Education

Education
10:01 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

AISD Superintendent Carstarphen's Contract Extended

Meria Carstarphen in a file photo from 2009, shortly before she was hired by the Austin ISD school board.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The superintendent who took the helm of the largest school district in Central Texas two years ago just had her contract extended for an additional year. Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's contract now expires in June 2014. The extension did not include a pay raise or increase in benefits. 

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Education
9:21 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Austin School Board Approves New Voting Map

The new redistricting map approved by the Austin school board Monday night. See a larger version of this image here: http://archive.austinisd.org/inside/board/docs/AustinISD_TD_Yellow_Illustrative1.pdf

The Austin ISD school board gave a redrawn school district voting map the green light tonight in an 8-1 vote, clearing the way for the proposal to be sent to the US Justice Department for approval. Texas is among the jurisdictions that require federal approval to redraw voting boundaries under provisions of the Voting Rights Act intended to prevent minority groups from having their electoral influence reduced. 

Several members of the Mueller neighborhood, a mixed-use development just east of I-35, protested the changes during a public comment portion of the board meeting. At least three speakers said they wanted to be included in East Austin's District 1, an area that includes the highest proportion of African-American voters in the entire school district and the second largest percentage of Hispanic voters.

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Education
11:12 am
Mon September 26, 2011

AISD Withholds New Facility Master Plan Recommendation Until Tonight

Austin ISD headquarters downtown on West 6th Street.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District operates more than 100 schools in the city covering 12 million square feet. Some of those schools are overcrowded. Others that are way under-capacity.

A plan developed this year to deal with that was shelved, after school board members found the notion of school closures politically unpalatable.  A revised version of that facilities master plan will be unveiled tonight.

In an unusual move, the Austin Independent School District is refusing to release the proposed facility master plan to the public until immediately before it is presented to the school board.

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Education
3:59 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

UT Will Build New Supercomputer with Dell and Intel

UT, Dell and the National Science Foundation are working together to build a new supercomputer, to be named "Stampede."
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

By January 2013, the University of Texas at Austin will be the host of a new world-class supercomputer as part of a National Science Foundation grant. "Stampede" will be built in a partnership between the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Dell, and Intel and kept at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus - home of another NSF-funded high-performance computer system, Ranger.

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Education
12:11 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Deadline Looms For Class Size Increase Requests

Texas school districts have until October 4 to request an increase in student to teacher ratios.
Photo by Max Klingensmith http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/

The state legislature slashed $4 billion from public education this year, forcing many Central Texas school districts to lay off teachers. School districts are now considering whether they want to raise student-to-teacher ratios.

State law limits those ratios at 22-to-1 from Kindergarten through the 4th grade. School districts have until October 3 to request an increase of 24-to-1.

University of Texas education professor Christopher Brown says parents need to be aware of the potential impact in their kid’s classroom.

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Education
4:58 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

UT President Given Power to Tackle Conference Issue

University of Texas President Bill Powers announces UT's commitment to the Big 12 Conference.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System regents today gave UT President Bill Powers the authority to take any necessary actions regarding conference realignment. Hours earlier, the University of Oklahoma regents empowered their president, David Boren, with the same authority.

The action by both universities is identical to a move Texas A&M University System regents made in August when they granted such authority to Texas A&M President  R. Bowen Loftin — two weeks before A&M officially notified the Big 12 Conference that it wanted out.

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Education
12:15 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Hispanic Student Population Increases at UT Austin

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The ratio of Hispanic students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin rose from 12 percent in 2001 to 17.5 percent this year, according to preliminary numbers from the university.  While the percentage of freshman Hispanic students is down this year, UT-Austin’s Hispanic student population of 8,975 is a new record high for the university.

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Education
2:43 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Texas Approves Charter School For Deion Sanders

Photo by Michael J. Cargill

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders' charter school application was among eight approved by the Texas State Board of Education today.

The decision came after a brief discussion during which members raised questions about the schools' academic rigor and Sanders' involvement.

"I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom, how they plan to instruct the TEKS," said Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, adding, " I have no idea what they plan to offer in a day to day classroom experience."

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Education
12:45 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Texas SAT Scores Show Broad Declines

A sample copy of the SAT test
Photo by KUT

Average scores on the SAT tests by Texas high school students plummeted last school year in all three subject areas: reading, writing and math. The national numbers also declined to their lowest levels on record.

Here in Texas, the average math score for students, including all public and private schools, dropped two points to 502. Critical reading scores declined four points to 479. Writing scores were down seven points to 465.

National scores declined also, but were still higher than the Texas averages at 506, 494 and 483 for math, critical reading and writing, respectively. The maximum score on the SAT test is 800.

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Education
5:02 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

AISD Considers Process to Redraw School Boundaries

School trustee Lori Moya leans over to say something to school board president Mark Williams during a board meeting in June.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is about to begin a long and likely contentious process that could end in school attendance boundaries being redrawn.

