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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SXSW 2014
7:58 am
Sat March 8, 2014

Are Massive Open Online Courses Worth It?

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are free, online courses hosted by universities, but open to anyone with Internet access. Universities and colleges are increasingly offering them, but some question the MOOC model.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are free, online courses hosted by universities, but open to anyone with Internet access. They’re a recent development in higher education.

This year, the University of Texas at Austin offered nine MOOCs through the nonprofit, edX.

Many praise MOOCs as a way to provide more educational opportunity, but some are questioning whether MOOCs are really a successful education model.

Jeff Meadows is one of those people.

He’s a teacher development coordinator with the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada and he’s hosting a core conversation at SXSW called, “If MOOCs Are So Great, Why Aren’t We All Doing it?" He came to KUT to talk more about it.

Listen below.

UT-Austin
12:15 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

UT-Austin Approves Partnership to Build World's Largest Telescope

The Giant Megellan Telescope is an international project to build the largest telescope of its kind.
GMTO.org

Update: UT-Austin has received the green light to participate in the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope. When constructed, it will be the world's largest telescope. 

The UT System Board of Regents authorized UT-Austin to put $50 million of its research reserves toward the project, and allowed the university to raise an additional $50 million in donations. 

“Being a charter investor in this remarkable scientific tool will benefit our students, our faculty and the whole university,” UT-Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement Friday.“Not only will we be helping to answer the most basic questions about our universe, but our involvement will underscore our status as a top world university. This is the leading edge of science, and it is where Texas must be.”

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SXSW 2014
11:10 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Austin: Here's the App You Need to Ditch the SXSW Crowds

An Austin-based advertising company created a web app to avoid crowds at SXSW. It uses Foursquare technology to let you know which bars, restaurants and coffee shops people haven't checked in at.
avoidhumans.com

Yogi Berra's famous quote – "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" – has never really applied to Austin's South by Southwest festival.

Yes, there are crowds galore. But people keep coming: in 2012, the number of registrants increased by 15 percent over the previous year.

But now an Austin-based ad agency has developed an app for locals who might be looking to avoid the SXSW masses. It lets you know where people aren’t.

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Turning the Corner
7:45 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Dove Springs Residents Hope New City Council Elections Give Neighborhood a Voice

Edward Reyes, center, is the president of the Dove Springs neighborhood association. He's planning to run for city council in District Two, as the city transitions to single-member district elections.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Since August of last year, KUT has been looking at the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin in its Turning the Corner series. It’s a neighborhood trying to rise above the challenges of poverty – and one common theme that’s been repeated by residents is that they feel ignored.

Cynthia Valadez used to live in the Dove Springs neighborhood.

“That was the one area of Travis County and the City of Austin that failed to get the clinics, the offices, the grocery stores, the doctor’s offices," Valadez says. "Anything that’s health related didn’t go there. You couldn’t do anything in that community."

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SXSWedu
9:11 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Why More Public Schools are Adopting the Montessori Model

Montessori education models have been around for more than a century, but experts say the charter school movement and other factors have made it more popular in public schools in the last decade.
flickr.com/chaimzvi

Disclosure: KUT is a sponsor of SXSWedu.

There are a lot of different opinions for how to educate children. Many are being discussed in Austin this week as part of the SXSWedu conference.

One method gaining popularity in public and charter schools is the Montessori model.

It’s an individualized, structured method in which children control their education with the help of a teacher, rather than a teacher standing in front of a classroom teaching everyone the same idea or subject.
This fall, a Montessori charter school opening up in East Austin is aiming to enroll low-income students.

But as public schools, they must adhere to state and federal standards, while staying true to their unique methods.

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Halloween Floods
2:41 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Austin to Receive Federal Funds to Buyout Homes in Onion Creek

The city of Austin has been awarded $11.8 million to buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The federal government is sending $11.8 million to Travis County to help buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.

More than 600 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed in last October’s flooding, but Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office says the effort to buy out homes and restore the area to its natural habitat goes back to another flash flood there in 1998.

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SXSWedu
3:20 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

How Kendrick Lamar Can Teach Students About Beowulf

Sage Salvo is the creator of Words Liive, a curriculum program that uses hip hop to teach literature and poetry. He's pitching his program at SXSW Edu this week.
Courtesy of Words Liive

Disclosure: KUT is a sponsor of SXSW Edu

What do the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Jay-Z have in common?

