Education

Education
1:34 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

AISD Debt-To-Student Ratio Among Lowest in Central Texas

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller today show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts.

That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. The Austin school district also has the lowest debt per capita of $1,272.

A lot depends on how you define “Central Texas.” Lockhart ISD, for example, has a lower debt-to-student ratio of just $5,565.75. You will find lower debt ratios in some of the outlying, more rural districts in the region, like Granger ISD, Florence ISD, and Prarie Lea ISD, which has no debt at all. (It also has a student population of 232.)

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Education
4:50 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Public Hearing Tonight on AISD Bond

The Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee is coming up with a list of the district's top spending priorities.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District’s Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee is asking for public input on the district’s bond program this evening.

The committee is hosting a public hearing from 6:30 - 9 p.m. at Reagan High School (7104 Berkman Dr.).

Those wishing to speak should sign up at the high school before the meeting or submit comments on the district’s website.

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Education
9:06 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

AISD Board Extends Carstarphen's Contract to 2015

Jeff Heimsath, KUT News

The Austin school board voted 7-2 to extend an employment contract with Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent who oversees the education of more than 86,000 Austin children in the largest school district in Central Texas. If Carstarphen fulfills her contract to June 2015, she will have served seven years at the helm of AISD, a term twice as long as the average tenure of an urban superintendent. Carstarphen earns $283,412 per year. 

In a sweeping assessment of Carstarphen's performance, school board president Mark Williams said she has "shown courage" and the board "continues to believe that she is the right person to lead Austin ISD." Williams' annual evaluation was overwhelmingly positive, although it did highlight several areas of weakness. Those included a need for AISD to "improve its community engagement efforts." 

Williams' evaluation also drew attention to "a significant achievement gap" among white students and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts. For example, Texas Education Agency data shows almost 90 percent of white high school seniors graduated in the 2010-11 school year, compared to 72 percent of African American students, a disparity even larger than the statewide gap of 5.5 percent.

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Education
9:35 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Texas Schools Head to Court in Finance Lawsuit

A funding lawsuit joined by over 600 school districts heads to court today.
flickr.com/therefore

Opening arguments begin today in a school finance lawsuit pitting about 600 school districts, including the Austin Independent School District, against the State of Texas. The legal battle could reshape how money is distributed to classrooms.

The way schools are currently funded in Texas is an intensely complicated set of mathematical formulas that even experts sometimes struggle with. Without wading too deeply into the Texas Education Code, here’s what you need to know about the school finance lawsuit getting started today:

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Education
2:52 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

UT System Offers Free Online Courses - But College Credit Still Costs You

The University of Texas System logo is already featured on the edX welcome page.
edX

The University of Texas System Board of regents voted unanimously this morning to join an initiative to provide free online courses to anyone through a non-profit organization called edX.

Right now, classes offered through edX are not for college credit. Instead, participants can earn a "certificate of mastery." But the UT System has plans to change that in order to help enrolled students take the classes they need.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa says that option would have a cost associated with it.

“What that tuition might be is going to have to be a decision made by the campus and, ultimately, by the board of regents," Cigarroa says. "So I can envision a multi-tiered approach. But, fundamentally, all the content that we provide in this massively open online course, you can have access for free, I can have access for free, our alumni can have access for free. But there’s also an opportunity for a multi-tiered approach.”

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Education
4:40 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Bridging Cultures, Building Revenue: Saudi Arabian Students May Get Texas College Experience

Thousands of Saudi Arabian students may enroll in community colleges across Texas in the next few semesters.
http://www.flickr.com/markyharky

The UT College of Liberal Arts is co-hosting an open house today that may place thousands of Saudi Arabian students in Texas community colleges.

The open house is organized by The Global Initiative for Education and Leadership and hosted by the Saudi Arabia Cultural Missions (SACM), The US-Alhabra Chamber of Commerce and the College of Liberal Arts.

At the event SACM officials will present their intention to place 8,000 Saudi Arabian students in two-year community colleges. The students are fully funded and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, which will includes their tuition, books, medical and housing needs as well as $2,000 to $4,000 a month stipends. 

UT says its main goal is to foster relationships and knowledge between our countries. "Education is one of the ways in which we can begin to build collective futures across these boundaries," says Richard Flores, senior associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. "Where students begin to know each other, recognize the differences but begin to see the similarities, and begin to build those relationships."

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Education
12:32 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Georgetown Voters Approve Tax Rate Increase for Schools

The first day of school at McCoy Elementary in Georgetown ISD. Georgetown voters approved a tax increase for their schools, but the new revenue will only maintain existing services.
Georgetown Independent School District

The Georgetown school district says the extra money it will receive from higher tax rates won’t be enough to fill the gap left by state cuts to public education.

Georgetown voters decided yesterday that they would be willing to pay more money to fund their public schools. How much more depends on the value of their property, but the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $80 a year. About 3,500 voters approved the tax ratification election 59 to 41 percent.