Tonight, school board members will look at the district’s plan to develop a committee that would examine attendance zones. It’s all kind of dry at this point – but that could change if the district starts tinkering with which students go to what schools.

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Education
4:46 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

UT Systems Launches "Framework" Plan

The UT Board of Regents approved a $243.6 million framework plan that is supposed to change the way UT universities operate.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa introduced a nine-point plan to increase undergraduate access and graduation rates, emerging research opportunities, teaching awards for faculty and improving efficiency and transparency. The UT Board of Regents voted unanimously to implement Cigarroa’s framework and commit $243.6 million to it. You can watch his address here.

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Education
3:57 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

UT Professors Develop Online Game to Help Autistic Children

Two University of Texas professors are developing a free online game called LifeisGame which may help autistic children express their emotions.
Image courtesy Yan Zhang, UT School of Information

Two University of Texas professors are developing a game that could affect the lives of children diagnosed with autism.

Yan Zhang, an assistant professor at UT-Austin's School of Information and engineering professor J.K. Aggarwal are working to create a free online game called "LifeIsGame" designed  to help autistic children communicate.

Zhang said the game may address a component of autistic children's lives that often gets overlooked: their emotions.

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Education
2:15 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Austin Non-Profit Girlstart Expands Nationally

Austin non-profit aimed at drawing girls into STEM education is getting ready to expand nationally.
Horia Varlan http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/

A local organization that wants to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is beginning to branch out across the United States. Girlstart began in Austin in 1997, and provides free after-school programs, summer camps, and Saturday classes for girls.

“STEM is a national priority. There aren’t enough graduates in America than can fill STEM jobs,” Girlstart executive director Tamara Hudgins told KUT News.

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Education
2:57 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Your Last Chance To Weigh In On AISD's 2011-12 Budget

People addressing the school board at tonight's budget hearing stand at this microphone and are given two minutes to speak.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin school board members are set to vote on an $838 million budget one week from today. But first, they want to hear from the public during a hearing tonight at AISD headquarters.

The state is cutting more than $35 million from Austin ISD’s budget. But one-time federal money through the so-called EduJobs program is adding $14 million to the district’s coffers.

Here are some of the items included in the budget:

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Education
11:26 am
Fri August 12, 2011

Texas Universities Prepping for New Meningitis Law

Jamie Schanbaum, a victim of bacterial meningitis, has had two vaccine-related bills named for her by the state legislature.
Photo by Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

Among the things 22-year old Jamie Schanbaum has now that she could not have anticipated three years ago are 2 extra inches in height when she stands, a gold medal from the USA Cycling Paralympic Road National Championships and two bills passed by the Texas Legislature in her honor. These gains came after significant losses — most noticeably both legs below the knee and most of each finger, the result of a bout with meningococcal septicemia during her sophomore year at the University of Texas.

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Education
5:21 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Texas AG: No Permanent School Funds to Help Charter Schools

The fifteen-member State Board of Education is responsible for managing the $25 billion Permanent School Fund.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The State Board of Education cannot use money from the $25 billion Permanent School Fund to help charter schools acquire buildings or other facilities, according to a legal opinion issued today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. He said the only consideration for investment should be how much money the SBOE earns on it, and how safe that investment is.

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Education
2:02 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Texas “Very Unlikely” To Seek NCLB Waiver This Year

Texas Education Agency is headquartered in the William B. Travis Building in Austin.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Education Agency is waiting until the federal government rolls out more details in September before deciding whether to seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

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Education
4:03 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

AISD Misses AYP

Federal ratings, based in part by standardized test performance, for school districts and individual public schools were released today.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Education Agency released preliminary results for the federal ratings of school districts today. Austin Independent School district did not meet federal standards, known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). It is a federal designation as part of the No Child Left Behind program.

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Education
4:32 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Don’t Expect AISD Tax Rate Election In November

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin ISD, the largest school district in Central Texas, probably won’t ask voters this fall to help cover a state funding shortfall that forced it to slash jobs and reduce programs.

“There’s just not enough time,” AISD school board president Mark Williams told KUT News, citing how long it took the state legislature to finalize its budget this year.  

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Education
4:56 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Texas School Ratings Drop With Change in Formula

Education Commisioner Robert Scott gave Texas schools their ratings today.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The number of schools considered “academically unacceptable” by the state skyrocketed from 104 in 2010 to 569 this year. It was largely because the Texas Education Agency stopped using the Texas Projection Measure, a formula that gave credit to failing schools if they were mathematically predicted to pass in the future.

Commissioner Robert Scott says that’s still only 7 percent of all public schools in Texas.

“The system is designed to make campuses focus on their weaknesses and cause improvement,” Scott said. “One year academically unacceptable, most of those campuses will come off that list in a year.”

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