Education

UT Austin’s ‘Kate the Chemist’ gets Stephen Colbert to ‘breathe fire’ on the late show

UT Austin’s ‘Kate the Chemist’ gets Stephen Colbert to ‘breathe fire’ on the late show

University of Texas lecturer Kate Biberdorf has a reputation for blowing stuff up.  The chemistry professor labels herself a pyromaniac and leads explosive science demonstrations in her classrooms. Last week, “Kate the Chemist” got to take her lab space to New York City for an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  Biberdorf, who was named one of the ...
Letters to the editor: July 14, 2018

Letters to the editor: July 14, 2018

Re: July 9 article, “Central Texas suspensions of young students raise concerns.” So, those who advocate banning suspension of misbehaving kids in second grade and under, for most situations, “warned that suspensions caused students to fall behind in their classwork, to be disciplined more in the long run and to be ostracized by their peers.” Someone doesn’t understand...
Editorial: Texas must do more to end suspensions of youngest students

Editorial: Texas must do more to end suspensions of youngest students

Just two years ago, Austin schools issued 321 suspensions to the district’s youngest students, those in prekindergarten through second grade, sometimes over infractions as small as using rude language or leaving the classroom without permission. Those numbers included 288 out-of-school suspensions and 33 in-school suspensions. This year, Austin had just eight out-of-school suspensions for that...
Dripping Springs district seeks applicants to fill vacant trustee seat

Dripping Springs district seeks applicants to fill vacant trustee seat

The Dripping Springs school district is seeking applicants to fill the board seat vacated by former Trustee Shelly Reeves in June. Reeves, who was elected in 2010, said she resigned her position due to health issues. Board members decided to appoint a replacement for the remainder of term, which expires May 2019, rather than call for an election. The trustees are accepting applications for the at-large...
UT regents mum on candidates they plan to interview for chancellor job

UT regents mum on candidates they plan to interview for chancellor job

University of Texas System regents voted Wednesday to interview candidates for chancellor at a future board meeting but gave no clue as to who those candidates might be. Nor did they say when that meeting would take place. Sara Martinez Tucker, chairwoman of the regents, declined to tell the American-Statesman how many people might be invited to interview for the job of leading the 14-campus system...
Appeals court hears challenge to Texas campus carry law

Appeals court hears challenge to Texas campus carry law

Attorneys for three University of Texas professors asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to revive their challenge of a law allowing people with concealed-handgun licenses to carry weapons on public university campuses. Two of the professors, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, were on the front row as a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard the arguments. Last year...
KIPP regional networks convert to one Texas charter school district

KIPP regional networks convert to one Texas charter school district

KIPP Public Schools, individual district charter networks operating across Texas, are consolidating into a single statewide school district. The four charter networks in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio asked the Texas Education Agency to close their individual charters so they could convert into one district charter, KIPP Texas Public Schools. The statewide organization will oversee all 52...
Regents expected to OK addition of HEB pharmacy at Dell Medical School

Regents expected to OK addition of HEB pharmacy at Dell Medical School

The Dell Medical School at the University of Texas is about to get a drug store. The UT System Board of Regents on Wednesday is expected to authorize the university to lease space at the medical school to HEB Grocery Co. LP for operation of a licensed pharmacy. HEB will pay a total of $2.5 million in rent for five years and two three-year renewal options, according to the regents’ agenda materials...
State approves AISD partnership to save Mendez Middle School

State approves AISD partnership to save Mendez Middle School

After facing closure for poor academic performance, Mendez Middle School is getting another chance from the state. The Texas Education Agency has approved the Austin school district’s choice for a partner to help turn around the 700-student middle school in Southeast Austin. The campus, which failed to meet state standards for four consecutive years, could have faced state sanctions, including...
A&M team begins transition to operate Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab

A&M team begins transition to operate Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab

The team composed of the Texas A&M University System, the University of California System and Battelle Memorial Institute received the official go-ahead from the federal government Monday to begin a nearly four-month transition leading to operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory on Nov. 1. The federally owned lab in the mountains of New Mexico is a major part of the nation’s nuclear weapons...
Texas Education Agency gives AISD another chance to save Mendez Middle

Texas Education Agency gives AISD another chance to save Mendez Middle

After being at risk of closure for failing to meet academic standards for four consecutive years, Mendez Middle School will get a new shot at a turn around. The Texas Education Agency has approved the Austin school district’s choice in a partner to help save the 700-student middle school in Southeast Austin, which could have faced state sanctions if it failed again this year. Instead, the approved...
Central Texas suspensions of young students raise concerns

