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.

Bill Would Train Teachers to Spot Mental Illness

Mar 28, 2013
Texas State Capitol
Erik Reyna, KUT News

A state lawmaker says Texas students are grappling with mental illness, but not all teachers, counselors and principals know how to recognize the signs. So the lawmaker, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is backing a mental health bill that he says would encourage educators in more than 1,100 school districts to get the necessary training.

Legislature Tackles Competing Education Bills

Mar 28, 2013
Lizzie Chen, KUT News

Changing requirements at Texas high schools is a hot topic at the Capitol. The House has passed its version. Next week, it’s the Senate’s turn.

Both the House and Senate bills would increase flexibility for public high school students in the state. This week, lawmakers passed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s House Bill 5. Aycock, R-Killeen, heads the House Public Education Committee. His bill addresses course requirements and drops the number of STAAR exams from 15 to five, among other changes.

KUT News

A lawsuit filed today accuses the Austin school district of withholding public information on plans for Eastside Memorial High School.

AISD says it needs to find a third party to help run the troubled school to prevent the state from taking it over. Eastside has not met state academic accountability standards for nearly a decade.

But Steve Swanson, a member of the school’s campus advisory committee, says repeated open-records requests he’s submitted to the district have not turned up planning process documents for the campus. So he’s suing in Travis County District Court.

Liang Shi, KUT News

The Senate Committee on Higher Education held a public hearing on Wednesday about a bill that would limit the power of higher education governing boards in Texas — including the UT System Board of Regents.

The bill comes amid accusations that the UT System’s Board of Regents has been micromanaging UT President William Powers Jr. and the University of Texas.

Elizabeth Day (courtesy BGK Architects)

Austin Community College is breaking ground today at a vacant JCPenney store in Highland Mall. The store will be converted into a learning environment for ACC.

"This is a really big day for ACC as well as the surrounding neighborhood and in fact all of the communities that we serve," ACC spokesperson Alexis Patterson said. "It’s great for the area. It brings new life, new people coming to the mall. And the mall’s still in operation, so we’re excited about the boost this is going to give to the mall as a whole.”

KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is extending health insurance benefits to same-sex couples and unmarried domestic partners within the year. 

The decision comes after Pflugerville became the first Texas school district to offer health benefits for its employees with same sex partners last fall.

KUT News

At a special meeting Monday afternoon, the general faculty of the University of Texas at Austin voted "no" on a proposal that would have given students a "fall break" of two more days off in October.

The proposal was fueled by student support, including from UT's Student Government and UT's Graduate Student Assembly. Diane Bailey, chair of UT's Academic Calendar Committee, said the proposal would have started the fall semester two days earlier to give students two days off in the middle of the semester. 

Should School Ratings Take At-Risk Students Into Account?

Mar 22, 2013
KUT News

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that less than 85 percent of the students in the class of 2010 graduated. At a hearing Thursday in the Texas Senate, lawmakers heard the case for better tracking students who end up back in school.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, a member of the Senate Public Education Committee, told members that even though high school graduation rates in Texas are improving, some schools aren’t getting credit for their part in those improvements. She was talking about schools that enroll dropouts and give students a high school diploma if they earn their credits and meet the requirements.

KUT News

The University of Texas at Austin announced today a pledge of $25 million from alumnus, businessman and former U.T. regent Robert B. Rowling.

The money will go toward the construction of Robert B. Rowling Hall, housing graduate programs of the McCombs School of Business.

The building is planned for the corner of Martin Luther King and Guadalupe, across Whitis from the AT&T Conference Center.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Longtime employees of the University of Texas System said they could not recall a split vote on the board of regents, which has traditionally settled differences behind closed doors and presented a unified front. That changed on Wednesday, catching higher education observers and even some lawmakers off guard.

The board voted 4-3 — Chairman Gene Powell and another member were absent — in favor of commissioning an external review of the relationship between the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Law School Foundation, an independently run fundraising organization. 

Bob Daemmrich

One day after a lawmaker accused University of Texas System regents of engaging in a "witch hunt" aimed at University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, the board voted Wednesday during a tense meeting to seek an external review of the university's relationship with the University of Texas Law School Foundation.

The arrangement has come under scrutiny since 2011, when Larry Sager, then the dean of the University of Texas School of Law, was asked by Powers to resign. Concerns later surfaced about the foundation's forgivable loan program that some faculty had benefited from, including Sager, who received $500,000.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Update: A leading state lawmaker blasted the University of Texas System Regents yesterday over the group's treatment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers.

State House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) spoke Tuesday during the first meeting of a special panel on higher education governance.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update: The new elementary school being built in north Austin now has a name: Dr. Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary. The Austin Independent School District Board voted last night to approve the name.

Dr. Guerrero Thompson was a native Austinite who taught high school in AISD and later worked as the district’s Executive Director for Planning and Community Relations.

Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Colleges and universities in Texas are struggling to pay for the tuition benefits they give to qualifying veterans and their dependents as part of a program called the Hazlewood Act.

As the number of veterans rises, higher education leaders say their institutions need help tackling the costs.

“We continuously get pulled at not to increase tuition. We don’t want to increase tuition. But those are the issues that we follow," Kenth Hance, Texas Tech University Systems Chancellor, says.

