Education

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
4:46 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Opposites in UT's Anti-Apartheid Movement Reflect, Remember Mandela

Former South African President Nelson Mandela greets photographers in Johannesburg in this 2005 photo.
Credit Reuters /Mike Hutchings /Landov

Thursday's passing of Nelson Mandela brought back many memories for Austinites: Mandela was an icon of a student-led anti-apartheid struggle at the University of Texas.

In the mid 80's, students held sit-ins, rallied on the mall, and broke into the president's office demanding divestment in South Africa. KUT’s David Brown recently sat down with two people who were, at that time, on opposite sides: William Cunningham, the former president of the University of Texas at Austin, and Derrick Eugene, a student leader in the anti-apartheid movement.

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Charter Schools
8:48 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Austin Charter Focuses on College Prep Despite New Grad Requirements

St. Edward's University is partnering with KIPP Austin Charter school to help more of its students go to college and get a degree.
www.flickr.com/pitmanra/

The charter school KIPP Austin is announcing a partnership Thursday with St. Edward’s University, in an effort to promote the charter school’s mission to prepare students for college and help them receive a degree.

The private university in South Austin will join more than 40 other colleges and universities nationwide that partner with the nonprofit charter school - including UT Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. 

The partnership comes as public school districts across the state begin implementing new state mandated high school graduation requirements. The requirements allow students to pursue a diploma that prepares them for college or a career. While charter schools like KIPP continue to focus on college, it's unclear what the new requirements that offer career or college preparation mean for low-income students at traditional public schools.

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AISD High Schools
1:32 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Interactive: Austin ISD Graduation Rates, Visualized

Overall graduation rates at AISD schools increased eight percentage points since Meria Carstarphen became AISD superintendent.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

During her State of the District address yesterday, Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen touted the rise in graduation rates among high school students in the district.

Since she began running the district in 2009, overall graduation rates have increased by eight percentage points. Graduation rates have increased in all subgroups, including Hispanics, English language learners and special education students.

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Leander ISD
11:59 am
Mon November 25, 2013

How HB 5's Shaping the Design of Leander's Newest High School

Leander ISD's sixth high school will be separated into academic houses organized by subject.
flickr.com/wired_gr

Leander ISD is on track to open its newest high school in 2016. Designed with flexibility in mind, the school will be ready to incorporate the high school curriculum changes brought on by House Bill 5.

The new legislation creates a "foundation" plan of classes that all students must complete to graduate, but it also allows students to earn an endorsement in one of five fields including business and industry, art and humanities, science and technology. 

When it comes to Leander ISD's sixth high school, Brad Pfluger of Pfluger Architects, the firm designing the new school, says the academic houses specialized by subject are an important feature. 

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Education
1:00 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Educators Concerned Reforms Could Limit College Options

Flickr user MomMaven, flic.kr/ps/rCKQr

This story has been co-reported for Reporting Texas and KUT News.

Now that leading Texas educators are catching up with the fine print in the state’s new omnibus education reform law, they find themselves chafing over a previously overlooked prospect: Even students who score straight A’s throughout high school might not be eligible for automatic admission to state-run universities.

Under new graduation requirements contained in House Bill 5, approved by the Legislature in May, students graduating with the most basic degree, the so-called foundation plan, won’t be counted in a school’s end-of-year class rankings. Under state law, only graduates in the top 10 percent of their classes are automatically admitted to the state’s public universities.

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State Board of Education
10:19 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Should Texas Students Be Required to Take Algebra II to Graduate?

A new law passed this year reduces the number of tests Texas students have to pass to graduate high school. But education advocates disagree on whether Algebra II should be one of those coureses. The SBOE heard testimony on the issue Wednesday.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/underneath/

Update: The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday night to only require Algebra II for students pursuing an honors diploma or pursuing a STEM education endorsement for graduation. 

Under new legislation passed this year, high school students will have to choose at least one of five endorsement paths to graduation. The five endorsements are science and math, business and industry, art and humanities, public service and multidisciplinary studies. Supporters say the different paths will allow more flexibility for students to pursue classes they're interested in and better prepare students for college or the workforce.

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State Board of Education
6:09 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

State Board of Education Removes Speech Requirement From High School Graduation Standards

The SBOE preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as a graduation requirement for high school students in Texas. They vote on a first reading Friday with a final adoption in January.
flickr.com/nirak

The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as one of the required courses for high school graduation in Texas.

The board opted to give local school districts final say on whether or not high school students should be required to take speech. Board Member Tom Maynard says speech is a valuable class, but local school districts should decide whether or not it’s required.

