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.

This summer, KUT is revisiting episodes of the podcast "Higher Ed." This episode was originally posted on January 11, 2015.

Each week, KUT's Jennifer Stayton talks with Dr. Ed Burger, President of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, about higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. This week, Ed and Jennifer talk about how important failure is to learning and success. What?! That's the opposite of just about everything we've ever been taught. But it turns out intentionally failing is actually a critical step to ultimate success.

AISD

This week, the Austin Independent School District holds its annual gang resistance and training summer camp for students. For the Austin ISD Police Department, which organizes the event, it’s just one way to try to eliminate gang activity on campuses.

Austin ISD Police Chief Eric Mendez says his department has two goals when it comes to gang activity. First, keep it off campus. Second, make sure students aren’t joining gangs.

“We want to catch them when they’re more statistically inclined to engage in criminal activity or criminal gangs,” says Mendez.

Via change.org

The future of monuments to Civil War figures on the University of Texas at Austin campus was discussed at a public forum today. The University held the first of two forums to collect community feedback about the placement of a statue of Jefferson Davis on the main mall of campus.

In June, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared that the state would remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol building, in the wake of a racially motivated shooting spree in a Charleston church that killed nine. South Carolina's state senators voted officially today to remove the flag, but elsewhere in the U.S., the debate about Confederate symbols, hate and history continues.

Students, staff, professors, alumni and Austinites stood on the auditorium stage of the Student Activity Center this afternoon and voiced their thoughts on the Davis statue — its history, and what it represents and symbolizes to students. 

Austin Community College

Students heading to college have many steps to take before they can enroll. Some of those steps, like navigating the financial aid system, choosing which courses to take and finally scheduling classes, can be daunting for some students. 

Austin Community College is trying to make the process easier for students by establishing a new center to help shepherd struggling students through the process.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From the Texas Tribune: Students eager to purchase soda and fried foods when they return to school in the fall may be disappointed, despite Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's recent announcement that both will be welcome back on Texas public school campuses after a 10-year ban. 

To the dismay of nutritionists and public health experts, Miller reversed the department's ban on soda machines and deep fat fryers in mid-June as part of a new state nutrition policy calling for more local foods, community engagement and training to help schools serve meals that are "attractive and taste great." 

But many large school districts aren't warming to Miller's initiative.

KUT News

Today, the Supreme Court decided that it would take up the case of Fisher v the University of Texas at Austin, a suit dealing with a controversial admissions case at UT Austin. A white woman, Abigail Fisher, sued the school in 2008, claiming the university rejected her based on her race. The University says race is one of a few special circumstances it considers in admissions.

Charlotte Carpenter / KUT

In the midst of a national discussion about Confederate symbols, some residents in Austin's Hyde Park neighborhood want the school board to change the name of a local elementary school. Lee Elementary was named for Confederate Army Commander Robert E. Lee. 

"To honor him with naming schools after him is, I think, just inappropriate," says Teresa Griffin, a Hyde Park resident for 25 years and member of the Friends of Hyde Park Neighborhood Association

BES Photos/flickr

Texas school districts will be required to have cameras in special education classrooms if a parent, school board trustee or staff member requests it, starting in the 2016-2017 school year.  The cameras are aimed at improving safety for more vulnerable students, but some education groups say it’s an unfunded mandate for school districts.

During the legislative session, dozens of parents testified in support of the camera proposal. Many parents who testified spoke about their children who were abused or isolated for long periods of time.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, who wrote the bill, says the cameras would provide protection for students who can’t protect themselves.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Note: This story will be updated as it develops.

Texas public schools can once again can have deep fat fryers and soda machines on campus, starting this fall. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who oversees school nutrition policy in Texas, announced Thursday he’s lifting the decade-old ban as part of his new five-point plan to combat childhood obesity. Miller says schools don’t have to put in deep fryers or soda machines.

"We're just saying if you want [a deep fryer], go get one," Miller said in an interview at his office Thursday. "I'd be surprised if there's a dozen schools [that] put in deep fryers. One thing, we're not going to give them any money. They're going to have to go buy those."

