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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

AISD Misses AYP

Aug 4, 2011
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.

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.  

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.”

A federal appellate court dismissed the lawsuit brought against Austin Community College's proposed Hays County campus. The new campus was approved by voters in 2009. It would have been partially funded by a property tax increase and federal stimulus money.

Photo for KUT News

The Texas Education Commissioner will release this year's school ratings at 1 p.m. Austin ISD will hold a news conference to talk about its results at 2 p.m.

The annual accountability ratings helps parents compare their children's schools to others in the district or state. Consistently low performing schools risk being shut down.

The ratings are compiled through a combination of standardized test scores, graduation rates and drop-out rates.  Schools are categorized as exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable and academically unacceptable.

Check back on kutnews.org as the ratings are released.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

On Friday, the Texas Education Agency will publicly release its annual accountability ratings for the state’s 1,000-plus school districts. School officials always eye this day with nervous anticipation, but this year many are feeling more than a twinge of dread.

This will be the first year the official ratings — which categorize schools as “exemplary,” “recognized,” “acceptable” or “unacceptable” based on academic performance — will not contain the mechanism known as the Texas Projection Measure since it was implemented in 2009.

They did not have the money to adopt new textbooks. But the State Board of Education has approved supplementary online materials that will wind up in science classrooms this fall.

A socially conservative group of board members saw its power reduced, after the last election. So when the battle lines were drawn over how vigorously students should question theories supporting evolution, social conservatives did not push as hard as they might have two years ago when the standards were adopted.

“I don’t think there’s any question. Had some seats not changed, it would have been a different outcome,” Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican on the state board, told KUT.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

As the State Board of Education spends the next two days deciding which science materials to insert into Texas classrooms this fall, a new piece of legislation signed by Governor Perry on Tuesday gave school districts the power essentially to ignore that list.

Pages