“When in doubt, leave it to the locals to decide that. I suspect either most districts will hold on to that or embed that content in other coursework," Maynard said during Thursday's meeting.

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Education
5:34 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Eanes Superintendent Announces Retirement

Dr. Nola Wellman announced Thursday that she is retiring after 10 years as Superintendent of Eanes ISD. She will remain Superintendent through August 2014.
Courtesy of Eanes ISD

After 10 years as Eanes ISD Superintendent, Dr. Nola Wellman announced her retirement today.

During her time as superintendent, Eanes ISD made headlines when it provided iPads to all of its students, one of the first school districts in the state to do so.

Wellman managed two successful bond elections and was in charge when there were major renovations to the Westlake High School Library and Fine Arts Facility.

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State Board of Education
11:46 am
Thu November 21, 2013

State Board of Education Considers Bond Program for Charter Schools

Education Commissioner Michael Williams grants charter school applicants with licenses, but the State Board of Education can veto charter schools if they desire. The SBOE didn't veto any of Williams' charter schools at a meeting Thursday.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The State Board of Education took a step further this week in its support of charter schools, as it established guidelines for a bond program expected to save charters millions of dollars.

The board wrestled with policies for its Bond Guarantee Program for Charter Schools, which was created earlier this year under House Bill 885. Under that law, charter schools, if approved, will have certain bonds guaranteed by the state and its Permanent School Fund, a $28 billion endowment for public schools.

Bonds help charters build and improve their facilities, which many say is one of their biggest challenges to date. Lawmakers gave charter schools limited access to a bond program in 2011. The new law expands that access, by guaranteeing refinanced bonds and allowing certain bond money to be returned to charter schools for instructional purposes.

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University of Texas
4:26 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

UT-Austin Students Counter-Protest 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' Game

Dozens of students protested a planned Young Conservatives of Texas event where participants could "catch" students in shirts reading "Illegal Immigrant." The group since called the event off.
Credit Jorge Corona for KUT News

Over 100 students, faculty, staff community supporters gathered at the University of Texas campus this afternoon to protest a so-called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game that was originally planned for today.

The event, proposed by the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, called for students to track down and return volunteers wearing shirts reading “illegal immigrant” in exchange for a gift card.

The group called off the event earlier this week in the wake of widespread condemnation. But people gathered on campus today to protest the motivation behind the game.

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Project-Based Learning
1:15 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Manor New Tech High School Takes Project-Based Learning to Thailand

Manor New Technology founding principal Steve Zipkes speaks to a crowd of guests. A group of students are exporting the school’s educational techniques to Thailand.
twitter.com/ManorNewTech

For students at Manor New Technology High School, lectures and homework assignments are a foreign concept. Tablets take the place of textbooks, and many classes are taught by a team of instructors.

This fall, a group of students is working to bring their school’s innovative learning system abroad.

The school exclusively utilizes project-based learning, a process that teaches course concepts through hands-on projects and presentations which students design themselves. Steve Zipkes, Manor New Tech’s principal, says it's a more engaging and up-to-date learning system. 

"Student these days are digital natives," Zipkes says. "We’re using technology as the invisible tool. It’s not what makes teaching and learning, but it certainly enhances it. With our students today, it’s almost a necessity."

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University of Texas
8:37 am
Tue November 19, 2013

A Brief History of Student Conservatives' 'Catch an Illegal Immigrant' Games (Update)

flickr.com/loudtiger

Update: Controversial Event Called Off

The Young Conservatives of Texas has canceled its “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event, originally scheduled for Wednesday. 

Citing the university’s condemnation of the event, UT chapter chair Lorenzo Garcia claims he canceled the event out of fears the university would retaliate against the group’s members, “and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers.”

You can read Garcia’s full remarks here.

Original Story (Nov. 19): The news that the University of Texas chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas is planning a campus "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game for this week has taken the political blogosphere by storm.

In case you haven’t heard: The group’s UT chapter has stated on Facebook that it’s planning to hold the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant game” this Wednesday. (Here’s a screen grab of the invitation in case it’s taken down.)

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Dove Springs
5:04 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

With Help From a Church, Bluff Springs Reboots its Reading Program

Pastor Richard Villarreal reads "Aladdin" to fourth graders at Langford Elementary.
Roy Varney for KUT News

For the first time in five years, southeast Austin’s Langford Elementary School has a free book program.

Langford, where 65 percent of the students are learning English as a second language, is able to relaunch its Reading is Fundamental program with help from a neighborhood church.

Richard Villarreal is the lead pastor at Springs Community Church. He approached Langford principal Dounna Poth last spring and asked how his church could help the school. 

