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. 

Pages

UT Board of Regents
8:19 am
Thu December 12, 2013

UT Regents Put President Powers' Job On the Agenda: How We Got Here

UT Austin President Bill Powers' job is up for discussion during the UT Board of Regents executive session Thursday. It's the latest development in what's become a standoff between state leadership.
flickr.com/thetexastribune

The UT Board of Regents is expected to discuss the employment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during its executive session today. It’s the first time his employment has been placed on the agenda for discussion – and the latest development in what’s become a power struggle among state leadership.

The scene: boardrooms, committee chambers or behind closed doors. The characters: men who hold power in the Texas capitol, or the UT Tower. But how did the situation get to this point?

Read more
Education
8:39 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Under HB 5, All Texas Schools Require 90 Percent Attendance Rate

Under House Bill 5, students in kindergarten through 12th grade will now need to attend at least 90 percent of class to receive a letter grade.
flickr.com/presta

Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed a law (House Bill 5) reducing high school testing and changing graduation requirements. The changes don’t fully go into effect until next school year, but one portion was immediately implemented: new attendance requirements.

Right now, all high school students must attend at least 90 percent of classes to receive credit. If they attend less than 75 to 89 percent of class, then they must create a plan with their school principal to complete missed work and lessons. If students don’t take that step, they risk failing the class or grade, and must petition the district's school board to see whether or not they can advance to the next grade level.

But under HB 5’s new attendance requirement, all students – kindergarten through 12th grade – must meet that 90 percent attendance mark. 

Read more
Charter Schools
8:48 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Austin Charter Focuses on College Prep Despite New Grad Requirements

St. Edward's University is partnering with KIPP Austin Charter school to help more of its students go to college and get a degree.
www.flickr.com/pitmanra/

The charter school KIPP Austin is announcing a partnership Thursday with St. Edward’s University, in an effort to promote the charter school’s mission to prepare students for college and help them receive a degree.

The private university in South Austin will join more than 40 other colleges and universities nationwide that partner with the nonprofit charter school - including UT Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. 

The partnership comes as public school districts across the state begin implementing new state mandated high school graduation requirements. The requirements allow students to pursue a diploma that prepares them for college or a career. While charter schools like KIPP continue to focus on college, it's unclear what the new requirements that offer career or college preparation mean for low-income students at traditional public schools.

Read more
Halloween Floods
9:49 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving in Dove Springs: How Families Are Celebrating After the Floods

Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for Onion Creek flood victims Sunday. Overall, they served 120 meals and delivered dozens more to families affected in the area.
Connie Gonzaes, Facebook

As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.

But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.

The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.

Read more
State Board of Education
10:19 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Should Texas Students Be Required to Take Algebra II to Graduate?

A new law passed this year reduces the number of tests Texas students have to pass to graduate high school. But education advocates disagree on whether Algebra II should be one of those coureses. The SBOE heard testimony on the issue Wednesday.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/underneath/

Update: The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday night to only require Algebra II for students pursuing an honors diploma or pursuing a STEM education endorsement for graduation. 

Under new legislation passed this year, high school students will have to choose at least one of five endorsement paths to graduation. The five endorsements are science and math, business and industry, art and humanities, public service and multidisciplinary studies. Supporters say the different paths will allow more flexibility for students to pursue classes they're interested in and better prepare students for college or the workforce.

Read more
State Board of Education
6:09 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

State Board of Education Removes Speech Requirement From High School Graduation Standards

The SBOE preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as a graduation requirement for high school students in Texas. They vote on a first reading Friday with a final adoption in January.
flickr.com/nirak

The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as one of the required courses for high school graduation in Texas.

The board opted to give local school districts final say on whether or not high school students should be required to take speech. Board Member Tom Maynard says speech is a valuable class, but local school districts should decide whether or not it’s required.

“When in doubt, leave it to the locals to decide that. I suspect either most districts will hold on to that or embed that content in other coursework," Maynard said during Thursday's meeting.

Read more
Education
5:34 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Eanes Superintendent Announces Retirement

Dr. Nola Wellman announced Thursday that she is retiring after 10 years as Superintendent of Eanes ISD. She will remain Superintendent through August 2014.
Courtesy of Eanes ISD

After 10 years as Eanes ISD Superintendent, Dr. Nola Wellman announced her retirement today.

During her time as superintendent, Eanes ISD made headlines when it provided iPads to all of its students, one of the first school districts in the state to do so.

Wellman managed two successful bond elections and was in charge when there were major renovations to the Westlake High School Library and Fine Arts Facility.

