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.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Texas may soon add one more item to the list of national education practices it has bucked over the years.  

Because of changes coming to the GED in 2014, the Texas Education Agency is putting out feelers to figure out how much a new state-based high school equivalency exam would cost.

Last year, the American Council on Education, a national organization of higher-education institutions that develops the exams, partnered with Pearson, a London-based testing company. They formed a jointly owned entity called GED Testing Services, which has since overhauled the exam in an effort to better test the skills needed in the workplace.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

On Tuesday, the University of Virginia reinstated President Teresa Sullivan after her forced resignation this month sparked a dramatic outcry. Throughout the ordeal, observers have drawn parallels to Sullivan’s former stomping grounds: the University of Texas at Austin, where she worked for nearly three decades.

For the last year and a half, speculation has swirled about the intentions of some University of Texas System regents. Many feared that those regents — appointed by Gov.Rick Perry — were put in place to implement a controversial set of dramatic policy changes the governor had promoted that some criticized for being anti-academic and overly business-minded. So when Sullivan was abruptly terminated at UVA, apparently over her opposition to her board’s eagerness to push rapid top-down changes, UT observers’ antennas perked up.

Texas Tribune

According to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, a law school is "one of the few things that have been missing from A&M for a very long time."

That era is coming to a close.

Controversy erupted in 2009 when the Texas State Board of Education debated changes to the state's textbooks that centered on the teaching of evolution.

The Revisionaries documents the Board of Education's contentious battle, focusing in large part on Don McLeroy — a young-earth creationist and, at the time, chairman of the Texas Board of Education. The film is being screend at the American Film Institute's Silverdocs Film Festival.

KUT News

A temporary schedule change for Austin ISD schools and offices goes into effect today. AISD says the change is an effort to cut energy usage this summer.

Starting today and running through July 27, AISD offices will be closed on Fridays. Employees will work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday. Office hours will be 7 a.m to 6 p.m.

Schools and offices will be completely closed the week of July 2.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Only nine states spent less on education spending per student than Texas in the 2009-2010 school year, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers reflect spending levels before $5.4 billion in education spending cuts were enacted by the state legislature in 2011.

Texas spent $8,746 per student in 09-10. That compares with a national average of $10,615, an increase of more than one percent from the previous year.

The Austin school board has unanimously approved a billion dollar spending plan for next school year. The expenditure budget includes a $30 million deficit. That will be paid for with money from AISD’s emergency cash reserve, which it calls the fund balance.

A large portion of that deficit is the result of a one-time, three percent pay raise for staff. The board will officially adopt the full budget in August, after it decides whether to call for an election on raising property taxes.

virginia.edu

A University of Texas professor is at the center of controversy in her new home at the University of Virginia, where until just recently she was president of the school. 

Teresa A. Sullivan taught for decades at UT-Austin, ultimately rising to Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the UT System. In the summer of August 2010, she was named president of the University of Virginia (UVA).

It was a position she held without apparent controversy – until news broke she was stepping down from her position, apparently under pressure, eight days ago.

In a way, the controversy in Virginia recalls a similar action closer to home: rumors that University of Texas president Bill Powers had been marked for ouster by the school’s Board of Regents. Speculation regarding Powers’ job grew after he clashed with the board after it declined to approve a tuition increase Powers sought.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin school board members meet tonight and they have a lot to talk about. The nine men and women who govern the largest district in Central Texas will get a first glance tonight at how well students in Austin did on the state’s new standardized test – the STAAR exam.

So far, much like the state outcomes, AISD results are mixed. Almost half of high school students failed the writing test. But more than four out of five passed the high school biology test.

Why the big difference? One major reason is this: A passing grade on the writing test is 65 percent. A passing grade in biology is 37 percent.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/USDAgov

The Austin Independent School District will be feeding free breakfast and lunch to children starting today. The summer food service program is in place at more than two dozen campuses.

Students don’t have to apply for the program. The free meals are open to any child ages one through 18 regardless of family income.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Should schools be able to keep tabs on a student’s location?

Because Texas schools are funded per student in attendance, budgets hinge on the accuracy of morning roll call. The use of Radio Frequency Identification tags, or RFIDs, can certainly improve accuracy, but some consider them an invasion of privacy.

RFIDs are small beacons that both transmit and receive information. They’re often used to track product inventory. But some school districts have attached RFIDs to students’ photo ID cards, letting administrators know which students are on campus.

