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 Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Leaders in the Austin Independent School District want to know what kind of leader they should hire to run the 86,000 student school district and they're asking for the public's input. The district is holding a series of public input meetings this week starting Tuesday. The forums are part of the school board’s plan to have a more open search process. When the district hired former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in 2009, she was unveiled as the sole finalist. The move upset some people in the community who thought the process lacked transparency. 

This time, the district will initially interview candidates in a closed search. After it identifies two to four finalists, it will introduce them to the public. Community groups, parents and stakeholders will then have a chance to provide feedback on the finalists. But before all that happens, the district wants to hear from the community about what kind of finalists they should be looking for in the first place so it can create a profile once it starts accepting applicants.

Bob Daemmrich / Marjorie Kamys Cotera

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has asked University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers to resign ahead of the Board of Regents’ July 10 meeting or be fired at it, multiple sources confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Friday. The sources said Powers informed Cigarroa in writing that he will not resign, but is willing to discuss a timeline for his exit. 

UT-Austin officials said they could not comment on any private conversations between Cigarroa and Powers. Neither Powers nor Cigarroa could immediately be reached for comment. 

KUT's Joy Diaz

It's the largest gift Huston-Tillotson has ever received.

On Thursday, the historic black university announced that Ada Anderson, a 92-year-old graduate, had donated $3 million to pay for the initial construction phase of the school's mental health clinic. It will be called the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center in honor of the donor's daughter.

Kate McGee, KUT News

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was at Austin Community College Friday afternoon meeting with male high school and college students of color. It’s part of the White House’s 'My Brother’s Keeper' initiative to close the achievement gap between young men of color and their peers.

Sitting in a circle, about 15 young African American and Hispanic male students sat with the secretary telling him about their role models, their aspirations and the struggles they face at home and school. Some had disciplinary problems, many were raised by single parents. Others were bullied or said they needed mentors.

Alberto Garcia is an ACC student who’s also taking care of his sister’s son.  He says one of the big problems for minority students in low-income neighborhoods is a lack of employment networking opportunities.

Flickr user Michelllaurence https://flic.kr/ps/QL6HQ

An hour before the Austin school district’s board meeting began last night, more than fifty labor advocates were crowded in the courtyard outside, chanting, with handmade signs. By the time doors opened, the crowd had doubled.

After nearly four hours of deliberation, the crowd got its wish and erupted in cheers. In a 5-4 split vote, the board voted to adopt federal prevailing wages for workers on upcoming construction projects at Austin schools.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

Austin ISD is the largest school district in the nation whose campuses have "No Place for Hate."  

The No Place for Hate campaign provides schools the opportunity to address bullying and prejudice. The Anti-Defamation League-sponsored campaign began in Austin in 2011 with only 23 schools in the district qualifying. In just three years, all of AISD’s 122 schools have acquired the status.

In order for a school to qualify, every student on campus must participate in three group activities addressing bias, prejudice and other topics that students deem worthy to the entire school.  Every person on campus must also sign a resolution of respect.

A bill that would have let millions of people refinance their student loans at a lower interest rate has failed in the Senate, after Republicans objected that it included a tax on the wealthy to pay for it. The measure would have allowed people with older loans to benefit from today's low interest rates.

The bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., didn't get past a procedural vote, falling by a 56-38 vote. Called the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, it was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student debt.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

East Austin resident Archette Alexander remembers when she took her son out of the neighborhood public elementary school and put him in a charter school. She says teachers had lost their passion due to all of the testing.

Now, Alexander’s youngest daughter is three, and she’s interested in putting her back in the school district – at AISD's early childhood center.

“The passion the other teachers have gives me hope as a parent that kids can thrive here,” Alexander says. 

(This post was updated at 3:24 p.m. ET.)

President Obama signed an order on Monday that expands the number of Americans whose student loan payments will be capped at 10 percent of their monthly incomes.

CNN reports the new order would allow an additional 5 million borrowers to take advantage of the cap beginning in December 2015.

Bloomberg adds:

Kate McGee, KUT News

This is the final story in a three part series about student suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One and Part Two.

In AISD, black students make up about eight percent of the student population. But last year they accounted for nearly a quarter of the students suspended from school. The so-called discipline gap is an issue in public schools across the nation, and it's something AISD has tried to combat since former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen came to AISD in 2009.  

Addressing Racial Disparities from the Top Down

AISD Interim Chief Schools Officer Edmund Oropez admits a discipline gap exists between African-American students and their peers, but he says the district has implemented various strategies aimed at closing it. A few years ago, the district created the Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness department. Leader Angela Ward single-handedly provides cultural awareness training to all new teachers and administrators. The training asks teachers to examine their own biases – something UT Professor Richard Reddick says is key to creating trusting relationships between teachers and students.    