Read more
Halloween Floods
10:45 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Cause of Onion Creek Flood Gauge Failure Still Unknown

During the Halloween Floods, two of the flood gauges in Onion Creek failed, forcing National Weather Service workers to rely on workers in the field to read flood levels. Officials are still investigating why one of the gauges failed.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Early on the morning of Oct. 31, as waters rose to historic levels in Onion Creek, two of the flood gauges that officials rely on to monitor water levels weren't working. The flooding heavily damaged more than 600 homes and killed five.

One gauge was completely submerged by water, damaging the equipment – which isn't waterproof. But the other had malfunctioned before the flooding even began. And more than two weeks after the Halloween Floods, city and emergency officials still don't know why.

The gauges, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), provide emergency responders with critical information during floods about how fast and how high flood waters are rising. In Austin, there are 130 flood gauges that measure water levels, rainfall and low-water crossings 24 hours a day.

Read more
Affirmative Action
9:06 am
Wed November 13, 2013

So What Exactly Happened with Fisher v. University of Texas? (Update)

On Monday, the Supreme Court returned the Fisher v UT Austin case to the Fifth Circuit to reconsider.
flickr.com/fisherfotos

Update (July 15, 2014): The Fifth Circuit has ruled that UT's affirmative action policies can continue.

Read more here: ​UT Affirmative Action Policies Stand in Fisher Ruling

Update: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case that questions UT's use of race in its admissions process.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after deciding the Fifth Circuit didn't apply the strictest scrutiny to UT's admissions policies.

While most UT  students are admitted based on whether they’re in the top seven percent of their graduating class, some are admitted based on what the university calls a “holistic review.” An applicant’s race is one element of that review.

Back in 2008, a white student named Abigail Fisher was denied admission to UT under the holistic review. She sued saying she was a victim of reverse discrimination. Lower courts upheld UT’s affirmative action policy.

Read more
Halloween Floods
6:00 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Nearly 200 Austin Students Are Homeless Because of Onion Creek Flooding

Bene Jacobs cradles her disabled ten-year-old son Isaac as he is fitted for a replacement wheel chair. Their Onion Creek area home was devastated by the Halloween floods.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The floods last Thursday in Onion Creek and Dove Springs damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes, displacing families – many of them with children. 

Bene Jacobs, her partner Lawrence, and their three children are one such family. They were rescued from the roof of her neighbor's home.

“My five year old was holding my 16 month old on top of the roof," she says.

While her family is okay, her home has been condemned.

“All of the walls are buckled and the tree fell on top of the roof so they said it’s no longer safe to enter the premise, so it’s fenced off," she says.

Read more
Halloween Floods
11:28 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Austin Police Chief Acevedo Apologizes for Onion Creek Flood Response

More than 500 people came to Perez Elementary School in Dove Springs to learn about flood recovery efforts on Nov. 5, 2013.
KUT

More than 500 people crammed into the cafeteria of Perez Elementary School in Dove Springs, where city officials — including Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo and Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald  — answered questions about recovery efforts.

Dove Springs residents expressed anger when City Deputy Manager Michael McDonald said Red Cross and Austin Fire began rescues early Thursday morning, with one resident shouting, "No! No one came to my house!"

But the tone of the meeting shifted visibly when Police Chief Art Acevedo took to the microphone and apologized for inconsistencies in the city's response.

Read more
Halloween Floods
11:24 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Lack of Bilingual Communication Hampered Relief Efforts After Halloween Floods

Immediately after the waters receded Thursday morning, residents and teachers say there was a lack of communication between emergency responders and residents.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Residents and teachers at Perez Elementary say little information was distributed to residents immediately after flooding in Austin's Onion Creek and Dove Springs neighborhoods last week, leaving some residents confused and unsure where to turn — especially those who don't speak English.

When Pompilio Perez left his home in Dove Springs to go to work at 5 a.m. last Thursday morning. It was raining, but there was no sign of flooding. Thirty minutes later he couldn’t even drive down his own street where his wife, Ana, and his three children were at home. Ana Perez and her kids were rescued from their roof and, by Saturday, they had returned. At that point, she says, they hadn’t received any help.

Read more
UT Austin
8:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

UT Austin Receives $9 Million Gift For Engineering and Science Program

UT Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences has received $9.3M from the O'Donnell Foundation for student fellowships and faculty teaching.
flickr.com/bill78704

The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) program has received $9.3 million from the O'Donnell Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $135 million to the university over the past 30 years.