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

In light of an expected $3 million budget gap next year, Eanes Independent School District has started making preliminary cuts to staffing positions, but district leaders are still unclear exactly how much money they’ll be working with when school starts in August, or whether those cuts will be permanent. 

Now that the legislative session is over and there wasn't a major school finance overhaul, the school district knows how much money it’ll get from the state next year. The problem is that the district is unclear on exactly how much it will receive from the assessed valuation of property in the district boundary.

LA Johnson/NPR

This week, NPR Ed is digging into the story behind high school graduation rates across the country. NPR partnered with 14 public radio stations nationwide, including KUT.

At 88 percent, Texas has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, and the Austin Independent School District’s graduation rate has increased 12 percentage points since 2008, compared to the all-time high rate of 81 percent nationally. 

But what's the story behind those rates? Take a look at NPR Ed's interactive below to dig into the numbers.

Kate McGee

A group of elementary school students sit on the floor of a classroom at Sunset Valley Elementary. They’re connecting plastic pieces to build orange ramps and pushing tiny race cars down them. The goal is to see if the car can make it all the way around the loop. 

"One, two, three," says one student before letting go of the race car. It doesn't make it.

"Oh! So close!" they yell. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Raising children isn’t easy, especially if you’re doing it on your own.

At Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, the new all-boys school in East Austin, many of the students are being raised by single moms or grandmas. Principal Sterlin McGruder recognizes that.

"I feel it's important [that] I’m in the cafeteria, I'm in the hallway, I'm in the classrooms, so that they can have a conversation with me," McGruder says. "They don’t have the male role model at home. They need that male role model who they can talk to. You can tell they're yearning."

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Victoria Hernandez and her son Jayden wake up at 5 a.m. each day for Jayden’s pre-kindergarten class at Travis Heights Elementary School. They get ready at their apartment complex on Stassney Lane, four miles away from Travis Heights. Then, they walk to the bus stop to wait for the number one bus.

By the time they embark, it’s about 6:30 in the morning — the sun has just started to rise.

Photo via Texas Tribune/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

The man who leads the flagship campus of the University of Texas is in his final week of the job.

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers is stepping down June 2.

Powers spoke with Texas Standard about his upcoming plans, his journey to Texas and his own quest of perseverance.

Trey Shaar / KUT News

Update Sunday 3:30 p.m. University officials say that the commencement fireworks ceremony has been rescheduled for 10 p.m. tonight (Sunday), weather-permitting. Check back here for updates.

The University of Texas at Austin has cancelled the outdoor commencement ceremony planned for 8 p.m. Saturday due to inclement weather. UT said just before 5 p.m. that lightning had impeded the set-up for the outdoor event and that the threat of continuing inclement weather led the university "regretfully" to cancel the ceremony. 

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

Remember that early 1990's television show Doogie Howser, M.D. about a brilliant teenage doctor? Doogie had graduated from college by the age of ten and had become a doctor at 14. Ok, that may be a little extreme, but is it possible that young people could learn that much that early in life? In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss some of the commonly held assumptions about age and learning. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Listen on for a fresh take.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

High school students from across Texas are spending the weekend launching rockets near Fredericksburg as a part of an aeroscience engineering program called SystemsGo.

The Willow City volunteer fire station just outside Fredericksburg filled up with high school students from all over Texas at 6 a.m. They bend over nearly 20 different rockets, prepping them for launch.

Students ask questions like: “So when the parachute comes out, where is the air resistance going to be? How is it going to catch air? Did we research that?”

One team of students traveled from Kingwood High School in the Humble Independent School District outside Houston. They’ve been working on their rocket for six months — even building part of it with 3D printers.

Sean MacEntee/flickr

Two-thirds of the area’s college students work while they attend school, according to a report coming out next week on Texas' education landscape.

Many students who work while attending college are not full-time students. In fact, in Central Texas, “80 percent of our high school graduates who go into two-year colleges are enrolling part-time,” says Christine Bailie with the E3 Alliance.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott warmed up his bill-signing pen on Monday, approving a measure ensuring that some high school seniors who fail to pass state exams can seek an alternate route to graduation.

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