A noble institution? A good show? A tedious quarter-hour of lame jokes told under the hot sun? The American commencement address can be all of these things.

We skipped and slogged through 50 of the most popular commencement speeches on YouTube - looking for inspiration, wisdom, amusement, corny jokes and clichés - to bring you this mashup of highlights and lowlights.

How hard can it be for school cafeterias to swap white bread for whole-grain tortillas, cut sodium, and nudge kids to put more fruit and vegetables on their trays?

Tougher than you might imagine, according to some schools.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, who was asked to resign last week by the chairman of the board of regents, sent a letter to the chairman on Monday saying he does not intend to do any such thing, according to Hall's lawyer.

At Thursday's board meeting, chairman Paul Foster said that Hall could take "a selfless step to benefit the UT System" by stepping down from his post. According to a system spokeswoman, as of Monday afternoon, Foster had not yet received Hall's letter responding to his comments.

Last week, a legislative committee had agreed that grounds exist to impeach Hall, who has been scrutinized for conducting personal investigations of the operations of the University of Texas at Austin that some have characterized as an abuse of his office.

flickr.com/dcjohn/

This story is the second installment of a three-part series examining the so-called discipline gap among student groups who receive out-of-school suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One here.

During the 2013 school year, African-American students made up eight percent of the AISD student population, but nearly a quarter of the students given an out-of-school suspension.

The discipline gap is not unique to the district; nationwide, black students are suspended at higher rates than their peers. In March, the U.S. Department of Education reported the trend in black student suspensions starts as young as preschool.

While many, including AISD officials, admit the discipline gap exists, fewer people seem to have a solid answer as to why. 

Zack Maxwell / Arlingtonvoice.com

Since 2009, the number of suspensions at Austin public schools has fallen. But African-American students continue to receive out-of-school suspensions at a higher rate than their peers.

During the 2013 school year, 1,066 African-American AISD students – almost 13 percent of the black student population of 8,334 – received out-of-school suspensions. In that same period, 549 white AISD students were suspended­ ­– only 2.24 percent of the 24,543 white student population. Going by those numbers, African-American students are nearly six times more likely to be suspended from school.

Despite teacher training and district efforts, many African-American parents and community members feel like their children aren't understood.

Richard Reddick

Austin has its own convoluted history when it comes to school integration – one involving multiple federal lawsuits and many different strategies to desegregate schools.

Busing was one of those strategies. Many students were bused across the city to schools on the other side of town. West Austin residents went to East Austin schools and visa versa. 

Saturday, May 17, marks 60 years since the Supreme Court struck down the concept of "separate but equal" in Brown v. Board of Education. It's a decision that affected students across the country. But for two Austin teenagers in the late 1980s, it also sparked a life-long friendship.

If you think about it, it’s a miracle Richard Reddick and Ryan Scarborough ever met. Scarborough, a white student from Austin’s Northwest Hills neighborhood, was bused to Johnston High School on Austin's east side, starting in 1986.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

Members of the Texas House Committee on Public Education are wrestling with how to evaluate teacher performance in modern classrooms. And while educators and administrators agree the current system needs overhauling, there's little agreement on what will replace it.

In advance of today's hearing, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams said in a letter that current teacher evaluation criteria – the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) – has "outlived its usefulness."

Patty Hill, a math teacher at Austin's Kealing Middle School, agrees. She told lawmakers today she’s afraid that by adopting a “flipped classroom” model – posting lectures online for students to view at home, and working collaboratively on 'homework' in the classroom – she is opening herself up for negative evaluations.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Update: The House Transparency Committee has voted 7-1 that grounds to impeach UT Regent Wallace Hall exist.

The matter of whether to recommend impeachment proceedings is a separate question still to be decided. The committee will reconvene May 21 to consider articles of impeachment against Hall. But some committee members are hoping the UT Board of Regents or Gov. Rick Perry will take action before then.

"You have a responsibility, Board of Regents," Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said. "You have known about this behavior for quite some time and you have a responsibility to take action to allow one trustee, one member to continue this misconduct, to allow someone to bring down the university. I think the responsibility lies with the Board of Regents. So we are looking to you to make some changes."

https://www.flickr.com/audiolucistore/

Today is the last day for early voting in the May 10th municipal elections.

Voters in the Eanes Independent School District are deciding on a $89.5 million school bond package. If approved, the bond package would allow Eanes ISD to borrow money for a new elementary school, as well as some technology and classroom upgrades.

The proposal is the result of three years of community meetings about the future of the school district. 

Jon Shapley for KUT News

An Austin charter school slated for closure by the state may be getting a second chance.

The Texas Education Agency had ordered American Youthworks to close by next month. But the school went to court and argued everything was a misunderstanding.

On Friday, a judge agreed to hear the school's case – possibly extending the school's life for at least one more semester.

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