Kate McGee, KUT News

This week was a busy one for Texas education. Here's what we picked up.

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.


Austin resident and UT grad Oliver Shuttlesworth had just returned home from a series of trips to Central America, but he couldn’t shake the stories he heard from people in the region.

“As I visited with the families I was working with, I heard a recurring theme: the desire for their children to receive an education and to create a better future than they enjoyed themselves,” Shuttlesworth says.

Here's the latest dispatch from our country's changing classrooms: Overall, there were half a million fewer students nationwide enrolled in colleges between 2011 and 2012, but the number of Latinos enrolled in college over the same period jumped by 447,000. The numbers come from a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

The corner of W. 23rd and Pearl Streets, the approximate location of last week's water balloon attack. View Larger Map.

So-called “bleach bomb” attacks on the UT campus may not have happened as thought.

Last week, a UT student was hit by a balloon while walking down near a private dorm near West 24th Street –similar to an attack last fall. The incidents sparked protests against racism and conversations over whether UT is a hostile environment for minority students.

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.

KUT News

A new school year starts today for the more than 50,000 students at the University of Texas at Austin. Students at St. Edwards, Huston-Tillotson, Southwestern and Texas State also started classes this week.

But how many of those students are prepared for college success and on-time graduation? The numbers don’t look so good.


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.

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. 

Students are heading back to school in West, Texas today. Many of them will be going back to temporary classrooms. That’s because April’s deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant destroyed most of the city’s public schools, along with hundreds of homes.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

You may not know it, but tomorrow, the lucky people of Tyler, Texas will have the chance to witness one of the most anticipated confrontations since Rocky III, when Rocky Balboa took on Clubber Lang.

Ok, maybe State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) debating State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) over something called CSCOPE isn’t all that scintillating. But those lesson plans created by Texas teachers were one heck of a political football during the 2013 legislative session. 

Saying a college education is the "surest path to the middle class," President Obama announced a plan Thursday to allocate federal aid to colleges and universities based in part on their affordability.

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."

The percentage of U.S. undergrads who rely on the federal government for financial aid soared above 50 percent in the most recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. The data show that for the first time, a majority of students got federal help.

NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports for our Newscast unit:

"The new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 2007 to 2011, the percentage of undergraduate students who depend on federal loans and grants jumped from 47 percent to 57 percent.

Marsha Miller, The University of Texas at Austin

William S. Livingston, an educator and scholar who served as acting president for the University of Texas' flagship campus, passed away this morning at the age of 93.

Livingston joined the university in 1949 as a political science instructor. Before retiring from UT nearly 60 years later, he amassed an impressive string of positions on campus, including Chairman of the Government Department, Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs for the UT System, and Chairman of the Comparative Studies Program.

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

Texas high schools are preparing for major changes to graduation requirements. Under a new law, schools will have less standardized testing. But when it comes to implementing the new legislation, many questions are yet to be answered. 

The State Board of Education hashed out the details today of how to enforce the new high school graduation requirements that go into effect in the 2014-15 school year. Monica Martinez, managing director of curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, noted the challenges of implementing standards consistently statewide.

School starts in three weeks and, for many school districts across Texas, there’s still some confusion over whether teachers can use a system of lesson plans. The so-called CSCOPE lesson plans drew fire over allegations they promoted anti-American ideas. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers announced Texas teachers would no longer use the plans and the non-profit, quasi-state agency that published them would cease to.

State Board of Education leaders say the controversy surrounding CSCOPE will most likely continue into the fall.

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.  

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Heading to college is confusing under the best of circumstances. But for many young people aging out of foster care, the challenges can be almost impossible to overcome.

Some schools in Texas host programs each year aimed at trying to help foster kids make the transition.