AISD

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.

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?

Marathon Kids
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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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."

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.

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.

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.  

Ted Ed Radio


The non-profit organization famous for its inspirational talks and videos, TED, has taken the lesson plan of an Austin school district teacher and turned it into an animated video series.

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