AISD

Education
9:32 am
Tue October 15, 2013

As Social Media Evolves, So Do Austin Schools' Anti-Bullying Tactics

Austin school officials try to prevent cyberbullying – although they admit students may be more familiar with social media than many instructors.
KUT News

During the school day, teachers and administrators are in charge of student behavior on school property. But as the number of students with smart phones and on social media increases, so does the number of interactions between students beyond the schoolyard – which in some cases leads to cyberbullying.

In the Austin School District, teachers and faculty try to combat cyberbullying, while also educating students about their own digital footprint.

“We will see cases that involve students going back and forth: name calling, talking about other students," says Beverly Reeves, the AISD ombudsman who deals with cyber-bullying conflicts. This past legislative session, lawmakers allowed school districts to get involved in conflicts on social media when the result trickles back into the classroom.

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
12:46 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Getting Texas Public Schools to Identify Dyslexia Proves Tough for Some

Ben Cooper, an Austin student who attends boarding school in New York for his dyslexia. He and his parents had trouble getting him services and classes in the Austin school district.
Courtesy of Robbi Cooper

When a student is diagnosed with dyslexia in Texas, state law requires school districts to provide accommodations and services to help that student.  But getting those services depends entirely on a whether a school district recognizes the student’s learning disability – which affects their ability to read, write or spell. And some parents say sometimes it’s hard to get services they need.

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Music
1:03 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

How Austin's Anderson High School Got Phoenix to Play Their Gym

Phoenix performing in the Anderson High School gym last night.
Jenna Macaroni http://instagram.com/p/fMOLxAjT29/

When you were in high school, wouldn’t you have loved to have a cool band play in your gym? I remember trying to get the band Karp to play my high school in the 1990s, but the teacher who sponsored the student council balked once he heard what they sound like. Instead, they spent the money on a Top 40 video dance party with fog machines. 

But last night, Anderson High School in Austin ISD did what my high school could never do: They hosted a secret show for the French dance-rockers Phoenix. (While considerably more accessible than any post-hardcore band, it's a remarkable achievement nonetheless.)

“Seriously how the hell does Anderson book Phoenix to play a gig at their school and Pflugerville gets Granger Smith #injustice,” tweeted one envious teen.

“Phoenix at Anderson? Lucky bastards,” said another.

Indeed. So, how did it happen?

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Marathon Kids
12:54 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

More than 30,000 Austin Students Are Trying to Log a Marathon's Worth of Runs

More than 30,000 Austin elementary students are participating in Marathon Kids, a 5-month mission to run a marathon’s length, piece by piece during recess at school.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT News

Thousands of elementary students in Central Texas have started a five-month mission to run a marathon – although not all at once.

It’s part of the annual program Marathon Kids. Over the weekend, students gathered on the University of Texas campus to log the first of many laps between now and February.

When Marathon Kids started more than 15 years ago, 2,000 Austin students joined. This year, more than 30,000 Austin ISD students are participating, not including students from nearby districts and private schools. Kids keep track of their runs until they add up to an entire marathon.

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
10:44 am
Fri October 4, 2013

What It's Like to be a Dyslexic Student in Austin

Ben Shrader is a high school student in Austin with severe dyslexia. He created a video for National Dyslexia Awareness Month to shed light on the reading disorder.
Ben Shrader via YouTube

High school freshman Ben Shrader was in kindergarten when he realized he learned differently than other kids.

“I’d be pulled out of the class at nap time and at break time and those were the best times of day besides recess," he says jokingly. Instead of napping, Shrader received reading therapy to help his severe dyslexia, which made it extremely difficult to read. “It was also as if the letters were 3-D – as if you were wearing 3-D glasses and you were trying to read," Shrader remembers.

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AISD Fascilities Master Plan
3:18 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

After Funding Failure, What's Next for Austin School Facilities Plan?

AISD's Facility Maps. The district approved Facility Master Plan guiding principles last night, and will now begin crafting the actual plan.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board last night approved a set of principles to direct them as they begin to create a Facility Master Plan, a document that will guide the board’s decision making process as it deals with facilities across the city. The principles were approved with an emphasis on community engagement.