GISD has been struggling since the state legislature slashed public education spending by more than $5.4 billion last year. The district eliminated more than 200 employee positions, froze salaries and benefits, and stopped all major capital spending.

The higher tax rate will inject $2.1 million into school district coffers, but GISD spokesperson Brad Domitrovich says it won’t be enough to make up for state cuts.

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Education
10:52 am
Wed October 10, 2012

How Advanced Placement Success Could Save Texas Students Millions

Many Texas students are saving money by taking college exams in high schools.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams and the Texas Education Agency announced this week  that the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams rose by four percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Advanced Placement Program allows high school students to take college-level courses and ultimately exams that they can earn college credit for. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 . A score of 3 or higher is considered satisfactory. Last year, 194,391 Texas students took 350,700 AP exams.

The College Board, which created and oversees the AP program, estimates that if all of the students who scored a 5 on the exams last year enrolled in one of the state’s two flagship universities and received course credit, they would collectively save between $36.2 million and $42.9 million in tuition costs.

This news comes at a time when climbing college tuition rates are a major talking point in Texas, and on the cusp of a legislative session that will likely address these issues. 

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Education
9:34 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Justices Return to Affirmative Action in Higher Ed

Students walk through the University of Texas, Austin, campus near the school's iconic tower on Sept. 27.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:48 am

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

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Education
6:39 am
Wed October 10, 2012

UT, Affirmative Action, and the 'Achievement Gap'

The U.S. Supreme Court is looking at a case involving race as a factor in admissions at UT.
flickr.com/islespunkfan

Wednesday, Oct. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. The University of Texas. The case asks whether including race as a factor for admission is constitutional. Debate around the issue has been heated.

Minority groups held a conference at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday and said affirmative action is necessary to right historic wrongs. They argued that underprivileged minorities remain underprivileged if they can’t attend flagship universities. And they argued that diversity in the classroom will help students deal with diversity in the real world.

But Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at UT who specializes in race and education (and is no stranger to controversial remarks on the topic), says affirmative action won’t fix this. He says the real problem is that many minority students aren’t ready for college when they graduate high school.

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Education
3:19 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Student Could Face Jail Time For Hacking UT Registration Site

UT police say the student clogged the registrar website with information and requests, temporarily taking it offline.
Caleb Miller for KUT News

A University of Texas at Austin student is facing a felony charge for hacking UT’s computer system.

University police say 19-year-old Garret Phillips flooded the registration site with information in April, shutting it down temporarily when students were trying to sign up for summer and fall classes.

But UTPD Sgt. Charles Bonnet says no personal information was put at risk.

“The type of attack that was launched was just a flood of information into the site which caused it to crash. There was no effort to extract any kind of information or view any kind of information," Bonnet says.

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Education
1:30 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

AISD Considers Paying More For Coaches

School board members and Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will discuss AISD athletics at their meeting tonight.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin school district could start offering more perks to athletic coaches in hopes of attracting better talent. School board members will hear about a proposal tonight to pay coaches competitive stipends and offer flexible work schedules.

Austin ISD says student athletes do better in school than non-athletes. Their attendance rates are five percent higher. They score almost seven percent higher on math tests. And they are 16 percent more likely to graduate. The relationship between learning and sports is the subject of much scholarly analysis.

That’s part of the justification for increasing how much AISD dedicates to athletics. Currently, the district spends about $10.7 million a year, which amounts to 1.1 percent of AISD’s budget. Almost two out of five high school students play sports. In middle school, it’s closer to three out of five.

Providing stipends to coaches and giving them more flexible work schedules might help attract better talent and make students more likely to play sports, but the head of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association Rusty Dowling says that’s not the only thing coaches will consider.

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Education
11:56 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Should Texas Embrace Virtual Schools?

Lawmakers heard this morning about virtual schooling in Texas.
flickr.com/sammers05

The Texas Senate Education Committee is holding a hearing to address virtual education and its growing use in Texas. Committee members will hear testimony on virtual education and recommendations to improve programs that are underperforming. 

Texas offers both supplemental and full-time virtual education. Students in supplemental programs take online courses in addition to attending traditional face-to-face classes. Those enrolled in virtual schools full-time get all of their instruction online and don’t receive any classroom instruction.

The number of students enrolled in virtual schools in Texas is growing rapidly. Raise Your Hand Texas, an education policy non-profit, reports that enrollment in virtual education programs grew 97 percent in the past six years. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 17,000 Texas students were enrolled in supplemental online courses.  Last school year, 6,000 students were enrolled in full-time virtual programs. 

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Education
4:32 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

Texas School Fund Grows By Nine Percent

The library at Allan Elementary School in Austin
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A public fund that helps pay for textbooks and classroom materials grew by more than 9 percent last fiscal year to $25.5 billion. The Texas Permanent School Fund is the second largest educational endowment in the country, after Harvard University’s, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Will it mean more money for teaching materials in public schools? Technically, it should, but Christy Rome with the Texas Schools Coalition isn’t popping the champagne bottles just yet.

