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.

Kate McGee, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project wants the Austin Independent School District to conduct a self-assessment of equity among campuses. If not, the group says it will file a complaint with the federal government which could result in a civil rights investigation of the district.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released a letter to school districts in the fall. It highlighted disparities in educational resources in public schools nationwide and suggested ways to make sure districts are providing all students equal access to resources. The letter suggested a self-assessment and provided ways for school districts to implement one.

“It’s not an issue of laying blame," said Joe Berra, lawyer with the TCRP. "It’s just an issue of saying, ‘Let’s see where we are now. Let’s make a conscious effort to address them.’”

Kate McGee, KUT News

The Austin School Board bid farewell to four members last night and welcomed their successors. Most of the night was filled with thanks to those leaving and advice for the incoming members.

Trustees gave short speeches about their departing colleagues, Cheryl Bradley, Lori Moya, Vincent Torres and Tamala Barksdale, while the outgoing trustees offered advice to their successors.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

UPDATE: Through the All Access challenge, Archer Hadley raised over $82,000 to go towards automatic doors for Austin High School, doubling his initial goal.

Original post (Oct. 28, 2014): An Austin High School senior with cerebral palsy is inviting students and staff at Austin High to challenge themselves, and each other, to spend one school day in a wheelchair. The goal is to raise enough money to install five automatic door openers at the school. 

Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, senior Archer Hadley created the challenge in which each participant is nominated and pays $20. If you deny the challenge, that’ll also cost you $20. It lasts for the next two weeks, and Austin High students and staff can challenge anyone to participate.

Photo by KUT News

Early next year, the Austin School Board will swear in four new trustees. Most of the trustees are replacing school board members who have served on the board for more than a decade. The new trustees are diverse group who represent the diverse student body in Austin ISD: an African American, Hispanic and two women.  Here's a brief summary of each of the new trustees:

UT Austin

This story is part of an occasional series from KUT called Gender Divide, which will tell stories about the communities in Austin ISD's new single-sex middle schools, while also exploring the debate over single-sex education.

Are there benefits to single sex education? 

It's one of the major questions educators and parents are asking as more public schools nationwide create single sex campuses or single sex classrooms on campus. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 850 public single sex schools across the country. 

UT Professor Rebecca Bigler is one person who says single sex education doesn't benefit students academically, or in any way. 

Bigler studies gender stereotyping and social cognition in children. She also wrote a paper in 2011 about single sex education at the Ann Richard's School for Young Women Leaders, the first single sex school in the Austin Independent School District. The study argues single sex education doesn't affect academic performance, and increases gender stereotyping.

As part of KUT's series on single sex education called Gender Divide, KUT's Kate McGee spoke with Bigler about the national debate over single sex education:

Photo by KUT News

Update (10:37): With 100 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace is officially the winner in the AISD School Board At-large District Nine race. Ted Gordon won in District One with 56 percent of the vote and Paul Saldana won in District Six with 53 percent of the vote.

Update(10:05 p.m.): With 92 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace continues to have a healthy lead over Hillary Procknow in the at-large District Nine race for Austin School Board. 

In District One, Ted Gordon continues to inch ahead of David Thompson. As of the last report, Gordon has 55 percent compared to Thompson's 44 percent. But voter turnout was very low in that district, with fewer than 6,000 people voting. 

In District Six, the race is even closer between Paul Saldana and Kate Mason-Murphy. However, Saldana continues to inch ahead of Mason-Murphy with 53 percent of the vote. That race saw low voter turnout, too. 

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update: The Austin School Board has unanimously named interim Superintendent Paul Cruz as the sole finalist for the position, the last step before offering him a formal contract. The vote was more of a formality—Cruz was the only candidate after two others dropped out.

"I want to say loud and clear, it's not just that Dr. Cruz is the last man standing, but I believe he is absolutely the best person for the job," says School Board Vice President Gina Hinojosa.

Board members publicly said Cruz was the most qualified person for the job. Plus, the community voiced its support for Cruz, too. Everyone from the teacher’s union and minority groups to city lawmakers and the Chamber of Commerce said they supported the decision to consider Cruz for the job.

This story is part of an occasional series from KUT called Gender Divide, which will tell stories about the communities in Austin ISD's new single-sex middle schools, while also exploring the debate over single-sex education.

When you walk into the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy in East Austin on any given morning, the first thing you hear is the echo of young men's voices bouncing off the walls of the building's large atrium. The atrium is like the heart of the building, connecting arteries of hallways and classrooms in the seven year old campus. 

Walking those hallways, it's hard to avoid shaking hands. Young men will approach you, wearing the Gus Garcia Uniform. They introduce themselves and declare they are, "a Gus Garcia man." It's an approach and attitude Principal Sterlin McGruder has instilled in the more than 400 students since it opened its doors as a single-sex school in August. 

Kate McGee/KUT

Yolanda Sifuentes is a seventh grader at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy. At 12, she already has big dreams for her future. She says she wants to be a psychologist because she likes to help people with their problems; or she wants to be a cosmetologist because she's really into beauty; or she wants to be an engineer because she likes to build stuff. She's still choosing, she admits.

Sifuentes has always liked engineering. Last year, she was part of Garcia Middle School’s Tech Girls after-school robotics club. Now, she’s sitting in her school library writing code. 

