North Central part of the city—has a more 1970's architectural look.

But inside, the two schools -- with more than 90 percent economically disadvantaged students -- are run almost identically using a new philosophy called the New Three R's.

Since the late 1700’s, the Three R’s of learning have commonly been known as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Graham Elementary Principal Blaine Helwig says the "New Three R’s” stand for the "Right people," the "Right systems" and the "Right resources."

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Education
7:21 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Blackshear Elementary Students in Austin Relax with Yoga Class

flickr.com/Heidelknips

Students at Blackshear Elementary School in East Austin are learning more than just math and reading.

Some are also learning deep breathing, stretches and relaxation techniques in an afternoon yoga class. It's part of the school’s enrichment program, which offers classes in everything from gardening and cooking to song writing and penmanship.

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Austin
8:00 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Austin Artist Empowers Sexual Violence Victims

The Wings of Courage project was created by an Austin artist. It aims to empower sexual violence victims.
jennhassin.com

A local artist is trying to raise awareness about sexual violence through an art project called Wings of Courage. The project started as a way to visualize sexual abuse statistics in Austin.

In 2012, there were more than 200 reported rapes and nearly 650 cases of reported child molestation in Austin. Jen Hassin wanted to represent those statistics through something more approachable, like art.

She created a wooden dove, painted it red and placed a rounded gold nail in the bird for every reported case.

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Education
10:43 am
Mon December 23, 2013

What GED Test Takers Can Expect With the New Test

A new GED test gets rolled out in January.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Exams are over for most students as schools close their doors for the holidays. But the GED is being revamped Jan. 1, and testing centers around the country have seen floods of people hoping to finish the exam.

The GED has five parts, and many test-takers have completed only a portion of the exam. If they don’t complete it by the end of the year, their scores will be wiped clean and they’ll have to retake it.

The new version of the GED is expected to more rigorous – and more expensive.

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Education
4:27 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

How Do Austin Students Compare to Other Cities?

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen (right), praised Austin students for thieir scores on a national test.
Roy Varney KUT

Austin public school students in fourth and eighth grade scored higher in math and reading than students in other large cities, according to results from a new government study released Wednesday. 

The report looks at results from a national standardized test given to 21 urban school districts with populations of 250,000 people or more. It’s part of the National Center for Education Statistics' National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

While the results are positive, the scores remained relatively flat from 2011 –  the last time Austin students took the test.

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Education
10:36 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Austin School Board Shows Support for Superintendent Carstarphen

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen received a glowing evaluation from the Austin School Board last night. They praised her for improving graduation rates and keeping a balanced budget.
KUT News

If you attended your first Austin school board meeting Monday night, you would have never guessed Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has ever received criticism from school board members, the teachers union, Education Austin, or the Austin community.

Austin School Board President Vincent Torres commended the superintendent in the board's annual evaluation, recognizing the challenges the district faces and outlining the district's achievements over the last year. He highlighted improved graduation rates, dual language programs, early childhood education, and the superintendent's ability to balance the budget in the face of continued cuts from the state.

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Texas Football
3:02 pm
Sun December 15, 2013

Mack Brown Discusses Decision to Step Down as Texas Football Coach

After sixteen years wearing burnt orange, Mack Brown has decided to leave his post as the head coach of the University of Texas Longhorns football program. At a press conference Sunday, Brown explained his decision to step down after the Bowl Game against Oregon in two weeks.

“There are just too many distractions too many negatives, and players and coaches shouldn’t have to deal with negativity about me or the university,” he said.  “The university is so much bigger than any person.”

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