“We need to educate all our constituents about a topic that is quite complex. You’re dealing from safety to facility construction, to financial to communications to academics," says School Board President Vincent Torres.

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Turning The Corner
7:29 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Teachers, Non-Profits Key to Helping Middle School Students in Dove Springs

Leonor Vargas is the director of the Mendez Family Resource Center, which provides services to high needs students and families. She says teachers help the center identify students who need help.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

In Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, it’s no secret: the middle school there – Mendez Middle School – has challenges. Before last year, Mendez was rated academically unacceptable and faced the struggles found in many low income schools: low test scores, little parental involvement, and chronic absenteeism.

In many cases, the burden of maintaining order at Mendez falls on the shoulders of teachers. Many start their day corralling kids inside the building and greeting them at the front door.

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Sex Education
4:01 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

What's Next for Austin's Sex Ed Program Targeting Teen Pregnancy?

After a steady increase in students becoming pregnant in AISD, the district partnered with Lifeworks and Planned Parenthood to implement programs in middle and high schools to curb pregnancy. Halfway through, pregnancies in the district are down 21%.
Janine, flickr.com

Between 2005 and 2010, Austin school district saw the number of pregnant students in the district steadily increase. By the end of the 2009 school year, the district identified 400 students who were pregnant or who were already parents. (The district doesn't separate whether or not the student parents are male or female.)

In 2010, AISD partnered with Planned Parenthood and the non-profit Lifeworks to implement a program aimed at preventing teen pregnancy in middle and high schools. 

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Education
4:45 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Are Austin Teachers Punishing Students by Denying Them Time to Exercise?

Students in Texas must get 135 minutes a week of physical activity. In Austin, students have gym once or twice a week, which means classroom teachers must make up the other required time.
flickr.com/andrewmalone

An Austin school board member is concerned students aren’t meeting state mandated physical education requirements.

In Texas, elementary students must get 135 minutes of physical education per week. But students only have gym class once or twice a week – which means teachers must ensure students make up the rest of that mandated time outside of gym class.

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City Budget
3:21 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Austin City Budget Restores $1 Million for Youth Programs

After founding Prime Time, an after-school progrma, Austin Interfaith fought for its continued funding.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This week, the Austin City Council approved a $3.3 billion budget of for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in October.

As part of the deal, they increased funding for youth programs by over $1 million. That includes an increase in the Austin School District afterschool program, Prime Time, which was started by Austin Interfaith in the 1990s. 

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School Attendance
10:24 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Missing One Day of School Costs Your District 38 Dollars

Central Texas school districts and organizations are relaunching a campaign to increase attendance rates at schools.
flickr.com/alamosbasement

The local non-profit, E3 Alliance, has relaunched its Missing School Matters campaign as the new academic year gets underway. It's reminding students why it's important to go to class, especially in Central Texas, where students miss more days of school than their peers across the state in every grade.

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AISD
10:23 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Meme Mix-Up: 'Unhelpful High School Teacher' in Austin School Guide

This image of an AISD publication posted on Reddit features the same art as a popular meme: Unhelpful High School Teacher.
reddit.com/r/austin

One of the dangers in using a stock photo? You never know who else has used it.

That’s the situation the Austin School District is finding itself in. As a post on the Austin Reddit page points out, the stock photo gracing the cover of AISD’s guide for new hires is the same photo used in a popular, unfortunately named meme: Unhelpful High School Teacher.

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Turning the Corner
6:35 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Nearly Half of Dove Springs Elementary Students Are Overweight

Nu Champeng and her son Bodhi, play on the playground at Perez Elementary. Childhood obesity is an issue affecting Dove Springs.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin runs from Ben White to William Cannon, bound by Montopolis and Pleasant Valley on the east, and Interstate 35 on the west. After the Bergstrom Air Force Base closed in the 1990's, it became a community marked by juvenile gang violence, drugs and poverty. While some of that crime has dissipated, Dove Springs still has one of the highest reported crime rates in Travis County. And two-thirds of the neighborhood population is Hispanic, making it one of the most rapidly growing immigrant neighborhoods in Austin. 