Carlos Morales/KUT News

It’s no longer unusual to see mobile devices in American classrooms. But while many teachers now use them as tools for instruction, others find themselves completely at odds with technology. Questions on how best to bridge that gap keep cropping up at SXSW’s education conference this week.   

One of the messages at the conference was that even economically disadvantaged school districts that are starting to educate students digitally are seeing positive results for students.

Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

Bill Gates – philanthropist, billionaire, entrepreneur and former chief executive of Microsoft – visited the University of Texas campus today to take part in the opening ceremonies of UT's new computer science building.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall – or GDC for short –  cost the university $120 million to build. The Gates Foundation donated $30 million to the project and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation donated $10 million. The new complex is 140,000 square feet and contains "research clusters" to encourage collaborative work.

KUT News

The Daily Texan is staying daily, at least for now.

The Texas Student Media board voted today to keep the print edition of the publication operating five-days-a-week, with a 50 percent pay cut to student media employees. The proposed budget also included tuition reimbursement cuts for student managers and the hiring of an additional ad salesman.

KUT News

A high school on Austin’s east side is once again facing the possibility of state closure. Eastside Memorial High has received the state stamp of academically unacceptable since 2004. In 2008 it was closed and reopened with a new name -- it used to be Johnston High School.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she supports measures to dial back standardized testing in Texas schools. One bill proposed by the head of the House Public Education Committee, Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, would reduce the number of STAAR tests required to graduate from 15 to five.

Carstarphen says the new STAAR test was rolled out too quickly.

Lizzie Chen, KUT News

One of the biggest Republican stars in the country provided some advice on overhauling public education to the state Senate today. 

“I would advocate that when you have a chance to reform, it ought to be big,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the Senate Education Committee. “You ought to go big or go home.”

Eric Reyna for KUT News

Texas would have to spend up to $51 million on students with disabilities if across the board federal spending cuts known as the "sequester" take effect.  The Texas Education Agency’s chief grants administer Cory Green told lawmakers Monday that even without the federal funding, Texas would still be required by federal law to provide services to special education students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

Green made the comments during a House committee meeting after a question from State Representative Bennett Ratliff (R-Coppell). 

Joy Diaz, KUT News

With so many care options for the four-legged family members, how do you determine where to take yours for a check-up? There are high-end pet spas, plain vet clinics and everything in between. And still, there is a new player in the nearly saturated market.

One of the dogs at this clinic is Frida. She is blonde, tall and beautiful. But, according to her doctor’s report delivered by Mr. John, Frida has some weight problems. 

savetxschools.org/photo-gallery

"Save Texas Schools" will march to the Texas State Capitol tomorrow morning. The group hopes to encourage Texas lawmakers to support public education by restoring funding cut from Texas schools last legislative session.

The march will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive. The group will march north on Congress to the capitol.

flickr.com/mr-pi

While it is no secret gay men and straight women get along and form close friendships, a new study from the University of Texas has looked into why that might be.

Eric Russell, the lead author on the study called "Friends with Benefits, but Without the Sex: Straight Women and Gay Men Exchange Trustworthy Mating Advice", said the study found a possible source of straight women and gay men's friendship is their trust in each other's unbiased relationship and mating advice.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Last week, students at Eastside Memorial High School delivered a letter inviting the state’s top education administrator for a visit to hear how the threat of the school’s closure for poor academic performance affected them. It was a long shot, but yesterday Michael Williams spent almost two hours at Eastside Memorial. Students welcomed his visit, but the threat of closure remains.

As Williams’ visit approached, school administrators darted through the impeccable hallways shooting instructions to each other over walkie-talkies. Some students wore ties and sported fresh haircuts.

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

A better report card today for Texas students: they’re scoring higher than the national average in science and math.

And among the nation’s five biggest states, Texas spends less per student than any of the other four: New York, Illinois, Florida and California.

The grades are not all good for Texas kids: they’re doing worse than the national average in literacy, even when factoring out students for whom English is a second language.

Spencer Selvidge, Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry announced the appointment of Jeff Hildebrand and Ernest Aliseda, along with the re-appointment of Paul Foster of El Paso, to the University of Texas System Board of Regents on Thursday.

Hildebrand, of Houston, is chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company. Aliseda is the managing attorney of Loya Insurance group and a municipal judge for the city of McAllen. Foster, of El Paso, is the executive chairman of Western Refining Company.

Caleb Bryant Miller, Texas Tribune

For the first time since 2005, the Texas Senate has confirmed someone to serve a full term as head of the State Board of Education. Barbara Cargill, a Republican from The Woodlands, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011.

Cargill has supported a measure that requires students to question evolution. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, says Cargill reassured him that she would not allow her religious conservatism to interfere with her leadership of the board.

Diego3336/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/3336/14300162/sizes/z/in/photostream/

If teenagers believe people are able to change, it can help reduce aggression in school. That’s the major finding of a new study from the University of Texas. 

David Yeager is a professor of developmental psychology at UT. He and a team of researchers from Stanford and Emory Universities conducted eight studies with 1,600 teenagers from across the United States. They talked to rich kids and poor kids and teens from all different races and ethnicities. And they discovered that many kids who get picked on often feel like it will never end. 

Horia Varlan http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/

The Texas Senate Education Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would overhaul the state’s high school graduation requirements.

The proposal reduces the English, math, science and social studies requirements and allows students to choose one of four paths towards a diploma.

It also offers more opportunities to take vocational and business electives.

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