"Like, if I'm an engineer, of course I'm going to need to learn to code and stuff," Sifuentes says clicking away at her computer.

Sadler Means is one of the AISD schools participating in a global campaign called Hour of Code, which exposes students to the basics of coding. It’s hosted by the non-profit, Code.org. Last year, 15 million students worldwide participated in Hour of Code in five days.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update: The Austin School Board may not officially have decided who will be hired to be the permanent superintendent, but if you attended a news conference at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, you could be forgiven for thinking some community leaders have decided otherwise.

More than a dozen education, religious, labor and community groups applauded the board’s decision to consider Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz for the position, even though the board previously said Cruz would not apply for the job when they appointed him in April. 

WelcomingSchools.org

Kristina Kramer has taught at Blazier Elementary in Southeast Austin for ten years. But it wasn’t until she started a new program called Welcoming Schools that she realized:

“I did little things that were excluding students in my classroom," Kramer says. 

When Kramer says when she sent letters home with students, she says she'd address the letters as “'Dear Parents' instead of, 'Dear Parents and Guardians.' Or not thinking about other people who could be caregivers in a child’s home."

She brought the issue up at a school-wide meeting, too, when they wanted to send home a note to all students’ families.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

A recent swell of community support for Austin School District interim superintendent Paul Cruz has pushed the Austin school board to consider him for the permanent position, even though the board and Cruz initially agreed he wouldn’t apply for the job.

The school board appointed Cruz interim superintendent in April, and Board President Vincent Torres made it clear Cruz would not be considered for the job.

"In a conversation I had with Dr. Cruz, in seeing if he would be interested in accepting the position, he did indicate he wouldn't seek an application for the permanent superintendent," Torres told the board.

The goal was to appoint someone with experience within the district who could steady the ship while it searches for a new captain. But many in the AISD community say throughout the spring and summer, Cruz proved himself to be a breath of fresh air after the board's rocky relationship with former superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Ryan Stanton, Flickr

The Texas State Board of Education usually makes headlines when it adopts new textbooks because of ideological debates about the content. The time is no exception. This week, the board heard testimony from people on the left and right who are concerned about information in proposed social studies textbooks. 

But just how are textbooks chosen in Texas, and who is involved? 

Martin do Nascimento/Texas Tribune

A conservative grassroots group formed by a San Antonio man with ties to a national anti-Muslim organization has made a late entry into debate over new social studies textbooks for Texas schools, which are set to gain final approval from the state Board of Education this week. 

Flickr user: Luis Garza S; https://flic.kr/p/eaJgo4

A certain NFL team in Washington, D.C. has come under fire for its name – but a new Texas university appears to have a name controversy of its own.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the eminent consolidation of UT Pan-American and UT Brownsville, is in need of a mascot. But the front-runner –“vaqueros”, the Spanish word for “cowboys” – has proven so divisive that there’s an online petition demanding the resignation of the school’s new president.

Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Public schools in Austin get federal and state money based on students’ attendance and socioeconomic makeup. 

How schools supplement that funding often depends on the private resources available from foundations, non-profits or parents.

While many schools in Austin have robust Parent Teacher Association operations, others, mostly with high percentages of low-income students (so-called Title I schools), struggle to fundraise within their parent base because of a lack of extra resources and time to write grants or work with businesses to bring in money.

Many times, those schools must look to private foundations and non-profits to provide extra programs for students and families. 
 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Three of the five races are headed to a run-off on Dec. 16.

Here are the final numbers:

District One: 

  • Ted Gordon 34.56%  (Run-Off)
  • David 'D' Thompson 28.45% (Run-Off)
  • P. Kevin Bryant 18.73%
  • Stanton Strickland 18.25%

District Four: 

  • Julie Cowan 77.41% (Winner)
  • Karen Zern Flanagan 22.59%
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

For the second time in more than forty years, Austin Community College is asking voters to approve a bond package that it says will allow the college to expand its offerings to students in Central Texas.

The $386 million bond proposition would allow ACC to renovate current buildings, build new campuses and expand programming.

Proposition 1: $224 million to retrofit the new campus at Highland Mall, build a campus in Leander (where student enrollment is at capacity) and buy land in southeast Travis County for future campuses.

KUT News

Five of the nine Austin School Board seats are up for grabs this Election Day. Current trustees in four of those five races decided not to run, which means there will be a lot of new faces on the school board.

The turnover comes as the school district is looking for a new superintendent. The new school board will have some major decisions to make in the next few years regarding the district’s budget, overcrowded and under-enrolled schools and declining enrollment district-wide.

Plus, for people who live within the district, most of an individual’s property tax bill goes toward AISD, not the city of Austin, Austin Community College or Travis County. So even if you don’ t have children in the district, or at all, the Austin School Board can still affect your wallet if it decides to raise property taxes.

Here’s a break down of who is running in each race:

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Early voting continues this week in races ranging from governor to Texas Supreme Court Justice to Austin City Council to school board, a race that some say has been drowned out by some of the big ticket items on the crowded Election Day ballot.

A small patch of grass near a bus stop on Oltorf Street, near Lamar Boulevard, is surrounded by campaign signs –Adler for Mayor, Chris Riley for Council District 9, Dan Buda for District 5, Fred McGhee for District 3 – but one would be hard-pressed to find a school board candidate’s sign.

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