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. 

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Suspensions at AISD
10:02 am
Wed May 21, 2014

This Austin High School Reduced Suspensions by Teaching Personal Responsibility

Kent Roberson, director of the Personal Responsibility Center at Reagan Early College High School. The center has helped reduce home suspensions by nearly 75 percent in one year.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT News

This is the final story in a three part series about student suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One and Part Two.

In AISD, black students make up about eight percent of the student population. But last year they accounted for nearly a quarter of the students suspended from school. The so-called discipline gap is an issue in public schools across the nation, and it's something AISD has tried to combat since former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen came to AISD in 2009.  

Addressing Racial Disparities from the Top Down

AISD Interim Chief Schools Officer Edmund Oropez admits a discipline gap exists between African-American students and their peers, but he says the district has implemented various strategies aimed at closing it. A few years ago, the district created the Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness department. Leader Angela Ward single-handedly provides cultural awareness training to all new teachers and administrators. The training asks teachers to examine their own biases – something UT Professor Richard Reddick says is key to creating trusting relationships between teachers and students.    

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Suspensions at AISD
11:32 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Why Do Black Students Get More Suspensions? Here Are 3 Possible Reasons

Nearly one in eight African American students in AISD were given home suspensions last year, more than any other student. It's a national trend that the Department of Education says starts as early as preschool, but there are varying theories as to why.
Credit flickr.com/dcjohn/

This story is the second installment of a three-part series examining the so-called discipline gap among student groups who receive out-of-school suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One here.

During the 2013 school year, African-American students made up eight percent of the AISD student population, but nearly a quarter of the students given an out-of-school suspension.

The discipline gap is not unique to the district; nationwide, black students are suspended at higher rates than their peers. In March, the U.S. Department of Education reported the trend in black student suspensions starts as young as preschool.

While many, including AISD officials, admit the discipline gap exists, fewer people seem to have a solid answer as to why. 

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Suspensions at AISD
11:37 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Black Students Are Eight Percent of AISD – and Nearly One-Fourth of Suspensions

Credit Zack Maxwell / Arlingtonvoice.com

Since 2009, the number of suspensions at Austin public schools has fallen. But African-American students continue to receive out-of-school suspensions at a higher rate than their peers.

During the 2013 school year, 1,066 African-American AISD students – almost 13 percent of the black student population of 8,334 – received out-of-school suspensions. In that same period, 549 white AISD students were suspended­ ­– only 2.24 percent of the 24,543 white student population. Going by those numbers, African-American students are nearly six times more likely to be suspended from school.

Despite teacher training and district efforts, many African-American parents and community members feel like their children aren't understood.

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Austin ISD
10:07 am
Fri May 16, 2014

These Students Forged a Friendship in Austin's 'Golden Age' of Integration

Richard Reddick, left, and Ryan Scarborough upon graduating from Johnston High School in 1990. The two lived in different Austin neighborhoods, but attended the same high school because of school integration policies.
Credit Richard Reddick

Austin has its own convoluted history when it comes to school integration – one involving multiple federal lawsuits and many different strategies to desegregate schools.

Busing was one of those strategies. Many students were bused across the city to schools on the other side of town. West Austin residents went to East Austin schools and visa versa. 

Saturday, May 17, marks 60 years since the Supreme Court struck down the concept of "separate but equal" in Brown v. Board of Education. It's a decision that affected students across the country. But for two Austin teenagers in the late 1980s, it also sparked a life-long friendship.

If you think about it, it’s a miracle Richard Reddick and Ryan Scarborough ever met. Scarborough, a white student from Austin’s Northwest Hills neighborhood, was bused to Johnston High School on Austin's east side, starting in 1986.

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UT Austin
1:41 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Lege Committee Finds Grounds for Impeachment of UT Regent Hall

Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, Jr. takes notes at the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 in Austin.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Update: The House Transparency Committee has voted 7-1 that grounds to impeach UT Regent Wallace Hall exist.

The matter of whether to recommend impeachment proceedings is a separate question still to be decided. The committee will reconvene May 21 to consider articles of impeachment against Hall. But some committee members are hoping the UT Board of Regents or Gov. Rick Perry will take action before then.

"You have a responsibility, Board of Regents," Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said. "You have known about this behavior for quite some time and you have a responsibility to take action to allow one trustee, one member to continue this misconduct, to allow someone to bring down the university. I think the responsibility lies with the Board of Regents. So we are looking to you to make some changes."

