12:51 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Study Questions Claims Of Charter School Seeking AISD Contract

Austin ISD is considering a deal with IDEA Public Schools that would create an in-district charter school, but one study questions how effective IDEA really is at educating disadvantaged kids.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is negotiating a deal with IDEA Public Schools, a charter school district based in the Rio Grande Valley, to run an in-district charter school in East Austin that targets AISD students classified as “economically disadvantaged.” But a new study suggests IDEA’s educational outcomes may not be much better than traditional public schools.

The study was conducted by Dr. Ed Fuller. He used to work as at the University of Texas’ College of Education. But earlier this year Fuller was hired by Penn State University to direct a research center.

Fuller examined student level data he obtained from the Texas Education Agency and published a study online that makes three critical claims.

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11:37 am
Mon November 14, 2011

UT Faculty Productivity Gets High Marks in New Report

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News


Despite the arguments of critics in recent months, Marc Musick, the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts associate dean of student affairs, makes the case in a new faculty productivity report that his institution provides “an incredible return on investment for the state.”

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1:39 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Report: Social Studies Guidelines Not Aligned With College Standards

Photo by Judy Baxter

Social studies standards adopted by the Texas State Board of Education will leave students unprepared for college, according to a new report by a professor of history at the University of Texas El Paso.

The report was prepared by Keith Erekson for the Social Studies Faculty Collaborative, an organization funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The report’s findings have not been reviewed by the Faculty Collaborative or the Coordinating Board.

“The end result for the students in the classroom is that it’s going to be a lot harder to go to college,” said Erekson, who directs a teacher education program and a center for history and learning at UTEP.

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4:29 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

AISD Board Discusses Tax Increase to Finance Staff Pay Raise

Austin ISD headquarters on W. 6th Street
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Teachers in Austin Independent School District have not received a raise since 2009, and some school board members are talking openly about the possibility of raising taxes to finance one. Such a tax rate increase would require approval of voters. 

At a meeting last night, AISD chief financial officer Nicole Conley-Abram explained how the district still expects a shortfall of around $20 million next school year. She presented board members with some options under consideration, including a pay raise for staff, without specifying how much that pay raise could cost.  

“Where were we going to get the money to do this?” Trustee Lori Moya asked.

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12:24 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Pflugerville Parents Complain About District Bullying Policy

Satellite view of Riojas Elementary school

A group of parents in Pflugerville Independent School District is upset over how they believe the district is responding to accusations of bullying at Riojas Elementary School. They will meet with the district on Thursday night to go over their concerns about campus safety.

The situation for one family boiled over in September when a boy accused of bullying accidentally stabbed an eight-year-old student in the eye with a pencil during a scuffle near the pencil sharpener.

The eight-year old was sent home with an eye-patch. But his parents rushed to Dell Children’s Hospital, where he required surgery to have a small piece of led removed from this eye.

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9:31 am
Mon November 7, 2011

Austin ISD Re-Examines Budget Deficit

As school board members at the largest district in Central Texas gather tonight to talk about fixing elementary school overcrowding and improving grades at the worst performing schools, they’ll have something else to consider: the Austin Independent School District’s budget next year.

AISD financial chief Nicole Conley-Abram, who recently received an award from the state for budget transparency, will lay it all out for board members tonight.

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5:30 pm
Sat November 5, 2011

College Bound, But Debt Bound?

Con Mi Madre, a non-profit that encourages Hispanic mothers to seek a college education for their daughters, hosted a college fair at Travis High School in Austin Saturday.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Some Austin parents such as Norma Sanchez worry a college education will be the most costly expense for their families. A college fair Saturday at Travis High School was hosted by Con Mi Madre, a non-profit active in Austin schools that encourages Hispanic mothers to seek a college education for their daughters.

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1:35 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Report: 32,000 School Jobs Eliminated By State Budget Cuts

State lawmakers trimmed about $5 billion from education spending in the last legislative session, which led to the elimination of 32,000 school jobs, according to a report.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Texas public school districts have an estimated 32,000 fewer employees than they may have had if the state hadn’t cut more than $5 billion in public education spending during the legislative session. That includes almost 12,000 fewer teachers.

The numbers are from this report released by an Austin-based school finance consulting firm. Moak, Casey & Associates recently surveyed school districts across the state. 60 participated.

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1:26 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Nation’s Report Card Shows Mixed Results For Texas

This chart shows Texas performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past five tests. Hold your mouse over the bars to see the testing years and specific values. 

Texas public schools have shown few gains in how well they teach reading, but schools are making significant progress in math, according to one of the largest and most important nationwide assessments in the United States. African American and Hispanic students in Texas are also outperforming many of their counterparts in other states.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card – tests a sampling of fourth and eighth graders across the country every two years.

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12:21 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

How Texas' Education Funding System Encourages Artificial Turf

House Park Field is one of three major Austin ISD fields with artificial turf.
Photo by Teresa Vieira

The Texas school finance system is notoriously complicated, which makes it difficult for average people to have informed debates about how a large portion of their property taxes are spent.

Here’s an example: School districts are funded through two separate property taxes. One is called M&O, for maintenance and operations. That tax rate pays for stuff like teacher salaries, water bills, electricity bills, textbooks and so on.

The second tax rate is called I&S, for interest and sinking. That money can only be used to pay down school district debt on school buildings, facilities, and other capital expenditures.

Now here is where it gets interesting. The tax you pay for M&O is subject to the state’s so-called Robin Hood law, a rule that takes money from wealthier districts and redistributes it to poorer districts in order to provide “substantially equal access” to education funding per student.

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11:28 am
Mon October 24, 2011

AISD Board To Get Some Specifics on Facilities Proposals

After the Austin Independent School District’s last attempt at adopting a ten year master plan for its 12 million square feet of property was derailed in the spring, the AISD school board is scheduled tonight to hear some of the most specific proposals yet from Superintendent Meria Carstarphen on how to address issues such as overcrowding.

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5:08 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Impoverished Texas Student Population Ticks Past 59 Percent

This chart shows the increase in economically disadvantaged students in Texas, as a percentage of the total student population.
Image courtesy Texas Education Agency

While Gov. Perry tours the country arguing that Texas is an economic powerhouse, new data from the state’s education agency shows 2.9 million public school students are economically disadvantaged. The number represents 59.1 percent of the student population in the 2010-11 school year. It's a slight uptick from 58.9 percent the previous year.

Ten years ago, 49.2 percent of students were counted as impoverished. The total number of economically disadvantaged students increased from 2 million in the 2000-01 school year to 2.9 million in the 2010-11 school year, an increase of 45 percent. 

Economically disadvantaged students include those whose parents’ income falls below the federal poverty line. That’s $22,350 for a family of four.

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12:48 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

TPPF Higher Ed Guru: 7 Solutions a "Good Start"

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Thomas Lindsay, the man recently selected to head the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education, is no stranger to controversy. That may be considered an asset in the position, given the foundation’s role in igniting much of the debate that has gripped Texas higher ed this year.

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10:21 am
Tue September 27, 2011

School Equity Lawsuit Gains Districts

Texas will once again be challenged in court over its school funding system.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

About 100 school districts have now signed on to a looming lawsuit against the state for cuts to public education. The lawsuit is being filed by the Equity Center, a non-profit school equity funding advocacy organization. In an e-mail today the Center said it would release a list of districts next week -- after a state-wide school board convention in Austin.

The Center says the state's per-pupil funding remains uneven, with some districts getting as much as $10,000 per student, while others get half that.

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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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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:

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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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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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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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

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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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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