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Bill Powers Interview
7:59 am
Thu November 14, 2013

UT Pres. Powers on Fisher v. Texas, Nick Saban & That Farrah Fawcett Portrait

Bill Powers Jr.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. is steering the university through two court cases and a football coach that’s making news both on and off the field.

Powers recently sat down with KUT’s David Brown to talk about what’s happening at the 40 Acres. Listen to the extended interview in the Soundcloud player below. Here are some highlights:

On the UT System suing actor Ryan O'Neal over a portrait of actress Farrah Fawcett:

“This was her wish, that her alma matter have it. It is a very valuable painting. … To have this pair of very iconic Warhol portraits would be very valuable as a cultural archive for our museum – and of course she’s one of our Texas Exes, so it’s important for us to have this painting.”

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Affirmative Action
9:06 am
Wed November 13, 2013

So What Exactly Happened with Fisher v. University of Texas? (Update)

On Monday, the Supreme Court returned the Fisher v UT Austin case to the Fifth Circuit to reconsider.
flickr.com/fisherfotos

Update (July 15, 2014): The Fifth Circuit has ruled that UT's affirmative action policies can continue.

Read more here: ​UT Affirmative Action Policies Stand in Fisher Ruling

Update: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case that questions UT's use of race in its admissions process.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after deciding the Fifth Circuit didn't apply the strictest scrutiny to UT's admissions policies.

While most UT  students are admitted based on whether they’re in the top seven percent of their graduating class, some are admitted based on what the university calls a “holistic review.” An applicant’s race is one element of that review.

Back in 2008, a white student named Abigail Fisher was denied admission to UT under the holistic review. She sued saying she was a victim of reverse discrimination. Lower courts upheld UT’s affirmative action policy.

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Education
6:03 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Failed Bond Threatens Taylor Schools’ Compliance with Disabilities Act

A $7 million bond proposal for a new athletic facility in Taylor did not pass.
Taylor ISD

A small school district northeast of Austin is facing a football field-sized problem.

Taylor Independent School District’s athletic facilities are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Without the ADA-required access, TISD is vulnerable to lawsuits and penalties.

On Tuesday, voters in the city of Taylor rejected a bond that would have built a new all-inclusive athletics facility that would include accessibility for people who have disabilities. Now the school district faces the possibility of paying $1 million to renovate old athletics facilities that they don’t own.

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UT Austin
8:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

UT Austin Receives $9 Million Gift For Engineering and Science Program

UT Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences has received $9.3M from the O'Donnell Foundation for student fellowships and faculty teaching.
flickr.com/bill78704

The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) program has received $9.3 million from the O'Donnell Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $135 million to the university over the past 30 years.

The money will go towards student fellowships, faculty teaching and recruiting for the program, which combines the study of math, engineering and science disciplines to tackle real world problems, specifically areas like applied mathematics, software engineering and computer visualization. 

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Education
2:18 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

New School Offers Some Relief, But Doesn't Solve Overcrowding Problems in Austin

Lawmakers, school board members and members of Janice Guerrero Thompson's family attend a ribbon cutting for the dedication of the new elementary school named in her honor. The school is one of two that will open to relieve overcrowding in the area.
Oscar Palomo, AISD

The brand new Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary School is more than 78,000 square feet with 32 classrooms. Inside, the walls are painted bright orange and purple, and the floor is covered with colorful tiles. On Sunday, more than a hundred people came to dedicate the school to the late district employee and tour the new campus, which looks to mitigate overcrowding in Austin schools.

“Everyone’s been so excited. We’ve been working toward dedication and now it’s official, like we’ve been announced as a school," says Principal LaKesha Drinks.

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Education
5:36 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Why Austin ISD Can't Spend Any of Its 2013 Bond Money

While voters approved two of the four AISD bond propositions in May, a pending lawsuit with the Travis County Taxpayers Association is keeping the district from implementing projects associated with the bond money.
KUT News

In May, Austin voters approved nearly $600 million dollars in bond propositions for capital improvements in the Austin School District.

The money is allocated for technology upgrades in the classroom and district offices, and systemic repairs to facilities on campuses across the district, among other upgrades.

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Energy & Environment
2:00 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Round Rock Schools Are Saving Big Just By Turning Off Computers

Round Rock ISD estimates it could cut down 2.4 million kilowatt-hours per year.
flickr.com/vanwest/

Most computer users are familiar with sleep mode. But the Round Rock Independent School District has found the value in shutting their computers down completely.

The school district is expected to save an estimated $251,000 annually by using a program that automatically shuts computers down after 6 p.m. Over 30,000 desktops and laptops are automatically shut down, drastically cutting energy costs.

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