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Texas
10:43 am
Sun May 11, 2014

Here are the Results for Central Texas City and School Bond Elections

Many Central Texas towns held city and school bond elections on May 10.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Local municipal and bond elections were held Saturday in many Central Texas communities. Voters approved five out of six Central Texas school school district bond propositions.  Here are some results from those elections, separated by municipality:

Cedar Park:

  • Council member Lowell Moore won his sixth term Saturday with 60 percent of the vote of Dr. Mo Jahadi. Jahadi received 39 percent of the vote.
  • Voters also elected former state representative Corbin van Arsdale to the city council. He ran unopposed.

Eanes:

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Turning the Corner
10:59 am
Fri May 9, 2014

How Teen Pregnancies at Mendez Middle School Were Cut Down to Zero

Last year 22 middle school students in Austin ISD became pregnant, but none were at Mendez Middle School, despite its location in the Austin neighborhood with the highest teen pregnancy rate. So what happened?
flickr.com/dongkwan

This article is part of KUT's yearlong series Turning the Corner, taking a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the Austin school district reported 303 student pregnancies districtwide. 22 of those pregnancies were middle school students.

Despite its location in the neighborhood with the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Travis County, none of them were at Mendez Middle School. So what happened? 

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Education
10:04 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Eanes Bond Election Raises Questions About Out-of-District Transfer Students

The Eanes ISD is asking voters to approve $89.5 million dollar bond proposal, but some opponents say the district should end its policy of accepting out of transfer students because they say it costs the district money.
Credit https://www.flickr.com/audiolucistore/

Today is the last day for early voting in the May 10th municipal elections.

Voters in the Eanes Independent School District are deciding on a $89.5 million school bond package. If approved, the bond package would allow Eanes ISD to borrow money for a new elementary school, as well as some technology and classroom upgrades.

The proposal is the result of three years of community meetings about the future of the school district. 

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Bike to UT Day
2:26 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Austin Police Ticket 47 Campus-Area Cyclists on 'Bike to UT Day'

flickr.com/mirsasha

Bicyclists heading to campus this morning as part of Bike to UT Day received breakfast and the chance to win raffle prizes.

But 47 bicyclists also received something else: a ticket.

This morning, multiple Austin Police officers were seen pulling over bicyclists heading toward campus on Speedway Avenue, just south of the intersection at San Jacinto. The ticketing occurred just blocks north of Speedway Plaza, where a Bike to UT Day party was scheduled to begin at noon.  

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Austin ISD
5:12 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Austin Teachers Union Wants AISD to Reinstate Salary Bump

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis at a rally in support of three-year contracts for teachers. The union is asking AISD to reinstate a 1.5% bonus for teachers next year that is currently not included in the next budget.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT NEws

The local teacher's union is asking Austin ISD to reinstate a 1.5 percent bonus for all district employees for the 2014-2015 school year. The district and the union are expected to meet on the matter Wednesday.

For the past two years, the district has provided a 3 percent pay increase for employees. This academic year, it approved a one-time, 1.5 percent increase on top of that. But the 1.5 percent salary adjustment is not included in the FY 2015 preliminary budget assumptions.

Now, Education Austin is asking the district to change that.

"Our district looks a little different than it did a month ago," Zarifis says referring to the departure of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. "We believe this is an opportunity to find out if we're going to do things different."

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Austin ISD
10:33 am
Mon April 28, 2014

A 'Divided' Austin School Board Faces An Uncertain Future

The Austin School Board
KUT News

The Austin School Board has its first board meeting tonight with Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz tonight.

The board faces many decisions in the coming months, and some are worried it’s having trouble making decisions – especially as it begins its search for a new superintendent.

Last general board meeting, school board members Cheryl Bradley and Jayme Mathias clashed over the approval of school uniforms for the new single-gender campuses, with Bradley calling Mathias' proposal to postpone a decision "ridiculous."

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TEKS and Common Core
9:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Are Common Core and Texas Teaching Standards Really That Different?

Jon Shapley for KUT News

Elgin Middle School sixth grader Allison Graves sits at a computer in math class, using a program called Think Through Math to practice fractions.

“Your friend gave you a bag of candy," she reads. "There are 36 red candies and 27 green candies. What is the ratio of green candies to red candies?”

The online math program takes Graves through each lesson step by step. She collects points for correct answers and competes against classmates and other Texas students.