A lot, argues Gilbert Perkins,who goes by his stage name: Sage Salvo.

Salvo is an artist and poet from Washington D.C., but he’s also developed a curriculum called Words Liive. It uses rap and hip-hop to teach major themes and devices in poetry and literature – everything from similes and metaphors to epic poems and motifs in novels. Salvo is pitching his curriculum in Austin this week for SXSWedu and stopped by KUT to talk about his curriculum.

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Austin
4:54 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Zilker Kite Festival Postponed Due to Weather

The Zilker Park Kite Festival has been postponed to March 9 due to weather
http://www.flickr.com/bill78704/

The 86th annual Zilker Kite Festival is postponed until next Sunday, March 9, due to weather.

City officials made the decision Saturday afternoon, as the National Weather Service predicts isolated thunderstorms Sunday could get severe.

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing Sunday night.

UT Austin
10:53 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

UT Austin to Sell Alcohol at Longhorn Athletic Games Starting Friday

UT Austin will start selling alcohol at Longhorn basketball, baseball and softball games, starting Friday, when Texas Softball hosts the Texas Invitational.
Dave Wilson Photography http://davewilsonphotography.com/

Update: UT Austin says it will start selling beer and wine at Red & Charline McCombs Field Friday when Texas Softball hosts the Texas Invitational. 

“This trial will be in effect this spring for all remaining men’s and women’s basketball, softball and baseball games, and the fan fest area at the Texas Relays,” said UT Men’s Athletics Director Steve Patterson in a statement released Thursday. “We could look into expanding it for other sports events next fall provided the outcome of the trial is positive.”

At the end of the 2014 spring sports season, UT officials, along with UT Police, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and UT Athletics concessionaire Sodexho Sports and Leisure, say they will evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the trial to see if alcohol will be served at other sporting events. 

The beer and wine trial will not include the spring football game on April 19 at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

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AISD
11:50 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Austin School Board Approves Three-Year Teacher Contracts

The Austin School Board is scheduled to vote Monday whether to go from one-year to three-year teacher contracts
Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Update:  The Austin School Board voted to reinstate three-year contracts for teachers and principals in a five to four vote Monday night. At the same meeting, school district officials also proposed to to close a projected $32 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015. 

The decision to move to three-year contracts comes after the school district and teacher's union, Education Austin, came to an impasse over the issue last month. Austin ISD went from three to one year contracts in 2011, when the state legislature cut billions in public education funding, also forcing the district to lay off more than 1,000 employees.

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Turning The Corner
8:18 am
Fri February 21, 2014

This Dove Springs Librarian Tells Austin Students to 'Get Mad' and Demand an Education

For the past 11 years, Ivan Cervantes has served as the librarian at Mendez Middle School. He began a program that allows students to use computers and play learning-oriented games before school each morning.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes 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 low-income neighborhoods around Austin, 87 percent of children entering kindergarten are considered unprepared for school, which means many of them lack basic literacy skills. At Mendez Middle School in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, that struggle is obvious. Last year, less than half of Mendez sixth graders passed the state standardized test for reading. 

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Halloween Floods
1:27 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Halloween Flooding Caused More than $30 Million in Damage to Insured Properties

Halloween floods caused $30M in damages to insured properties, but the Insurance Council of Texas say that may not include a lot of the damages in this particular flood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

A statewide insurance association says the Halloween flooding in Austin caused more than $30 million in insured damages to residential and commercial properties.

More than 580 insured homes and commercial properties in Hays, Travis and Caldwell counties were damaged by the floodwater, according to the figures released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Insurance Council of Texas

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Education
8:33 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Austin ISD and Education Union at Odds Over Teacher Contracts

Education Austin and AISD are at an impasse over teacher contracts. A three-member committee of board members must now hear arguments and make a recommendation to the full board for a final decision.
Photo by KUT News

Update: Education Austin, the teachers union that represents around 1,800 Austin teachers, and the Austin Independent School District are at an impasse over teacher contracts. The two groups are at odds over contract length: the union wants the district to reinstate three-year contracts, while AISD wants to continue offering one-year contracts.

In a state without collective bargaining laws, it’s rare for a school district to have such a clear-cut process when it and another party can’t agree. 

 

“It’s been very clearly defined that if parties can’t reach agreement, the board of trustees then will ultimately engage in a solution process," Michael Houser, AISD's chief human capital officer, told the school board last night. The last time the district came to an impasse with Education Austin was in 2008. 

