Education

State Board of Education
11:46 am
Thu November 21, 2013

State Board of Education Considers Bond Program for Charter Schools

Education Commissioner Michael Williams grants charter school applicants with licenses, but the State Board of Education can veto charter schools if they desire. The SBOE didn't veto any of Williams' charter schools at a meeting Thursday.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The State Board of Education took a step further this week in its support of charter schools, as it established guidelines for a bond program expected to save charters millions of dollars.

The board wrestled with policies for its Bond Guarantee Program for Charter Schools, which was created earlier this year under House Bill 885. Under that law, charter schools, if approved, will have certain bonds guaranteed by the state and its Permanent School Fund, a $28 billion endowment for public schools.

Bonds help charters build and improve their facilities, which many say is one of their biggest challenges to date. Lawmakers gave charter schools limited access to a bond program in 2011. The new law expands that access, by guaranteeing refinanced bonds and allowing certain bond money to be returned to charter schools for instructional purposes.

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University of Texas
4:26 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

UT-Austin Students Counter-Protest 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' Game

Dozens of students protested a planned Young Conservatives of Texas event where participants could "catch" students in shirts reading "Illegal Immigrant." The group since called the event off.
Credit Jorge Corona for KUT News

Over 100 students, faculty, staff community supporters gathered at the University of Texas campus this afternoon to protest a so-called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game that was originally planned for today.

The event, proposed by the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, called for students to track down and return volunteers wearing shirts reading “illegal immigrant” in exchange for a gift card.

The group called off the event earlier this week in the wake of widespread condemnation. But people gathered on campus today to protest the motivation behind the game.

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Project-Based Learning
1:15 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Manor New Tech High School Takes Project-Based Learning to Thailand

Manor New Technology founding principal Steve Zipkes speaks to a crowd of guests. A group of students are exporting the school’s educational techniques to Thailand.
twitter.com/ManorNewTech

For students at Manor New Technology High School, lectures and homework assignments are a foreign concept. Tablets take the place of textbooks, and many classes are taught by a team of instructors.

This fall, a group of students is working to bring their school’s innovative learning system abroad.

The school exclusively utilizes project-based learning, a process that teaches course concepts through hands-on projects and presentations which students design themselves. Steve Zipkes, Manor New Tech’s principal, says it's a more engaging and up-to-date learning system. 

"Student these days are digital natives," Zipkes says. "We’re using technology as the invisible tool. It’s not what makes teaching and learning, but it certainly enhances it. With our students today, it’s almost a necessity."

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University of Texas
8:37 am
Tue November 19, 2013

A Brief History of Student Conservatives' 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' Games (Update)

flickr.com/loudtiger

Update: Controversial Event Called Off

The Young Conservatives of Texas has canceled its “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event, originally scheduled for Wednesday. 

Citing the university’s condemnation of the event, UT chapter chair Lorenzo Garcia claims he canceled the event out of fears the university would retaliate against the group’s members, “and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers.”

You can read Garcia’s full remarks here.

Original Story (Nov. 19): The news that the University of Texas chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas is planning a campus "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game for this week has taken the political blogosphere by storm.

In case you haven’t heard: The group’s UT chapter has stated on Facebook that it’s planning to hold the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant game” this Wednesday. (Here’s a screen grab of the invitation in case it’s taken down.)

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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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Bill Powers Interview
7:59 am
Thu November 14, 2013

UT Pres. Powers on Fisher v. Texas, Nick Saban & That Farrah Fawcett Portrait

Bill Powers Jr.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. is steering the university through two court cases and a football coach that’s making news both on and off the field.

Powers recently sat down with KUT’s David Brown to talk about what’s happening at the 40 Acres. Listen to the extended interview in the Soundcloud player below. Here are some highlights:

On the UT System suing actor Ryan O'Neal over a portrait of actress Farrah Fawcett:

“This was her wish, that her alma matter have it. It is a very valuable painting. … To have this pair of very iconic Warhol portraits would be very valuable as a cultural archive for our museum – and of course she’s one of our Texas Exes, so it’s important for us to have this painting.”

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Affirmative Action
9:06 am
Wed November 13, 2013

So What Exactly Happened with Fisher v. University of Texas? (Update)

On Monday, the Supreme Court returned the Fisher v UT Austin case to the Fifth Circuit to reconsider.
flickr.com/fisherfotos

Update (July 15, 2014): The Fifth Circuit has ruled that UT's affirmative action policies can continue.

Read more here: ​UT Affirmative Action Policies Stand in Fisher Ruling

Update: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case that questions UT's use of race in its admissions process.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after deciding the Fifth Circuit didn't apply the strictest scrutiny to UT's admissions policies.

While most UT  students are admitted based on whether they’re in the top seven percent of their graduating class, some are admitted based on what the university calls a “holistic review.” An applicant’s race is one element of that review.

Back in 2008, a white student named Abigail Fisher was denied admission to UT under the holistic review. She sued saying she was a victim of reverse discrimination. Lower courts upheld UT’s affirmative action policy.