The money will go towards student fellowships, faculty teaching and recruiting for the program, which combines the study of math, engineering and science disciplines to tackle real world problems, specifically areas like applied mathematics, software engineering and computer visualization. 

Read more
Halloween Floods
4:49 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Photos: Cleaning Up After Flooding in Dove Springs, Onion Creek

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austin and Travis County leaders have declared states of disaster in the wake of last week’s flooding, with more than 600 homes damaged and 37 destroyed. It's the first step in getting federal disaster aid. Officials and residents are still working to clear away debris, while emergency responders continue to provide shelter, food and help as victims figure out their next steps.

On South Pleasant Valley Road in Dove Springs, volunteers set up underneath tents along the road handing out everything from blankets and diapers to deodorant. Neighborhood association president Edward Reyes, says people remaining in their homes could face complications as a result of flood damage.

Read more
Education
2:18 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

New School Offers Some Relief, But Doesn't Solve Overcrowding Problems in Austin

Lawmakers, school board members and members of Janice Guerrero Thompson's family attend a ribbon cutting for the dedication of the new elementary school named in her honor. The school is one of two that will open to relieve overcrowding in the area.
Oscar Palomo, AISD

The brand new Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary School is more than 78,000 square feet with 32 classrooms. Inside, the walls are painted bright orange and purple, and the floor is covered with colorful tiles. On Sunday, more than a hundred people came to dedicate the school to the late district employee and tour the new campus, which looks to mitigate overcrowding in Austin schools.

“Everyone’s been so excited. We’ve been working toward dedication and now it’s official, like we’ve been announced as a school," says Principal LaKesha Drinks.

Read more
Education
5:36 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Why Austin ISD Can't Spend Any of Its 2013 Bond Money

While voters approved two of the four AISD bond propositions in May, a pending lawsuit with the Travis County Taxpayers Association is keeping the district from implementing projects associated with the bond money.
KUT News

In May, Austin voters approved nearly $600 million dollars in bond propositions for capital improvements in the Austin School District.

The money is allocated for technology upgrades in the classroom and district offices, and systemic repairs to facilities on campuses across the district, among other upgrades.

Read more
Turning the Corner
9:53 am
Thu October 31, 2013

The Mendez Middle School Orchestra Just Got 15 Brand New Instruments

Sixth grader Marlonique Johnson plays one of the 15 new music instruments donated to Mendez Middle School Wednesday. The instruments are a gift from Fidelity Insurance, which donates music instruments to schools across the country.
Kate McGee, KUT News

The student orchestra at Mendez Middle School has 15 new musical instruments, thanks to a large donation from Fidelity Investments’ new Austin location. The company surprised orchestra students during a special assembly Wednesday with $20,000 worth of violins, violas, saxophones and other instruments.

Jeffrey Hall, the school’s orchestra director, applied for the gift last year.  For the past four years, he’s built an orchestra program that now consists of 65 sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Read more
AISD
11:59 am
Tue October 29, 2013

New Accountability Standards Add Uncertainty to Failing Austin Schools

Pearce Middle School is requires improvement under interim TEA standards. It will become an all-boys school in 2014.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board approved a set of plans Monday night for 11 schools that need improvement under the Texas Education Agency’s new accountability standards.

But as it rolls out year-long plans requiring monthly TEA visits and evaluations, it awaits new changes to the standards for this academic year.

“It’s going to keep us very focused," says Paul Cruz, AISD Chief Schools Officer. "We don’t know what the performance standards are going to be, but that’s also for every school in state of Texas."

Read more
Dyslexia Awareness Month
3:01 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Debate Over Dysgraphia Services Puts Texas Parents, Schools at Odds

Many parents in Texas public schools face a variety of issues trying to get services for students diagnosed with learning disorders like dyslexia or dysgraphia – often creating debate between parents and school districts about services.
http://bit.ly/Hrpa57

Under Texas law, public schools are required to provide services to students who are diagnosed with dyslexia and related disorders. That includes disorders like dysgraphia—which makes it difficult to write letters and translate ideas into written words.

As  KUT has reported previously, getting services for students with dyslexia in Texas public schools can be an uphill battle for parents and students. But for students with those less common disorders, it can be even harder to detect and diagnose. Many times, parents and school districts are often at odds over what kind of services a student requires. 

Read more
Turning the Corner
8:00 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Video: Dove Springs Students Find Discipline Inside the Boxing Ring

At Mendez Middle School, about a dozen students are learning how to box in a new after school program hosted by the Police Athletic League and the after school program, ACE. Here, Ricardo Ramos spars with Mendez seventh grader Benjamin Munoz.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Read more

Pages