Roy Varney

KUT News Intern

Roy is a second year journalism professional track graduate student at the University of Texas.

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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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Voter ID Law
4:37 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Report: 'Lackadaisical' Texas Leadership Does Nothing to Encourage Voting

Jim Harrington (middle) argues against current voter registration procedures.
Roy Varney for KUT News

Texas' new voter ID  laws can be used to discourage minorities and women from voting. 

That's according to the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project. Today, it released a 63-page report criticizing the states' voter registration procedures, and a lack of voting registration opportunities.

Last June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The act was originally intended to protect voters from discrimination in voting matters, but the Supreme Court ruled that the application of the act, covering large parts of the South, was outdated.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas instituted a voter identification law. The law requires registered voters to present a valid form of identification to vote. The Texas Civil Rights Project would like to see the voter ID law overturned, because they say it can be used to deter minority populations from voting. 

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Sports
6:58 pm
Sat December 14, 2013

Mack Brown Leaving UT Longhorns After Bowl Game

Mack Brown celebrates winning the 2005 national championship over the University of Southern California.
Jim Sigmon UT Athletics

Texas Longhorn’s Football Coach Mack Brown is leaving the team after 16 years.

In an email released Saturday night, Brown said the Longhorn job was the best in the country and that he wants to team to get back to the top of college football.

"I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that's why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again," Brown said.

UT-Austin president Bill Powers and new athletic director Steve Patterson heaped praise on Brown in the release.  Patterson said Brown was a, "...tremendous coach, mentor, leader and ambassador for our university and our student-athletes." While Powers simple said, "Mack is just the best and he will be missed."

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Austin City Council
11:28 am
Fri December 13, 2013

City Council Update: Dogs Banned From Auditorium Shores ‘Event Lawn’

A rendering of upcoming changes to Auditorium Shores.
Credit City of Austin

In its final meeting of the year, the Austin City Council approved a full slate of items.

Among the measures passed was a decision restricting where dogs are permitted at Auditorium Shores. More than a dozen speakers took to the council floor to argue against the change, which would prohibit dogs from lingering on the so-called "Event Lawn" on the east end of Auditorium Shores.

Parks and Recreation Director Sara Hensely said the department took community suggestions under advisement when revising the $3.5 million plan for the parkland. But under a new amendment, dogs are only allowed on the event lawn when traveling from a parking lot to the neighboring areas where dogs are allowed. (No one on Parks staff or the City Council bothered to explain just how that would be enforced.)

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Education
11:54 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Hays CISD Plans to Build New Middle School

The Hays Growth Impact Committee projects student enrollment to increase upwards of 750 students per year.
Credit Roy Varney / KUT

The Hays Consolidated Independent School District is expected to move forward with their request for a $60 million bond. The bond would pay for the creation of a middle school, wireless and mobile devices and additional school buses.

The school district views the spending as necessary, if it wants to keep up with student enrollment growth. On Monday, the Hays CISD School Board will vote on a bond recommendation from the district's Growth Impact Committee, a group of citizens charged by the board to assess growth of the community.

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AISD High Schools
1:32 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Interactive: Austin ISD Graduation Rates, Visualized

Overall graduation rates at AISD schools increased eight percentage points since Meria Carstarphen became AISD superintendent.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

During her State of the District address yesterday, Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen touted the rise in graduation rates among high school students in the district.

Since she began running the district in 2009, overall graduation rates have increased by eight percentage points. Graduation rates have increased in all subgroups, including Hispanics, English language learners and special education students.

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UT Longhorn Football
4:39 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Longhorns Prepare for Thanksgiving Game as Injuries Mount

Mack Brown will look to improve the Longhorns fortunes this Thanksgiving after losing last year to TCU.
KUT Staff

The Texas Longhorns football team will continue their slog through another disappointing season on Thanksgiving night.

