Education

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, Austin Community College, Texas A&M University, charter schools, legislative issues, and anything else related to K-12, public education, higher education and workforce development in Central Texas, Travis County, and Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Note: This story will be updated as it develops.

Texas public schools can once again can have deep fat fryers and soda machines on campus, starting this fall. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who oversees school nutrition policy in Texas, announced Thursday he’s lifting the decade-old ban as part of his new five-point plan to combat childhood obesity. Miller says schools don’t have to put in deep fryers or soda machines.

"We're just saying if you want [a deep fryer], go get one," Miller said in an interview at his office Thursday. "I'd be surprised if there's a dozen schools [that] put in deep fryers. One thing, we're not going to give them any money. They're going to have to go buy those."

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

In light of an expected $3 million budget gap next year, Eanes Independent School District has started making preliminary cuts to staffing positions, but district leaders are still unclear exactly how much money they’ll be working with when school starts in August, or whether those cuts will be permanent. 

Now that the legislative session is over and there wasn't a major school finance overhaul, the school district knows how much money it’ll get from the state next year. The problem is that the district is unclear on exactly how much it will receive from the assessed valuation of property in the district boundary.

LA Johnson/NPR

This week, NPR Ed is digging into the story behind high school graduation rates across the country. NPR partnered with 14 public radio stations nationwide, including KUT.

At 88 percent, Texas has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, and the Austin Independent School District’s graduation rate has increased 12 percentage points since 2008, compared to the all-time high rate of 81 percent nationally. 

But what's the story behind those rates? Take a look at NPR Ed's interactive below to dig into the numbers.

Kate McGee

A group of elementary school students sit on the floor of a classroom at Sunset Valley Elementary. They’re connecting plastic pieces to build orange ramps and pushing tiny race cars down them. The goal is to see if the car can make it all the way around the loop. 

"One, two, three," says one student before letting go of the race car. It doesn't make it.

"Oh! So close!" they yell. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Raising children isn’t easy, especially if you’re doing it on your own.

At Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, the new all-boys school in East Austin, many of the students are being raised by single moms or grandmas. Principal Sterlin McGruder recognizes that.

"I feel it's important [that] I’m in the cafeteria, I'm in the hallway, I'm in the classrooms, so that they can have a conversation with me," McGruder says. "They don’t have the male role model at home. They need that male role model who they can talk to. You can tell they're yearning."

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Victoria Hernandez and her son Jayden wake up at 5 a.m. each day for Jayden’s pre-kindergarten class at Travis Heights Elementary School. They get ready at their apartment complex on Stassney Lane, four miles away from Travis Heights. Then, they walk to the bus stop to wait for the number one bus.

By the time they embark, it’s about 6:30 in the morning — the sun has just started to rise.

Photo via Texas Tribune/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

The man who leads the flagship campus of the University of Texas is in his final week of the job.

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers is stepping down June 2.

Powers spoke with Texas Standard about his upcoming plans, his journey to Texas and his own quest of perseverance.

Trey Shaar / KUT News

Update Sunday 3:30 p.m. University officials say that the commencement fireworks ceremony has been rescheduled for 10 p.m. tonight (Sunday), weather-permitting. Check back here for updates.

The University of Texas at Austin has cancelled the outdoor commencement ceremony planned for 8 p.m. Saturday due to inclement weather. UT said just before 5 p.m. that lightning had impeded the set-up for the outdoor event and that the threat of continuing inclement weather led the university "regretfully" to cancel the ceremony. 

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

Remember that early 1990's television show Doogie Howser, M.D. about a brilliant teenage doctor? Doogie had graduated from college by the age of ten and had become a doctor at 14. Ok, that may be a little extreme, but is it possible that young people could learn that much that early in life? In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss some of the commonly held assumptions about age and learning. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Listen on for a fresh take.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

High school students from across Texas are spending the weekend launching rockets near Fredericksburg as a part of an aeroscience engineering program called SystemsGo.

The Willow City volunteer fire station just outside Fredericksburg filled up with high school students from all over Texas at 6 a.m. They bend over nearly 20 different rockets, prepping them for launch.

Students ask questions like: “So when the parachute comes out, where is the air resistance going to be? How is it going to catch air? Did we research that?”

One team of students traveled from Kingwood High School in the Humble Independent School District outside Houston. They’ve been working on their rocket for six months — even building part of it with 3D printers.

Sean MacEntee/flickr

Two-thirds of the area’s college students work while they attend school, according to a report coming out next week on Texas' education landscape.

Many students who work while attending college are not full-time students. In fact, in Central Texas, “80 percent of our high school graduates who go into two-year colleges are enrolling part-time,” says Christine Bailie with the E3 Alliance.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott warmed up his bill-signing pen on Monday, approving a measure ensuring that some high school seniors who fail to pass state exams can seek an alternate route to graduation.

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

Caps and gowns ... diplomas... speeches... parties... and anxieties about what's next. It's commencement season, and thousands of higher education graduates across the country are packing up their dorm rooms and embarking on the next stage of life. In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger reflect on what commencement means and discuss what most students actually take away from their college experiences. It may not be exactly what you'd expect - listen on.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Fourteen-year-old Karyme* has missed 14 days of eighth grade this school year. Her school, part of the Manor Independent School District, has taken her and her mother to court.

Now she and her mother stand in an Austin courtroom facing the presiding judge, Hon. Yvonne Williams.

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

No doubt you've seen that iconic representation of the moment when a new idea is born. You know — the whole "lightbulb pops up over somebody's head" graphic. It's eye-catching for sure, but it turns out that's not actually how ideas come to us. In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how ideas are formed and how they flow. Listen on to hear how it's more river than lightbulb.

As long as there have been schools and classes, there have been students who don't show up. And educators scratching their heads over what to do about it.

In most states, missing a lot of school means a trip to the principal's office. In Texas, parents and students are more likely to end up in front of a judge.

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

We all know the traditional classroom drill: Go to class, listen to a lecture, take notes, go home, do the homework, come back to class, repeat. What if that model were reversed, and students heard the lecture information outside the classroom and spent class time wrestling with questions and ideas? In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss inquiry-based learning. Sounds dry? Not at all - listen on!

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, Tyler Whitson and Kate McGee take on education.

Jennifer Mullins is sitting in her office at Eastside Memorial High School when a staff member comes in and asks for a stress ball. There’s a student outside that needs help. Mullins walks out the door and immediately takes control. 

"Hey bud, hey! Stress ball! Just breathe," Mullins says.  The student was having a negative reaction to a medication.

Mullins is one of two school counselors at Eastside Memorial High School who handles both emotional and academic support. Every student there is labeled at-risk. Mullins says she spends half her time dealing with students' needs outside the classroom.

Fenves Named Next President of UT Austin

Apr 20, 2015
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: After more than three weeks as the sole finalist for the job, Gregory Fenves has been named the next president of the University of Texas at Austin. 

And this time, the current executive vice president and provost has been elevated without any dissent. The vote to hire him was 8-0 by the UT System Board of Regents. Regent Wallace Hall abstained from voting.

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT News

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wants to end a decade-old ban on deep fried food in Texas public schools. 

Miller, who was elected last year, believes local school districts — not the state or federal government — should decide whether schools serve fried foods. He says the ban on deep fat fryers goes against his philosophy at the Department of Agriculture. 

“We’re about giving school districts freedom, liberty and individual responsibility," Miller says. "We’re all about local control and not big brother, big government control.” 

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