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UT System
1:12 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa Steps Down

UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced Monday he is resigning to head pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

After five years, Francisco Cigarroa announced Monday morning that he is stepping down as University of Texas System Chancellor. 

Cigarroa says he's leaving to head the pediatric transplant surgery department at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"It really ended up being a very personal decision as to what is my next role in life?" Cigarroa said at a press conference Monday morning. "What’s the next mountain I want to climb?"

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School Finance
6:30 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Lawyers Give Closing Arguments in Texas School Finance Trial

Judge John Dietz heard closing arguments Friday in the Texas school finance trial. He says he expects to make a final ruling in the spring.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

There finally seems to be an end in sight in the Texas school finance trial as lawyers gave closing arguments Friday afternoon.

The trial initially examined if Texas constitutionally funds public education. In 2012, District Judge John Dietz preliminarily ruled the system was unconstitutional, but he reopened the trial to see if the actions of the 2013 legislature could change his final ruling.

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Education
5:32 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Round Rock ISD Apologizes, Backs Out of Cell Tower at Elementary School

Construction of the cell phone tower at Pond Springs Elementary School in Round Rock. School officals say they're going to try to get out of the contract to build a cell phone tower on campus after parents complained.
Dana Vasagam

The Round Rock Independent School District is backing away from an agreement with cell phone provider AT&T after parents and community members raised concerns about the construction of a cell phone tower on an elementary school campus.

According to a letter sent to parents, the district agreed to lease land to AT&T to build the tower at Pond Springs Elementary School, but some parents say Monday's letter was the first time they had heard of the agreement.

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AISD
9:27 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Nonprofit Says Austin Schools Don't Address Inequality Among Students

The Texas Civil Rights Project wants AISD to start an independent Equity Foundation to help direct private money to schools in low income neighborhoods
KUT News

A nonprofit legal foundation says the Austin Independent School District isn’t addressing education inequalities between high and low-income students. 

The Texas Civil Rights Project released an updated report Tuesday on equal opportunity in the district. It's urging the district to start an independent equity foundation, which would direct private money to schools in low-income neighborhoods and create a level playing field between students regardless of their parents' income. The foundation would promote equal access to things like books and quality teachers and how schools spend their money.

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Education
11:05 am
Tue February 4, 2014

In Texas, Fewer Tests Mean Less Time for Teaching Social Studies

State Board of Education member Pat Hardy, photographed in 2011. She says social studies courses are treated like a "redheaded stepchild" by Texas education officials.
Credit Daniel Reese for KUT News

  The reduction in social studies gradation requirements has disappointed many social studies advocates in the state, but it hasn't surprised them. They say the subject often gets pushed aside when it comes to classroom instruction time, especially with an increased emphasis in high-stakes testing.

Unlike math, science and reading, students aren't tested in social studies until eighth grade. Education advocates say lack of social studies standardized tests means less instructional time for the subject.

“It hasn’t been tested," says Pat Hardy, State Board of Education member. "It’s been treated like the redheaded stepchild, and at the end of the day – literally at the end of the day – they’ll say, 'well, you can teach social studies.' Well, how good do you think that is?”

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State Board of Education
12:19 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Texas Education Board Approves New High School Grad Requirements

The State Board of Education approved new graduation requirements that don't require all students to talk Algebra II
John Walker, Flickr

The State Board of Education officially adopted new state high school graduation requirements this morning. The vote was 14 to one in support of the changes. El Paso Democrat Martha Dominguez voted against it.

Last year, lawmakers got rid of the previous graduation plan which required students to take four math, science, English and social studies courses.

Under the new plan, all students are required to take four years of  English and at least three years of math, science and social studies. Students will then have to choose one of five paths to graduation, known as endorsements. 

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Education
7:48 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Fewer Social Studies Requirements for Texas Students Worry Advocates

Next year, high school students will only have to take three years of social studies to graduate instead of four, which has advocates concerned about the role of social studies in an increasingly global society.
Ryan Stanton, Flickr

The State Board of Education will make its final decision today on new high school graduation requirements. The changes come after state lawmakers passed a bill last year that reduces the number of required courses to graduate. Among the changes: students only have to take three social studies classes to graduate instead of four.

In the early 1990s, Texas became the first state to require students to take four social studies classes to graduate. The change back to three has some worried that Texas students won’t be as prepared for an increasingly global society.

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