Central Texas suspensions of young students raise concerns

A year after Texas lawmakers prohibited schools from suspending most young students, some Central Texas districts are still using the practice, including one that reported a surprisingly high 571 suspensions in the 2017-18 school year. Starting last fall, school officials could no longer suspend students in prekindergarten through second grade except in a few narrow cases — if a student brings...
PolitiFact: Abbott’s promise on school facility use gets an F

PolitiFact: Abbott’s promise on school facility use gets an F

What if, Greg Abbott suggested, anyone could swiftly pinpoint whether local schools are overcrowded or underused? While running for governor, Abbott said in his campaign’s 2013 collection of proposals that school districts and campuses should make public the capacity of each school and its enrollment so, Abbott said, “parents are more informed about their neighborhood schools, particularly...
Giving City: Nonprofit helps teachers with school supplies

Giving City: Nonprofit helps teachers with school supplies

Across the country, school supply drives are kicking off as a way to help students come prepared on their first day of school. But a young nonprofit, Supply the Teachers, takes a different route to remind donors that Austin teachers, whose salaries are below state average, often provide the supplies and materials out of their own pockets. “It’s a budget issue,” said Nicole Conley...
Austin school district delays renaming schools with Confederate ties

Austin school district delays renaming schools with Confederate ties

It will be another school year before five Austin district campuses with ties to the Confederacy get new names. The school board in February voted to rename the campuses, with the goal of debuting new names when school doors reopen in August. But district administrators have slowed down the process to give time for a 22-member task force to develop criteria for renaming the school sites. Changing...
How a natural gas group pushed for new energy curriculum in Texas

How a natural gas group pushed for new energy curriculum in Texas

Concerned that environmental groups were winning the hearts and minds of Texas schoolchildren — filling their heads with statements of the ills of fossil fuels — a politically connected Texas natural gas industry advocacy group devised a plan to fight back. The group, the Texas Natural Gas Foundation, whose founding members include academics and politicians with ties to the natural gas...
Commentary: Why Texans can’t sue faith-based schools that hurt kids

Commentary: Why Texans can’t sue faith-based schools that hurt kids

The Texas Supreme Court recently made a decision that could adversely affect the lives of thousands of children across the state. In the case of John Doe v. Episcopal School of Dallas, the justices refused to consider a harmful ruling issued by a lower appellate court. The ruling allows a faith-based school to avoid civil liability for harming a child in its care. In other words, Texas parents may...
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to donate metal detectors to Santa Fe schools

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to donate metal detectors to Santa Fe schools

After the Santa Fe High School shooting that left 10 dead in May, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Monday he will donate up to 10 metal detectors to the Southeast Texas school district. Pending school board approval, the metal detectors would help fortify entry ways at Santa Fe district schools before the academic year begins in August. In addition to Patrick’s donation, Garrett Metal Detectors is...
IDEA Austin charter renames campus with ties to the Confederacy

IDEA Austin charter renames campus with ties to the Confederacy

The original IDEA Public Schools campus in Austin is changing its school name because of its ties to the Confederacy and will debut a new name this fall. IDEA Austin, which first came to the state capital under a partnership with the Austin school district in 2012, is changing its IDEA Allan campus to IDEA Montopolis. After officials with the charter opertor realized the Allan campus was named after...

Texas Digest: Students responsible in sex cases allowed in A&M classes

COLLEGE STATION Texas A&M criticized over sex cases Since 2003, Texas A&M University has allowed 20 students who were held responsible for sexual misconduct to continue attending classes, records show. A review of thousands of student misconduct hearings by the Houston Chronicle comes as Texas’ largest public university faces criticism for its handling of sexual misconduct cases at the flagship...
PolitiFact: No action on Abbott’s vow to repeal online course limits

PolitiFact: No action on Abbott’s vow to repeal online course limits

Greg Abbott declared while running for governor that other states were outpacing Texas in helping students take unlimited classes online. In spring 2013, Abbott said, only 2,400 students were enrolled in courses offered through the Texas Virtual School Network. In his campaign’s compendium of campaign promises, Abbott suggested various reasons including, he said, the state’s unreasonable...
Editorial: Austin district turns inward to avoid financial crisis

Editorial: Austin district turns inward to avoid financial crisis

On the surface, the Austin Independent School District careening to a fiscal crisis might seem like a real head-scratcher. After all, the district is bringing in more money than in the past because property values are rising under tax rates that remain constant. When values go up, taxpayers pay more – and the district gets more. Add to that declining student enrollment, and the district, presumably...
Texas lawmakers weigh bolstering school security, mental health

