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.

Photo by KUT News

As more people are expected to continue to move to the Austin area, the Austin Independent School District predicts enrollment in city schools to stay relatively flat over the next ten years. At an AISD school board meeting last night, board members suggested by the year 2023, the Austin school district is predicted to have about 350 fewer students than it does right now.

In a district of 86,000 students, that doesn’t seem like much. But Beth Wilson with the district’s Planning Services department says it reflects a major trend in Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The passing of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has raised talk of his legacy, especially with respect to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Several groups of American scholars, including the American Studies Association, are calling for US universities to boycott their Israeli counterparts. The president of the University of Texas at Austin, William Powers, is hosting a conference of several key figures in higher education this week. One such figure, Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities, spoke with KUT's David Brown.

crayons
flickr.com/laffy4k

Austin parents have until the Jan. 31 to request to transfer their child to another school in the district next fall. Around ten percent of Austin ISD students transferred between schools in the 2012-2013 school year. In recent years, it’s become a contentious topic as the district must balance overcrowded and under-enrolled schools, while also providing academic options to students within the district.

There are essentially four ways for students to transfer to different schools in the district according to Vincent Torres, the Austin School Board President.

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Studying technology's impact on higher education and evaluating public school students' writing scores on state assessments are among the tasks Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gave lawmakers in education-related interim charges Thursday.

Dewhurst announced the charges, which are expected to increase in the coming weeks, at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund in Dallas.

Courtesy of Manor ISD

A high school in the Manor Independent School District is being honored for winning a nationwide attendance challenge in the fall through the Get Schooled program and the E3 Alliance.  The school district has been putting more attention on improving student attendance rates, but it's especially excited about this particular school’s success in that area.

Manor Excel Academy is a small school with two buildings and about 124 students. Some are as old as 21. It’s what’s called an accelerated diploma high school that helps at-risk students. Students may be behind in credits or failing standardized tests when they enter the school. They could qualify for free or reduced lunch and, at the same time, be raising children or working to make ends meet. 

“It's a school of opportunity," says Kevin Brackmeyer, Manor ISD superintendent."The school allows students to have a second chance."

Credit flickr.com/therefore

The federal government and the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released guidelines encouraging school to use fairness and equity in their discipline policies and warning of potential punishment, if they don't.

The U.S. Department of Education says African-American students make up 15 percent of the nation’s population but account for more than one-third of those who have been suspended from school at least once.

Education advocate Deborah Fowler, with Texas Appleseed, says minority students, especially African-American students, are more likely to experience discipline more frequently, both from administrators and from school resource officers.

flickr.com/dklimke

Some elementary schools in the Leander School District are using gardens to teach life skills to students with disabilities by using their five senses.

For students with some physical or developmental disabilities, even the simplest tasks can be difficult. That makes it hard to learn reading and writing—as well as life skills, like knowing their address or phone number, how to interact with other people and personal responsibility.

In the garden, students can use their senses to learn about plant life and where food comes from, as well as help students with physical development and coordination. The students can touch the dirt and the leaves, smell the herbs, water the plants and watch them grow.

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

On the outside, Blackshear Elementary and Graham Elementary schools in Austin don’t have a lot in common. Blackshear has around 230 students, while Graham has nearly four times than that.  In East Austin, Blackshear’s building was built more than a hundred years ago. Graham Elementary—in the North Central part of the city—has a more 1970's architectural look.

But inside, the two schools -- with more than 90 percent economically disadvantaged students -- are run almost identically using a new philosophy called the New Three R's.

Since the late 1700’s, the Three R’s of learning have commonly been known as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Graham Elementary Principal Blaine Helwig says the "New Three R’s” stand for the "Right people," the "Right systems" and the "Right resources."

flickr.com/Heidelknips

Students at Blackshear Elementary School in East Austin are learning more than just math and reading.

Some are also learning deep breathing, stretches and relaxation techniques in an afternoon yoga class. It's part of the school’s enrichment program, which offers classes in everything from gardening and cooking to song writing and penmanship.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Exams are over for most students as schools close their doors for the holidays. But the GED is being revamped Jan. 1, and testing centers around the country have seen floods of people hoping to finish the exam.

The GED has five parts, and many test-takers have completed only a portion of the exam. If they don’t complete it by the end of the year, their scores will be wiped clean and they’ll have to retake it.