Photo courtesy makedreamsrealityscholarship.webs.com

As college-bound high school seniors graduate this month, many of them will have to worry about how they’re going to pay for their education.

But for one Manor, Texas student, her senior year has focused instead on helping to pay for someone else to go to school, by creating a scholarship for a fellow student from Manor – an undocumented student.

Make DREAMs Reality is a campaign created by Audrey Vivar, a senior at Manor New Technology High School. Vivar is offering a $500 scholarship for a Manor graduate who wants to go on to college, no social security number required.

Photo by Mario Jacinto for KUT News

As part of a national day of action, undocumented students rallied on the University of Texas campus yesterday in support of the DREAM act.

Students United for the Dream Act called for rallies across the country on Thursday, to urge for passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act, which provides undocumented youth a path to legal citizenship in the United States.

Undocumented youth from Austin and San Antonio, joined by members of the University Democrats, gathered and spoke on the lawn near the LBJ library at UT yesterday. KUT News captured audio from the event's speakers, embedded above.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — When Gene Powell first arrived at the University of Texas at Austin in 1964, it was on a scholarship to play offensive guard and defensive linebacker for the legendary coach Darrell K Royal.

“I was a very average to mediocre football player, and that’s probably being generous,” Powell, a real estate developer and South Texas native, recalled during an interview at his San Antonio office this week.

More than four decades later, Powell was asked to return to Austin — this time by Gov.Rick Perry, who needed a staunch ally and strong leader to support his reforms on the University of Texas System’s board of regents.

Photo by Crystal Chavez for KUT News

Is UT Austin President Bill Powers’ job in jeopardy?

Those rumors started circulating last week, following a post from Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka. Powers had recently and publicly clashed with the UT Board of Regents after a proposed tuition hike at the system’s flagship institution was voted down.

Despite denials from those involved, the rumors continue. But what exactly would it take to oust Powers?  

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

We’re all familiar with school bake sales – those PTA-organized sugar-fests focused on raising money for band uniforms and financing field trips.

But Save Texas Schools, a group pushing for greater state investment in public education, hosted a bake sale this afternoon with a slightly loftier goal: raising, say, over five billion dollars selling cupcakes.

The tongue-in-cheek event, held in the shadow of the State Capitol, had a serous purpose: drawing attention to state budget cuts to education.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/nodivision

A high school diploma is touted as the bare minimum students need to achieve. And now a new study pegs the financial value of high school graduation to the Austin region’s economy.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington DC-based non-profit  focused on improving national graduation rates, has released a study detailing the effects on Austin’s regional economy if the amount of high school dropouts was cut in half – with benefits reaching into the millions.

It’s estimated that in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), some 6,100 students dropped out of the class of 2010. Home to 45 schools, the Alliance says the region is one of the lowest performing in the nation, with 28 percent of high school students failing to graduate on time and with a regular diploma.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/asifch

Merriam-Webster defines “eclipse” both as “the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another,” and “a falling into obscurity or decline.”

Dr. Jarita Holbrook hopes her new documentary about the former will prevent the latter from claiming young America’s interest in science.    

Dr. Holbrook is an astrophysicist, anthropologist and filmmaker. Her current project, “Black Sun,” is about two astrophysicists, Dr. Alphonse Sterling and Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, and their journey around the world chasing solar eclipses. However, the film is about more than just two globetrotting scientists, it’s also about the revitalization of American youth’s interest in the STEM field –science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – and specifically, in minority communities.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Student registration for IDEA Allan – the new in-district charter school for the Austin Independent School District – ended at midnight. It will be housed in the current Allan Elementary School campus on Gonzales Street and serve kindergartners as well as students in first, second and sixth grade next school year.

Matthew Randazzo is IDEA’s Chief Growth Officer. He says registration has been strong. In fact, there are more interested students than spaces. A lottery will have to be held for each grade level to determine which students will be able to attend.

Randazzo says the most popular grades for registration were kindergarten and sixth.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, responding to a news report suggesting UT Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell had asked him to fire University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, said Thursday that Powell "never directed me to fire anyone." 

Cigarroa's statement follows a blog post late Wednesday from Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Paul Burka. Citing an unnamed source, Burka wrote that the regents are angry at Powers for publicly expressing disappointment with their decision — made with encouragement from Gov. Rick Perry — to reject Powers' request for a slight tuition increase. Burka wrote that Powell asked Cigarroa to officially recommend that they fire Powers, and that Cigarroa refused. The post suggested the board would likely call a special meeting to take action. 