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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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UT Austin
8:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

UT Austin Receives $9 Million Gift For Engineering and Science Program

UT Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences has received $9.3M from the O'Donnell Foundation for student fellowships and faculty teaching.
flickr.com/bill78704

The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) program has received $9.3 million from the O'Donnell Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $135 million to the university over the past 30 years.

The money will go towards student fellowships, faculty teaching and recruiting for the program, which combines the study of math, engineering and science disciplines to tackle real world problems, specifically areas like applied mathematics, software engineering and computer visualization. 

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Education
2:18 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

New School Offers Some Relief, But Doesn't Solve Overcrowding Problems in Austin

Lawmakers, school board members and members of Janice Guerrero Thompson's family attend a ribbon cutting for the dedication of the new elementary school named in her honor. The school is one of two that will open to relieve overcrowding in the area.
Oscar Palomo, AISD

The brand new Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary School is more than 78,000 square feet with 32 classrooms. Inside, the walls are painted bright orange and purple, and the floor is covered with colorful tiles. On Sunday, more than a hundred people came to dedicate the school to the late district employee and tour the new campus, which looks to mitigate overcrowding in Austin schools.

“Everyone’s been so excited. We’ve been working toward dedication and now it’s official, like we’ve been announced as a school," says Principal LaKesha Drinks.

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Education
5:36 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Why Austin ISD Can't Spend Any of Its 2013 Bond Money

While voters approved two of the four AISD bond propositions in May, a pending lawsuit with the Travis County Taxpayers Association is keeping the district from implementing projects associated with the bond money.
KUT News

In May, Austin voters approved nearly $600 million dollars in bond propositions for capital improvements in the Austin School District.

The money is allocated for technology upgrades in the classroom and district offices, and systemic repairs to facilities on campuses across the district, among other upgrades.

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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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Education
12:11 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Study Finds Texas' HB 5 Could Negatively Affect Minority Students

A study from the University of Texas finds recent educational changes could mean teachers encourage minority students to pursue less academically challenging high school diplomas.
flickr.com/wallyg

While school administrators work to clear the fog surrounding House Bill 5, the state's suite of educational changes, some are saying the bill could hurt the minority students’ chances to go to college.

A study by UT-Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis found that HB 5 might lead school counselors to set minority students on a less rigorous degree plan designed for students who do not want to go to college. UT researchers say this is because school administrators often have low academic expectations for poor black students.

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AISD
11:59 am
Tue October 29, 2013

New Accountability Standards Add Uncertainty to Failing Austin Schools

Pearce Middle School is requires improvement under interim TEA standards. It will become an all-boys school in 2014.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board approved a set of plans Monday night for 11 schools that need improvement under the Texas Education Agency’s new accountability standards.

But as it rolls out year-long plans requiring monthly TEA visits and evaluations, it awaits new changes to the standards for this academic year.

“It’s going to keep us very focused," says Paul Cruz, AISD Chief Schools Officer. "We don’t know what the performance standards are going to be, but that’s also for every school in state of Texas."

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
3:01 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Debate Over Dysgraphia Services Puts Texas Parents, Schools at Odds

Many parents in Texas public schools face a variety of issues trying to get services for students diagnosed with learning disorders like dyslexia or dysgraphia – often creating debate between parents and school districts about services.
http://bit.ly/Hrpa57

Under Texas law, public schools are required to provide services to students who are diagnosed with dyslexia and related disorders. That includes disorders like dysgraphia—which makes it difficult to write letters and translate ideas into written words.

As  KUT has reported previously, getting services for students with dyslexia in Texas public schools can be an uphill battle for parents and students. But for students with those less common disorders, it can be even harder to detect and diagnose. Many times, parents and school districts are often at odds over what kind of services a student requires. 

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Fisher vs. Texas
11:06 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Minority Students at UT Await Affirmative Action Ruling

UT-Austin continues to defend its use of race in admissions. Some beneficiaries of affirmative action fear what a strike to those policies could mean.
Matthew Alvarez for KUT News

Since 2008, the University of Texas has been ensnared in a legal battle  – Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin – over its use of race in admissions.

The university says when it comes to deciding whether to accept or reject a student, race is considered as a factor within a factor. But once a student is accepted, what impact does diversity have on the students' learning on campus and in the classroom?

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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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University of Texas
5:49 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Testimony Begins in Hearings on Possible Impeachment of UT Regent

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, told lawmakers they have enough evidence to impeach embattled UT Regent Wallace Hall
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Lawmakers heard preliminary testimony in an inquiry that could lead to UT Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, told the Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations today that there's enough evidence to impeach Hall and that the regent had unfairly used his power to target UT Austin and President Bill Powers. 

Education
3:11 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Here's What It's Like to Go to School in Northern Ghana

Nkrumah interviews school children in Northern Ghana for her story on education in the area. She won an award for her documentary on the issue.
Citi FM

Since early October, KUT has had the pleasure of hosting Lorrencia Nkrumah, a guest journalist from Ghana, where she covers business for Citi FM. She’s visiting as part of the International Center for Journalists program through the U.S. State Department.

During her stay, Nkrumah discovered she won an award through Search for Common Ground’s Radio for Peacebuilding Africa, and produced a 20 minute documentary about access to education in the northern part of Ghana. Listen below to KUT's Kate McGee talk with Nkrumah about her story.

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