The new version of the GED is expected to more rigorous – and more expensive.

Roy Varney / KUT

Austin public school students in fourth and eighth grade scored higher in math and reading than students in other large cities, according to results from a new government study released Wednesday. 

The report looks at results from a national standardized test given to 21 urban school districts with populations of 250,000 people or more. It’s part of the National Center for Education Statistics' National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

While the results are positive, the scores remained relatively flat from 2011 –  the last time Austin students took the test.

flickr.com/wallyg

The Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations wraps up its investigation this week that could lead to the impeachment of UT Regent Wallace Hall. 

University of Texas President William Powers Jr. and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will testify in hearings today and Thursday. Hall is not expected to testify this week. 

KUT News

If you attended your first Austin school board meeting Monday night, you would have never guessed Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has ever received criticism from school board members, the teachers union, Education Austin, or the Austin community.

Austin School Board President Vincent Torres commended the superintendent in the board's annual evaluation, recognizing the challenges the district faces and outlining the district's achievements over the last year. He highlighted improved graduation rates, dual language programs, early childhood education, and the superintendent's ability to balance the budget in the face of continued cuts from the state.

flickr.com/phillipleconte

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting left 20 students and six adults dead. It also caused school districts and lawmakers across the country to re-examine security protocols in schools – including Texas. 

“When you talk about Sandy Hook Elementary and what happened that day – I think that a lot of people believe that it created or caused a reaction by law enforcement, first responders – that somehow changed from what we had been doing," says Austin School District Police Chief Eric Mendez.

Callie Richmond, flickr.com/thetexastribune

Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin, is staying in that job for the time being.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced his recommendation at this afternoon’s meeting of the Board of Regents in Austin. Cigarroa said he has had conflicts with Powers, but hopes that they can be overcome.

“There are problems,” he said. "I’ve addressed these problems. And it is my hopeful expectation that together President Powers and I will work towards resolving them and moving ahead.”

flickr.com/thetexastribune

The UT Board of Regents is expected to discuss the employment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during its executive session today. It’s the first time his employment has been placed on the agenda for discussion – and the latest development in what’s become a power struggle among state leadership.

The scene: boardrooms, committee chambers or behind closed doors. The characters: men who hold power in the Texas capitol, or the UT Tower. But how did the situation get to this point?

Hays CISD Student Enrollment
Roy Varney / KUT

The Hays Consolidated Independent School District is expected to move forward with their request for a $60 million bond. The bond would pay for the creation of a middle school, wireless and mobile devices and additional school buses.

The school district views the spending as necessary, if it wants to keep up with student enrollment growth. On Monday, the Hays CISD School Board will vote on a bond recommendation from the district's Growth Impact Committee, a group of citizens charged by the board to assess growth of the community.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The University of Texas System Board of Regents plans to discuss the employment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during a closed-door executive session at its board meeting on Thursday.

Powers' job at the flagship university, which he has held for nearly eight years, has been believed by some to be in jeopardy since the appointment of new board members in 2011. Multiple board meetings have been preceded by rumors of his impending ousting, but the speculation has consistently proven incorrect.

Erica Grant, Southwestern University

Librarians are keeping late hours. Coffee shops are serving up triple-shot drinks to zombie-like customers. They’re all signs of one thing: college finals week.

The end of the semester creates an immense amount of stress on campus, which students handle with varying degrees of success. This year, area universities are providing a wider variety of services and resources to help students cope with the stress and anxiety.

In addition to the regular services offered by UT-Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, including stress management tips for students and an online resource called Stress Recess, the university is hosting some more unorthodox events: UT Libraries partnered with the Austin Dog Alliance to bring therapy dogs to the Perry-Castañeda Library, Monday, Dec. 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

flickr.com/presta

Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed a law (House Bill 5) reducing high school testing and changing graduation requirements. The changes don’t fully go into effect until next school year, but one portion was immediately implemented: new attendance requirements.

Right now, all high school students must attend at least 90 percent of classes to receive credit. If they attend less than 75 to 89 percent of class, then they must create a plan with their school principal to complete missed work and lessons. If students don’t take that step, they risk failing the class or grade, and must petition the district's school board to see whether or not they can advance to the next grade level.

But under HB 5’s new attendance requirement, all students – kindergarten through 12th grade – must meet that 90 percent attendance mark. 

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