Texas lawmakers weigh bolstering school security, mental health

State lawmakers weighed ideas to bolster security in Texas schools and improve student mental health services during a series of legislative hearings Thursday. Proposals to expand the state’s school marshal program — school personnel authorized to keep a gun in a safe on school premises — and to hire veterans and retired police into security roles drew mixed reactions from legislators...
Texas House focuses school safety conversation on mental health

Texas House focuses school safety conversation on mental health

More mental health professionals, partnerships among community organizations and expansion of telemedicine would improve mental health services among Texas students, educators and experts told House lawmakers Thursday. In the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting that killed 10 on May 18, state lawmakers have repeatedly heard the call for better mental health screening and services for students...
Commentary: Let’s put officers in every school. Here’s how it can happen

Commentary: Let’s put officers in every school. Here’s how it can happen

At 11:19 a.m. on April 20, 1999, a shot was fired at Columbine High School in Colorado. The last shot was fired almost an hour later at 12:08 p.m. The two young shooters killed 13 and wounded 23 others before killing themselves. In another school shooting — this one almost 20 years later at Santa Fe High School in Texas — an officer engaged the student shooter just 12 minutes after his...
Educators call for more counselors at House hearing on school safety

Educators call for more counselors at House hearing on school safety

Boosting the supply of school counselors and expanding mental health services for students were among the recommendations state lawmakers heard during a House Public Education Committee meeting on school safety Wednesday. The hearing was the second one held by House representatives since Gov. Greg Abbott released his 40-point school safety plan in response to the Santa Fe High School shooting that...
Abbott’s call for more school counselors points to an unfilled need

Abbott’s call for more school counselors points to an unfilled need

Since the arrests of teenage students in the mass school shootings in Parkland and in Santa Fe, parents and politicians have been calling on school counselors to become part of the first line of defense by spotting students who are in crisis and intervening. Gov. Greg Abbott made adding campus counselors part of his 40-point school safety action plan, looking to them to address student...
Commentary: Spilling the TEA on dyslexia in Texas

Commentary: Spilling the TEA on dyslexia in Texas

The truth about services for Texas students with dyslexia is finally coming to light. Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) sent a letter to school districts stating that students with dyslexia are eligible to be evaluated and potentially to receive “appropriate reading supports and interventions” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For families...
In first talk since Santa Fe, Texas House panel weighs gun law changes

In first talk since Santa Fe, Texas House panel weighs gun law changes

For the first time since the Santa Fe High School shooting, state lawmakers on Monday weighed changing laws to prevent potentially dangerous people from possessing firearms and encourage safer gun storage. Dozens of gun control advocates and opponents packed the Capitol hearing room of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee as lawmakers discussed multiple charges from Gov. Greg Abbott’s...
Commentary: Let’s celebrate the value in working together

Commentary: Let’s celebrate the value in working together

Our national celebration as Americans will soon be here with the red, white and blue prominently displayed. Celebrations draw our attention from the ordinary to the inspired. Something inspiring happened at the Texas State Board of Education that merits celebration. We bemoan the fact we are becoming a people divided — society that lives in separate cultural and political silos. The board &mdash...
T. rex dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues, according to UT researchers

T. rex dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues, according to UT researchers

It’s shocking, we know. But according to research released Wednesday by a team at the University of Texas and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, everyone’s favorite fierce dinosaur couldn’t stick out its tongue like a lizard. Instead, Tyrannosaurus rex tongues were likely rooted to the bottoms of the creatures’ mouths, similar to alligators, researchers say. ...
Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach

Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach

Austin ISD has adopted an “improved” approach to working with families. In this customer-service model — called AISD Cares — educators will prioritize parent requests regardless of professional judgment. This new focus shifts attention away from student needs to submit to the public. In an age when students are at greater risk than ever, now is not the time to turn efforts...
UT regents approve terms for Larry Faulkner as interim chancellor

UT regents approve terms for Larry Faulkner as interim chancellor

University of Texas System regents on Wednesday approved employment terms for Larry Faulkner as interim chancellor at a salary of $500,000 a year, prorated over the length of his service. Faulkner, 73, is a former president of UT-Austin and agreed to come out of retirement to fill in as chancellor after Bill McRaven resigned and until a new chancellor is hired. Faulkner’s appointment became...
ACC will launch bachelor’s degree program for registered nurses in fall

ACC will launch bachelor’s degree program for registered nurses in fall

Austin Community College this fall will begin offering a bachelor’s degree for the first time, now that accreditors have signed off on its plan to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The program is designed for people who are registered nurses, meaning they have passed a licensing exam after earning a credential such as an associate degree from a two-year college or a diploma from a hospital-based...
Austin trustees approve plan to leave some schools without nurses