The report sparked an overnight social media campaign on Powers' behalf. 

Most of the estimated 1.5 million people graduating from a four-year college this spring will soon be looking for a job.

If the experiences of other recent college grads are any guide, many will be disappointed.

A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.

Settling For Part Time

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Political trailblazer Gus Garcia – the first Hispanic elected to the Austin ISD Board of Directors, and the city's first Hispanic mayor – was honored today.

Garcia has been a major force in Austin politics for decades. In 1972, he became the first Hispanic to be elected to the school board, coming into office with a list of “17 Demands for Quality Education.” Programs at today’s event, sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, commemorated the 40th anniversary of his historic election.

Garcia’s colleague and keynote speaker, Ernest Perales, remarked on the difficulties the AISD board found itself in during the turmoil of the 1970s. Peralez called Gus Garcia “a hero” and praised his tenure on the board.

Photos courtesy University of Texas at Austin

Glenn Chandler, the director of the burgeoning University of Texas Butler School of Music, has stepped down. The resignation comes at the encouragement of Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts

Chandler had served as the Butler School’s director since 2001.

Dempster says he and Chandler had different visions of the role and the future of the school of music. The core issue was that Chandler wanted the school to become its own entity separate of the College of Fine Arts. Instead, Dempster wants the school to become more integrated into the College of Fine Arts.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

If the Austin school board wants to adopt its budget in June, it has only until May 25 to decide whether to ask for permission to raise property taxes on the November ballot. That’s the timeline the nine trustees will consider at a board work session tonight.

A proposal would cost the owner of an average Austin home an extra $100 a year.

Austin ISD has been trying to get in the habit of adopting its budgets in June, rather than leaving the work until August, just days before the new school year starts. The change would create “considerable benefits”, according to an AISD budget FAQ, because of a one-time accounting change that “effectively generates a two-month expenditure credit for payroll and other liabilities.”

Image courtesy Austin Police

The Austin Police Department is cracking down on traffic violations around schools.

Today, APD announced an initiative to focus on drivers who speed or use their cell phones in school zones. They also want to make sure drivers don’t pass school buses or ignore crossing guards.

In 2009, Austin passed a ban on texting or using the internet while driving. This week, KUT News learned officers have only given out 26 tickets under that law since January of 2010.

Photo courtesy Generation Texas

UT Austin football great Vince Young is back in town today to promote higher education.

Young is the spokesperson for Generation Texas — a group that asked everyone to wear their favorite college t-shirt today in hopes of inspiring high school grads to pursue a college degree.

Young, of course, is sporting a Longhorns t-shirt. He spoke to students at Del Valle High School this morning and told KUT they seemed excited about the possibility of going to college.

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving the post Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to in 2007. 

When Scott steps down on July 2 from the agency that oversees the public education of Texas' nearly 5 million students, he will be the longest serving education commissioner of the past two decades. 

Scott said in a statement that it had been a "privilege" to serve at the agency and noted that he began his career there in 1994 — when his son was one and his daughter was three months old — and they have both now gone on to graduate from Texas public schools. 

"It's time," he said.

Now that your child has gotten into college, have you figured out how much it's actually going to cost — and who's going to pay for it?

These questions are hitting college-bound students and their parents right about now, along with the other million questions that nobody seems to have straight answers for. Paying for college can be complicated, if not mind-boggling.

Roughly 7 out of 10 students borrow money to pay for college, and for many, the process might as well be a mystery wrapped in a riddle.

It's hard out there for a college grad.

The AP analyzed government data and came up with this stunning figure: "Half of young college graduates [are] either jobless or underemployed in positions that don't fully use their skills and knowledge."

The whole story is worth a read, so we encourage you to click over, but here is the meat of the AP's analysis:

Photo by KUT News

A new report shows 38 percent of U.S. students who were enrolled in postsecondary classes during the Fall of 2011 semester were adults (under the definition of the study, an adult was at least 25 by October 15). That percentage is down slightly from 2010 but went up by more than 4 percent from 2009 to 2010. 

The study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows adults looking for education are consistently choosing to enroll on a full-time basis over part-time. Adult students also prefer 4-year, public institutions. The center looks at data from more than 3,300 college institutions—representing 93 percent of student enrollment.

Meanwhile, the average age of a student at the University of Texas at Austin (22.5) is actually getting younger. 

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