Robert W. Hart

The Texas Education Agency has asked the federal government for grants to­ fund an expansion of pre-k programs statewide for moderate and low-income families.

Texas will compete with 35 other states, and Washington, D.C., and is eligible to receive up to $30 million annually over a four-year grant window. The grant expansion is offering a total of $160 million nationwide. The new federal grant would help states that currently serve more than 10 percent of four years olds to build and expand on those programs, which have faced drastic cuts over the years.


Within the next couple weeks, an Austin judge is expected to rule whether the state’s school finance system is constitutional. Meanwhile, Austin Independent School District officials are worried about how much money the district will have to educate students next year—and five years down the road. 

The reasons for that go back to something called “recapture," a process that means some school districts don’t get to keep all the money they collect. And it's extremely complicated.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

90 percent of school districts in Texas met state standards, according to results released Friday by the Texas Education Agency.

Under a new rating system that began last year, schools are rated as Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required.

“Texans should be pleased to see the vast majority of districts, charters, and campuses are meeting the standards set in the second year of the state accountability system,” Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a statement. “While the 2014 numbers are positive, the work continues in districts across our state to meet and exceed increasing state standards and the expectations of their local communities.”

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams wants an additional year to study a new state teacher evaluation system. The additional period would delay the official roll out for two years.

Commissioner Williams wrote a letter to federal education officials Wednesday, where he also requested the federal government extend a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements.

In a statement, Williams said:

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Standardized testing in Texas begins today and some parents across the state are choosing to opt their children out of the testing process.

Last week, a Waco family made news when they publicly told their school district they did not want their fourth grader taking the state tests because they were morally opposed to testing. 

Under state law, that's illegal. 


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.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board approved a set of plans Monday night for 11 schools that need improvement under the Texas Education Agency’s new accountability standards.

But as it rolls out year-long plans requiring monthly TEA visits and evaluations, it awaits new changes to the standards for this academic year.

“It’s going to keep us very focused," says Paul Cruz, AISD Chief Schools Officer. "We don’t know what the performance standards are going to be, but that’s also for every school in state of Texas."

Kate McGee, KUT News

This week was a busy one for Texas education. Here's what we picked up.

Jason Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Good morning! Highs in the mid-70’s today bring perfect weather for South By Southwest music fans.

Lead Story: Advanced Micro Devices says it is selling its southwest Austin campus and leasing it back. AMD says it won’t affect operations, but it will free up about $164 million in cash.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

As Texas lawmakers have discussed adding more armed guards to campuses or training staff members to carry weapons, Education Commissioner Michael Williams told the Texas Tribune that it’s a good discussion for lawmakers to have, but he would like to see some local discretion.

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry is expressing his support for letting school districts themselves choose whether to implement a rule that requires new state assessments to count for 15 percent of high school students' final grades.

In a written statement Thursday — the first time the governor has publicly weighed in on the issue —  Perry praised legislation filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that would leave the decision up to local school districts. He also asked Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams to defer the state's rollout of the rule until the next school year.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams and the Texas Education Agency announced this week  that the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams rose by four percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Advanced Placement Program allows high school students to take college-level courses and ultimately exams that they can earn college credit for. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 . A score of 3 or higher is considered satisfactory. Last year, 194,391 Texas students took 350,700 AP exams.

The College Board, which created and oversees the AP program, estimates that if all of the students who scored a 5 on the exams last year enrolled in one of the state’s two flagship universities and received course credit, they would collectively save between $36.2 million and $42.9 million in tuition costs.

This news comes at a time when climbing college tuition rates are a major talking point in Texas, and on the cusp of a legislative session that will likely address these issues. 


The Texas Senate Education Committee is holding a hearing to address virtual education and its growing use in Texas. Committee members will hear testimony on virtual education and recommendations to improve programs that are underperforming. 

Texas offers both supplemental and full-time virtual education. Students in supplemental programs take online courses in addition to attending traditional face-to-face classes. Those enrolled in virtual schools full-time get all of their instruction online and don’t receive any classroom instruction.

The number of students enrolled in virtual schools in Texas is growing rapidly. Raise Your Hand Texas, an education policy non-profit, reports that enrollment in virtual education programs grew 97 percent in the past six years. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 17,000 Texas students were enrolled in supplemental online courses.  Last school year, 6,000 students were enrolled in full-time virtual programs. 

Michael Williams' campaign website http://www.williamsfortexas.com/

A former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, Michael Williams, will be the new Texas Commissioner of Education, Governor Rick Perry announced today. Williams will assume the post September 1. He will become the first African-American to lead the Texas Education Agency. 

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.

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.”

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 KUT News

The Texas Education Agency announced another 178 employees will be laid off this week. This is in addition to the 91 employees that were laid off in February of this year.

In addition to the 269 terminated employees, 58 employees retired or resigned and 16 were transferred.

The layoffs mean TEA will see a 32% reduction in staff due to a $48 million--or 36%--budget cut from the state.

Photo courtesy of CityofAustin.org.

Police Monitor's Report Gives APD a Mixed Review

Austin’s police monitor has released an annual report for 2010. The report says complaints filed against APD officers are down. 753 complaints were filed last year compared to 913 in 2009. 

The report says data on traffic stops show police don’t pull people over based on race and ethnicity, but what happens after the stop is different.  African-Americans are almost three times as likely as whites to be searched, while Hispanics are over twice as likely as whites to be searched. Despite the disparity, APD did not find minorities had contraband at a rate significantly higher than whites.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

It’s the last full year that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills will be administered to students in this state before a new standardized test takes it place, and the Texas Education Agency is heralding the exam as a resounding success.

TEA released statewide results today, and said passing rates on every test in every grade level improved dramatically since the exam was first given in 2003.