The Longhorns will be facing a new Turkey Day foe: Texas Tech Red Raiders. The team will pose a challenge for a banged up and underperforming Longhorns defense. The Red Raiders feature the #1 passing offense in college football and started the season 7-0 before dropping four straight games.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns are coming off a blowout 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State. The loss likely trampled any hopes the Longhorns had to salvage a season with a Big 12 Championship. The defeat dropped the Longhorns to a dismal 29-19 record since the start of the 2010 season.

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Dove Springs
5:04 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

With Help From a Church, Bluff Springs Reboots its Reading Program

Pastor Richard Villarreal reads "Aladdin" to fourth graders at Langford Elementary.
Roy Varney for KUT News

For the first time in five years, southeast Austin’s Langford Elementary School has a free book program.

Langford, where 65 percent of the students are learning English as a second language, is able to relaunch its Reading is Fundamental program with help from a neighborhood church.

Richard Villarreal is the lead pastor at Springs Community Church. He approached Langford principal Dounna Poth last spring and asked how his church could help the school. 

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Transportation
2:42 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Austin Bike Share Hits the Road in December

Bike sharing arrives in the Capital City this December.
Roy Varney for KUT News

Disclaimer: KUT/KUTX is a sponsor of  Austin B-cycle.

The wait is over: Austinites will have a new way to beat downtown traffic come December 21.

Austin B-cycle is launching Austin’s first ever bike sharing program. There will be 11 stations located throughout downtown and south central Austin. Participants will be able to visit a station, rent a bike, ride it and return it to any station.

There’s three tiers of pricing:

  • Day pass: $8. Bikes are free to rent for their first half hour, with a $4 charge for each additional half hour.
  • Seven day pass: $25
  • Annual membership: $80
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Education
6:03 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Failed Bond Threatens Taylor Schools’ Compliance with Disabilities Act

A $7 million bond proposal for a new athletic facility in Taylor did not pass.
Taylor ISD

A small school district northeast of Austin is facing a football field-sized problem.

Taylor Independent School District’s athletic facilities are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Without the ADA-required access, TISD is vulnerable to lawsuits and penalties.

On Tuesday, voters in the city of Taylor rejected a bond that would have built a new all-inclusive athletics facility that would include accessibility for people who have disabilities. Now the school district faces the possibility of paying $1 million to renovate old athletics facilities that they don’t own.

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Energy & Environment
2:00 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Round Rock Schools Are Saving Big Just By Turning Off Computers

Round Rock ISD estimates it could cut down 2.4 million kilowatt-hours per year.
flickr.com/vanwest/

Most computer users are familiar with sleep mode. But the Round Rock Independent School District has found the value in shutting their computers down completely.

The school district is expected to save an estimated $251,000 annually by using a program that automatically shuts computers down after 6 p.m. Over 30,000 desktops and laptops are automatically shut down, drastically cutting energy costs.

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Online Learning
3:22 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Who Benefits From UT's Massive Open Online Courses?

Using edX to increase brand awareness and exposure for UT is a primary goal of the university’s foray into online courses.
flickr.com/utnapistim

This is the first of a two-part look at the University of Texas' Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), now halfway through their initial semester. Read Part One here.

So what it UT getting for its $5 million investment in edX? 

UT Psychology department chair James Pennebaker describes the money spent on edX as a "great investment." He isn't certain how education will look in the near future – but he said no one has that answer. 

"UT and any serious university has to be revolutionary in its thinking,” Pennebaker says. “We have to look forward to new technologies and teaching strategies.”

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Online Learning
3:53 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Are UT's Massive Online Courses Making the Grade?

James Pennebaker and Sam Gosling prepare to stream their for-credit online course.
Roy Varney for KUT News

This is the first of a two-part look at the University of Texas' Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), now halfway through their initial semester.

The University of Texas’ grand entry into Massive Open Online Courses is underway. The courses, better known as MOOCs, are offered as free ways for the general public to access high quality education.

By any traditional college metric, UT's MOOCs, offered for the first time this fall, would be performing terribly: The majority of students who signed up have dropped out, there is no way to detect cheating, and the grading systems are automated. But halfway through the semester, education experts view UT's MOOCs as a success – and a necessity for building the future of its education network.