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AISD
9:08 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen Says Goodbye to Austin

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen photographed in 2009. Her final AISD board meeting was Monday evening.
KUT News

Wednesday will be Austin School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s last day with the district before she leaves for the same position in Atlanta.

Carstarphen attended her final school board meeting in Austin Monday night, where she was recognized for her contributions to the district over the past five years.

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West Plant Explosion
5:09 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Year Since West Fertilizer Plant Explosion is One 'Full of Questioning'

Loretta Volcik and her sister, Jeanette Holecek(L) sit at Volcik's home in West, Texas. Holocek and her husband, James, have lived with her sister since she lost her house in the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s been one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas – just north of Waco.
15 people were killed and more than 150 were injured. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the blast.

A year later there are many signs of recovery and rebuilding in the small town.
But, for some, the rebuilding process has been difficult.

West resident Loretta Volcik says overall, the past year has been filled with one thing: Questioning.

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AISD
8:08 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Austin School Board Names Paul Cruz Temporary Superintendent

Paul Cruz will run the largest school district in Central Texas while the school board searches for a long-term replacement for Meria Carstarphen.
AISD http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Austin school trustees unanimously appointed Paul Cruz as interim superintendent Tuesday night. They also accepted Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's resignation, as she heads to Atlanta to lead that city's public school system.

Carstarphen will remain superintendent until April 23, when her resignation goes into effect. The school district can have a superintendent and an interim superintendent at the same time, as Carstarphen helps Cruz assume his temporary position.

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UT Austin
5:35 am
Tue April 15, 2014

UT Engineering School Receives $5M from ExxonMobil CEO

The UT Engineering School is receiving $5 million from the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex W Tillerson, and his wife, Renda.
Photo by KUT News

Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex W. Tillerson and his wife, Renda, are donating $5 million to the Cockrell School of Engineering. The money is slated to go toward the Engineering Education and Research Center which is expected to open in 2017.

It's a 430,000 square-foot facility that will allow UT Austin to expand its teaching, research and student project space.

Tillerson graduated from UT Austin in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and serves on the school's Engineering Advisory Board and UT Development Board.  His sons, Robert and Michael, are also graduates.

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AISD
8:03 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Paul Cruz to Lead Austin Schools As Interim Superintendent

AISD's chief schools officer Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent Tuesday.
Image courtesy AISD: http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Update: KUT has learned from multiple sources that AISD Chief School Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent at Tuesday's school board meeting.

This comes one day after Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was unanimously approved to lead Atlanta Public Schools district Monday.

Cruz receives high marks from Drew Scheberle, the vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

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Turning the Corner
8:50 am
Fri April 11, 2014

'I Gotta Keep Going:' Boxing Has Dove Springs Students Pushing Ahead

Benjamin Munoz practices on a speed bag at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs.

For the past seven months KUT has focused on the Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin. We’ve been looking at issues facing this largely poor, immigrant community: access to healthcare, educational issues, affordable housing – and how organizations and individuals are trying to bring change.

In October, we went to a boxing ring at Mendez Middle School. An after-school program there is teaching the kids boxing as a way to provide some structure after classes let out.

We went back to the ring recently – and found quite a few things had changed. 

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Fort Hood
8:34 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Obama Eulogizes Soldiers Killed at Fort Hood

Soldiers line Fort Hood's Sadowski Field before this afternoon's memorial.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Update: For the second time in five years, President Obama arrived at Fort Hood to mourn alongside those grieving the loss of their family members in a shooting on post. Three men were killed and sixteen were injured in the shooting on April 2.  

Fort Hood families know death is a part of war: 576 soldiers Fort Hood have died serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“As an army we accept this a dangerous profession, and all who wear this wonderful uniform and pledge to defend our nation and its way of life, understand they may be called to make that ultimate sacrifice," says John M McCue, Secretary of the Army. “But inside these gates, behind these walls, we expect a much different order of things.”

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AISD After Carstarphen
10:11 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Austin School Board Mulls Two New Superintendents: One Interim, One Permanent

The Austin school board discussed the search for an interim and permanent replacement for departing superintendent Meria Carstarphen last night.
KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is expected to leave to head Atlanta's public schools in the coming weeks or months. The Austin School Board is just beginning the search for a new superintendent – and one to serve in the interim. 

On Monday night, they talked about the process to appoint an interim superintendent, as well as hiring an outside company to help find a replacement for Carstarphen.

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