“We hope that it will mean more money for schools, but we won’t know that for certain until we see what that bottom line looks like during the legislative session in 2013,” she says.

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Education
11:44 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Like $10,000 Degree, Perry Tuition Plan May Not Fit All

Texas Science Scholar Wesley Powers, a junior chemistry major from Midland, Texas, works on a 3-hour-long lab experiment at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas.
Jerod Foster for Texas Tribune

Ashton Curlee, the ambitious daughter of two teachers, received official notification of her acceptance to the new Texas Science Scholar Program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin on the first day of college.

“It’s a really awesome program,” said Curlee, a native of Monahans. “There’s a lot of good stuff that comes along with it.”

Savings top that list. If Curlee stays on track, maintaining a 3.0 grade point average and completing 30 hours of course work each school year, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2016. Instead of paying more than $6,300 per academic year in tuition and fees — the current cost for a regular student — Curlee will pay $2,500 per year.

That adds up to a $10,000 degree, a notion that has taken on grail-like status in some Texas higher education circles as the state struggles to address rising tuition at its public universities.

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Education
3:36 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Report Examines How Budget Cuts Affected Texas Schools

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

How Texas public schools coped with the $5.4 billion state budget cut in 2011 is sure to dominate the conversation at the Capitol about school funding in 2013.

In advance of the next legislative session, one group aims to provide comprehensive data on exactly what has happened. A coalition of nonprofit foundations and the Houston-based advocacy organization Children At Risk released their initial findings Thursday at a Capitol press conference.

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Education
4:20 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Texas SAT Scores Drop, But Participation Rates Surge

Shannan Muskop, Texas Tribune

A report from the Texas Education Agency on the state's 2012 SAT scores shows two things about Texas students over the past five years: more students are the taking the test, but they aren't performing as well.

More students are taking the college admissions test — especially Hispanics and blacks, whose participation rates have increased by 65 and 42 percent, respectively, since 2007. Students' scores, though, decreased from 2o11 by about five points across the board in reading, math and writing, continuing the downward trend of the past five years. 

“We are clearly building a college-going culture in Texas. The increased minority participation is important to the health of this state because of our changing demographics,” said Commissioner Michael Williams in a statement.

About 58 percent of 2012's graduating class took the SAT, which was about a 6 percent increase from the year before.

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Higher Education
9:17 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Gov. Rick Perry Calls for College Tuition Freeze

Gov. Perry speaking at the second annual Texas Tribune Festival. Gov. Perry called for a four-year college tuition freeze.
Spencer Selvidge, Texas Tribune

Texas Governor Rick Perry says he'll call for a four-year college tuition freeze. The comment was made at a Q&A session with Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune Festival this weekend.

In the interview, Perry proposed that students who enter college as freshmen could lock in a four-year tuition rate, says Texas Tribune Reporter Jay Root, who live-blogged the event. However, if a student takes longer than four years to graduate, he or she could face tuition increases.

Perry also said he is open to an “open and vigorous debate” about in-state tuition costs and supported providing in-state tuition for some children of undocumented immigrants.

Perry's announcement came just a day before The Dallas Morning News announced that Texas students are paying 55 percent more for tuition and fees at state universities than they were a decade ago. According to the analysis, tuition has increased three percent this year alone.

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Education
10:33 am
Mon September 10, 2012

UT-Austin Announces New Engineering Research Center

KUT News

It has been more than two decades since a Texas university was selected to lead one of the National Science Foundation's prestigious engineering research centers, but the University of Texas at Austin has broken the streak.

UT-Austin has been selected to receive an $18.5 million federal grant over five years to establish and lead a center they are calling the Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies, or NASCENT. It will focus on developing manufacturing processes for microscopic computing technology that the center's leaders, Roger Bonnecaze and S.C. Sreenivasan, said could lead to foldable laptops and wearable devices.

The NSF's engineering research centers are strategically placed partnerships between the government, academia and industry. Led by UT-Austin, the partners that make up NASCENT include the University of New Mexico and the University of California at Berkeley as well as private companies like Texas Instrumnets, Lockeed Martin and others.

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Education
1:13 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Texas to Request No Child Left Behind Waivers

Pres. George W. Bush signing the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.
White House

Texas is asking the federal government to waive requirements associated with No Child Left Behind, the signature package of education reforms championed by former President (and former Texas Governor) George W. Bush. The announcement comes after more than half of Texas schools failed to meet the annually escalating standards last school year. 

In a message on the Texas Education Agency website, the new Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announces plans to submit requests to the U.S. Department of Education waiving provisions in 2001’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, as well as parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"The state recognizes that the lack of NCLB’s reauthorization in a timely manner has created an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state’s schools," the statement reads. "This, combined with [Local Educational Agencies] being required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability.”

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