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.

Photos: Filipa Rodrigues, KUT Design: Andrew Weber, KUT

Principal Sterlin McGruder thinks it's his responsibility to teach more than reading and math to his middle school students at Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy. Throughout the first year at the all-boys school in Northeast Austin, McGruder has tried to instill a sense of respect in his students: respect for others and respect for themselves.

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You may have been running into this problem, too - all the stores I've tried in Central Texas are out of 175th birthday cards! First, the City of Austin celebrated its 175th birthday in December 2014.  Now, Southwestern University in Georgetown is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

In the latest episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern's President Dr. Ed Burger explore the history of Southwestern University on its demisemiseptcentennial. Or as some call it, the quartoseptcentennial. It's also known as the septaquintaquinquecentennial. Do Ed and Jennifer even try to say those words?! Listen on to find out.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Some bus drivers, custodians and teaching assistants in Austin public schools are asking the school board to give classified employees a five percent pay increase next year. At a school board meeting on Monday, classified employees said as Austin becomes a more expensive place to live, it's getting more difficult to live on their current salaries.

KUT News

Here’s another example of how Texas does things bigger: university funds.

The University of Texas System now has the second largest endowment among universities in the U.S.

That’s according to a survey released today from the investment firm Commonfund and the National Association of College and University Business Officers. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Dr. Paul Cruz finally dropped the "interim" from his superintendent title last night when the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees officially approved his contract through 2017.

Cruz stepped in as interim superintendent last April when Dr. Meria Castarphen left for Atlanta Public Schools.

Cruz's three-year contract with the district will have him earning $286,000 a year as superintendent, leading the district's 85,000 students and 12,000 staff members.

The phrase "liberal arts" often goes hand in hand with discussions about higher education. But really, what are the liberal arts? Are they liberal? Are they arts?

How about none of the above? In the latest episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore what comprises liberal arts. Think it's literature, history, science, maybe the study of a foreign language? Think again and listen on.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

This year, two middle schools on Austin’s East Side became single-sex schools. Garcia and Pearce Middle schools are located in one of Austin’s most challenged neighborhoods: University Hills. The schools have struggled academically, and school board members and district and state education officials agreed: Something needed to change. But the decision to make these schools single-sex was controversial — even among members of the school board.

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The old saying goes something like this: "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it it, does it make a sound?" A variation on that might go: "If someone asks a question, and no one is around to hear it, what good does it do?"

A lot, as it turns out. In the latest episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger exchange questions and answers about the art and importance of questions to learning.

Joy Diaz/KUT

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has a lot on his plate: housing affordability, traffic, and water resources to name a few.

But he wants to tackle another issue: education.

Kate McGee/KUT News

The sun is just beginning to rise as Denise Cisneros greets her pre-school students at the Lucy Read Pre-K center as they enter her classroom.

"How are you going to greet me today?" Cisneros asked a student at the front of the line.

"I would like a bug hug please," the little girl replied, giving Cisneros a hug before walking into the classroom.

Austin ISD offers full-day pre-K programs, but has to pay for half of the program itself because Texas only funds half-day preschool programs for qualifying students: low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with learning disabilities. But lawmakers filed at least four bills to require all school districts to offer free, full-day pre-kindergarten classes. Austin ISD would like to offer universal pre-K to all students. This year, Austin ISD also started a few pre-K programs for three-year-olds.

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

The Austin Independent School District is starting to offer free online SAT and ACT prep programs to all 21,000 high school students in the district. 

Last year, more Austin public school students took the SAT and ACT, two national tests used in the college admissions process, and students continued to score higher on the ACT. The average overall SAT score for AISD students was 1507, higher than the national and statewide average. 


The 2015 legislative session is upon us. And while there haven’t been any committee hearings or votes yet, lawmakers are already beating the drum on a variety of issues. When it comes to education, conservative lawmakers, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, are already talking about the idea of school choice for all Texas students.

“Not just the wealthy who can send their children to private school, and not just those who have the mobility to move to the suburbs," Patrick said last week.  "But for parents in the inner cities where their children are trapped in failing schools, it is their right to have those same opportunities.”

Patrick thinks one solution is school vouchers.  But what are school vouchers? KUT's Kate McGee and Nathan Bernier break down the issue:

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Welcome to the first episode of KUT's newest podcast, "Higher Ed." Each week, KUT's Jennifer Stayton will talk with Dr. Ed Burger, President of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, about higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. But if you're thinking this is going to be just another boring chat with a talking head.... think again and listen on!

Small words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ may say more than you think. New research from UT Austin finds they can tell us a lot – even predicting a student’s grades in college.

Researchers analyzed more than 50,000 college admissions essays, and they found that students who used words such as 'the’ and ‘a’ in their essays tended to have higher grade point averages. Students who used more personal pronouns, such as ‘I’ and ‘they,’ tended to have lower GPAs.

Researchers say these smaller words can show what people are thinking about and how they frame that thinking.

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.