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Education
7:56 am
Wed August 28, 2013

AISD Board Approves Budget, Domestic Partner Benefits

A view from Austin ISD's headquarters on W. 6th St.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin Independent School District employees will start to learn more today about adding an unmarried partner to their health insurance benefits.

The AISD board approved last night expanding benefits to people a district spokesman calls the “unmarried, committed” partners of regular, full-time AISD employees.

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Education
3:36 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Bilingual Education: What Does it Mean for Austin's Spanish Speakers?

Some non-English speaking students must transfer schools to receive a dual-language lessons in English and their native language. But placement is not guaranteed — schools offering the programs only accept a limited number of students.
AISD

Nearly a third of all AISD students -- about 25,000 -- are so-called English-learning students, a 35 percent increase over the last five years. Despite programs aimed at encouraging high English proficiency, the district still finds low academic performance among Hispanic students. 

But with the need for qualified bilingual workers and a Hispanic population that is on track to become the majority in Texas by 2040, some wonder what the future of bilingual education means for students in Austin.

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Education
10:57 am
Tue August 27, 2013

How Travis Heights Elementary Could Change Schools in Austin

Travis Heights School gives teachers and administrators more autonomy in making decisions on lesson plans, food choices and the school's budget.
flickr.com/nabewise

More than 86,000 students in the Austin Independent School District returned to school this week. But at Travis Heights Elementary School, teachers, parents and students are starting a new chapter in the school’s history as the first in-district charter school in Austin. 

If the model catches on, the school could also change how things in the district work, with teachers and administrators having more control over curriculum, scheduling, the budget and even what's served in the cafeteria. 

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Education
5:01 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

AISD Could Offer Domestic Partner Benefits by the End of the Year

After postponing domestic partner benefits, AISD now says they will ofter domestic partner benefits to all qualified individuals based on a new set of criteria
KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district hopes to offer open enrollment for domestic partner benefits as soon as this fall.

"While we still have a few obstacles to overcome, legal and otherwise, a clear path forward has emerged,” Carstarphen said in a recorded video as part of AISD's annual convocation on Wednesday. “Employees will have the opportunity to add new, qualifying individuals to their coverage as part of a separate enrollment period as soon as October 2013."

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AISD
2:38 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

AISD's School For Young Men is On Hold Indefinitely

AISD had plans to open a school for young men at its Alternative Learning Center. But the failure of a bond proposition has tabled the project.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Public school begins next week in Austin, but Austin ISD's plan to open a School for Young Men remains in limbo. The district faces many hurdles to open the school, following the failure a bond proposition this May.

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AISD
5:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

A 'School to Prison Pipeline?' Lawyers Ask AISD to Rethink Ticketing Students

Austin attorneys say the criminalization of student discipline is unfairly putting kids in the legal system.
KUT News

The Austin Lawyers Guild wants Austin schools to end disciplinary policy of ticketing students for minor misbehaviors – a practice it says creates a “school-to-prison pipeline” for troubled students.  

They want the school district to changes its policies for the upcoming school year. Last year, Texas schools issued over 300,000 non-traffic tickets to students with the most common offenses being truancy, disorderly conduct and simple assault.

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Education
11:05 am
Tue July 30, 2013

AmeriCorps Working for Turnarounds at Reagan, Travis High Schools

Reagan High School (pictured) is one of two Austin schools earmarked under AmeriCorps School Turnaround initiative
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Picture 90 educational volunteers: That’s the number of AmeriCorps members the Austin school district is placing at two of its high schools for the next three years. 

It’s all part of the School Turnaround AmeriCorps initiative, a new program aimed at placing AmeriCorps members in some of the nation’s lowest performing schools. AISD was one of thirteen school districts that were chosen nationwide.  

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