Austin trustees approve plan to leave some schools without nurses

The Austin school board Monday night approved a $7.1 million student health services plan that will continue to leave some campuses without a school nurse and others with a part-time nurse. The new contract also eliminates school mental health therapists from 16 schools. Seton Healthcare Family, which has provided the district’s student medical services for 22 years, will provide 75 nurses and...
Austin trustees approve $1.4B budget, with 1.5-percent teacher raises

Austin trustees approve $1.4B budget, with 1.5-percent teacher raises

The Austin school board Monday night adopted a $1.4 billion general budget, which requires dipping into its reserves for nearly $30 million to cover the district’s shortfall. It is the second consecutive year the district will need to pull from its fund balance to cover expenses. The board voted 7 to 1, with Trustee Ted Gordon voting against. Gordon said he wouldn’t support the budget...
Austin nonprofit under fire for housing thousands of migrant children

Austin nonprofit under fire for housing thousands of migrant children

Even as it’s being criticized for taking in children separated from their parents crossing without legal permission at the southern border, an Austin-based nonprofit that runs 16 shelters in Texas is asking state regulators for permission to house more children. Southwest Key Programs perhaps is best known locally for its education programs, including East Austin College Prep, a public charter...
ACC celebrates renovated, revitalized African American Cultural Center

ACC celebrates renovated, revitalized African American Cultural Center

Austin Community College has completed a renovation of its African American Cultural Center, and a celebration Monday showcased the center’s artifacts as well as palpable enthusiasm about the need for cross-cultural appreciation during turbulent racial times. The center has existed for years at ACC’s Eastview campus, offering movies, financial aid advice, motivational speakers...
Austin board to vote on plan that leaves some schools without nurses

Austin board to vote on plan that leaves some schools without nurses

Despite outcry from parents and medical professionals who lobbied for more nurses in Austin schools, trustees at tonight’s board meeting are expected to approve a new health services contract that continues to leave some campuses without one. Administrators are recommending a $7.1 million student health services contract with Seton Family of Hospitals, which has provided the Austin district...
Austin school board on path to deplete district reserves in 3 years

Austin school board on path to deplete district reserves in 3 years

As Austin school board members on Monday weigh a $775.2 million operating budget, their spending plan for the 2018-19 school year is overshadowed by future budget forecasts that threaten the school system’s solvency. For the second consecutive year, the district will pass a budget with a deficit – this year $29 million — and pull from its reserves to cover the expenses. If the district...
FINAL VOTE: Texas panel OKs Mexican-American course name change

FINAL VOTE: Texas panel OKs Mexican-American course name change

The State Board of Education unanimously approved Friday a new name for a social studies elective course in public high schools focusing on the history of Mexican-Americans. “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies” replaces “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” which drew criticism for not having “Mexican American” in the course title...
A&M System’s charge at Los Alamos includes improving safety culture

A&M System’s charge at Los Alamos includes improving safety culture

Texas A&M University System officials were thrilled earlier this month when the system and its two partners won the contract to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. Now comes the hard part: changing the lab’s culture to improve safety, security and efficiency. The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous arm of the...
Austin schools leader proposes spending $1.7 million on safety measures

Austin schools leader proposes spending $1.7 million on safety measures

Austin school district leaders want to spend $1.7 million in its upcoming budget on more police officers and cameras, enhanced background checks, and a bus tracking system, Superintendent Paul Cruz said in a letter Wednesday. “The safety of our students is our most important priority, especially as events throughout the state and nation continue to affect them,” Cruz said, without...
Texas panel tentatively OKs using ‘Mexican American’ in course title

Texas panel tentatively OKs using ‘Mexican American’ in course title

Heeding the calls of scholars and activists who said a proposed name for a Mexican-American studies course was insulting, the State Board of Education tentatively approved changing the name Wednesday. Instead of “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” the high school social studies elective course will be called “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies&rdquo...
Texas panel tentatively OKs restoring ‘Mexican American’ in course title

Texas panel tentatively OKs restoring ‘Mexican American’ in course title

Heeding the calls of scholars and activists who said a proposed name for a Mexican-American studies course was insulting, the State Board of Education tentatively approved changing the name Wednesday. Instead of “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” the high school social studies elective course will be called “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies&rdquo...
12 percent of Austin students have safety concerns, a new survey shows

12 percent of Austin students have safety concerns, a new survey shows

About 4,600 students in the Austin school district, or 12 percent of students questioned, said they never feel safe at school or only feel safe “a little,” according to the annual survey done by the district. The percentage of students who said they felt safe at school dropped 4 percentage points since the 2016-17 school year to 87 percent this year. The 2017-18 survey, completed by more...
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