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Education
12:06 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

At UT, Awareness of Transgender Students is Still a Work In Progress

Shane Whalley teaches over 100 workshops across UT campus about the issues transgender students face.
Roy Varney for KUT News

Over the last three years, nearly 100 colleges and universities across the nation have added non-discrimination policies that included protection for transgender students from harassment and bullying. 10 of those universities are in Texas. However, even with the increase in non-discrimination policies, there is still a lack of awareness and visibility for many transgender students.

Shane Whalley is the Senior Program Coordinator at the Gender and Sexuality Center in the University of Texas at Austin. Whalley first came to UT as a graduate student, and has seen a lot of changes that include the 2008 non-discrimination policy and the installation of 43 gender-neutral bathrooms across campus. Additionally, Whalley says that there have been changes to the way transgender people are viewed.

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State Board of Education
4:59 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

State School Board Undecided on What Courses Should Count for Graduation (Update)

State Board of Education member Patricia Hardy, photographed in 2011. The board is wrestling with high school course graduation requirements.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, spoke and answered questions regarding House Bill 5 in front of the State Board of Education today.

Patrick’s endorsement of the bill, which provides for different paths to high school graduation, was met with skepticism from board member Patricia Hardy. Hardy’s concern revolved around the removal of social studies classes from high school graduation requirements. She argued that turning social studies courses into electives limits a student’s exposure to important information.

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UT Longhorn Football
4:36 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Longhorns Running Back Coach Accused in OSU Pay For Play Scandal

Longhorns head coach Mack Brown says running back coach Larry Porter "absolutely denies” paying players during his time at Oklahoma State University.
KUT News

University of Texas running back coach Larry Porter is accused of illicitly compensating players during his time at Oklahoma State University.

In an investigative report by Sports Illustrated, the Oklahoma State football program is at the center of numerous NCAA violations, ranging from player compensation to drug use. Porter, who coached there from 2002 to 2004, is in his first season with the Longhorns.

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UT Longhorn Football
1:38 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

After BYU Blowout, Longhorns Sack Defensive Coach Diaz

At his weekly press conference today, Mack Brown explained it was his choice to fire Manny Diaz.
Roy Varney for KUT News

When the Longhorns prepare for their game against Ole Miss this Saturday, they’ll do so without Manny Diaz. Defensive coordinator Diaz was fired Sunday after the Longhorns suffered a 40-21 defeat against unranked Brigham Young University this weekend.

"Our performance on defense last night was unacceptable, and we need to change that," Longhorns head coach Mack Brown said in a statement on Sunday. The loss stung particularly given Brown’s preseason confidence in the Horns this season.

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UT Volleyball
10:05 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Longhorns Volleyball Continues to Soar Under the Radar

At a school that spends and makes more than any other college on athletics, volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott has run the most successful program.
UT Athletics Dept.

Texas Longhorns athletics is best known for football. But spiking a volleyball is what it's best at.

The Longhorns women’s volleyball team is hosting No. 1 ranked Penn State and No. 2 Stanford this weekend, as they set out to defend their national title. Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott sees this weekend’s matchups, which also feature eighth-ranked Florida, as an opportunity to garner local attention.

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UT Longhorn Football
4:05 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Your Guide to Texas Longhorns Tailgating

Hook em: A new season of UT Longhorns football kicks off this weekend.
flickr.com/cavalierhorn

College football is back. For many that means a chance to catch their favorite team in action. For others, it’s an opportunity to get down and celebrate.

The two come together in tailgating – that long held practice of grilling, drinking, and eating in a game day parking lot. When the University of Texas Longhorns open their season against New Mexico State Saturday night, expect to see tailgaters by the drove.

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Education
1:45 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

AISD Head Talks Challenges, Successes and Changes in Austin's Public Schools

KUT News

Today is the first day of school for Austin ISD, and that means nearly 90,000 students filling hallways. Meria Carstarphen, AISD’s superintendent, sees the biggest challenges in a successful year as student safety, school funding, and STAAR testing.

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