Education | KERA News

Education

Liberty High School in Frisco has grown rapidly and become more diverse since opening in 2006.
Credit Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

Every week, KERA reporters go inside the classroom, meeting students, teachers and administrators, to explore the latest in education in North Texas. 

Explore in-depth education multimedia projects: Race, Poverty and the Changing Face of Schools, a look at the changing demographics at four North Texas high schools; What’s Next For The Class Of 17?, stories about North Texas students from eighth grade to graduation; Homeless in High School, how schools and kids deal with homelessness; and Generation One, meet first-generation Texans who are reshaping schools.

Support for KERA’s education coverage is made possible in part by:

Research showing that reading passages on Texas standardized tests were years above grade level inspired calls for action this legislative session.

Lawmakers responded by passing a bill to study the matter further.

Every time Jennifer Tidd's son was secluded or restrained at school, she received a letter from his teachers. Her son has autism and behavioral issues, and over three years — from 2013 to 2016 — Tidd got 437 of those letters.

"I see this pile of documents that's 5 inches tall that represents hundreds of hours of being locked into a room, and I feel, you know, horrible," Tidd says.

She's sitting in her living room in Northern Virginia, her head hanging over the stack of papers. Tears are in her eyes.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

Just a few years into her teaching career, Cindy Reyes was considered one of the best in the Fort Worth school district. So it’s not surprising she got a job offer to teach at another school.

The catch? The school was failing and on the state’s list of low-performing campuses.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The country's top young spellers battle next week in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Last year’s champion, Karthik Nemmani, is from McKinney.

Mountain View College, part of the Dallas County Community College District, in southwest Dallas.
Cedar Valley College via Facebook

As a senior in high school, Jose Alvarez said he didn’t think he’d be able to attend college. He didn’t understand the application process and didn’t think he could afford it.

Then he learned about Commit's Dallas County Promise, which helps students attend college by covering their tuition.

Ray Dunn, CEO of On the Mark Enhanced Tactical Training, teaches a gun training class for educators in Harrold ISD.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate moved Tuesday to abolish the cap on how many trained school teachers and support staff — known as school marshals — can carry guns on public school campuses, nearly an hour after the House voted to approve a separate and sweeping school safety bill.

Robert F. Smith’s speech at Sunday’s Morehouse College graduation ceremony started like most. The billionaire entrepreneur and Austin resident extolled the virtues of hard work and the benefits of a college education, then the speech took a turn. 

“This is my class, 2019,” Smith said. "And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

Five of the 25 Back to Space student Amabassadors (left to right): Katie Mulry, Lance Gorton, Julianna Lenington, Anna MacLennan and Courtney Kang
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Fifty years ago this July, Neil Armstrong's words from the moon echoed across our globe: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The Back to Space initiative in Dallas was recently launched to rekindle popular interest in space, especially among kids — the kind the 1969 moonshot inspired. 

The school security industry is a growing one and within it, school districts have to decide how to spend their money.
Adhiti Bandlamudi / WUNC for Guns & America

As school security has become a top priority in communities across the country, security companies have found a thriving new market for their products. 

Rodney Robinson is this year's National Teacher of the Year, and this week he was honored at a White House ceremony. Robinson has been teaching for 19 years, most recently at a juvenile detention center in Richmond, Va.

Fort Worth ISD school bus
Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

The May 4 local elections could have big implications for the Fort Worth Independent School District. Three longtime members are not seeking another term. That leaves four open seats and nine candidates vying for them.

Yarik Molina (right, standing) was teaching assistant during the April 11, 2019, Spanish in the Community class at UNT Dallas. Before being a TA, Molina and his mom both took the class before passing their citizenship test.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

This semester, University of North Texas at Dallas students have been teaching local Spanish speakers how to take the U.S. naturalization test. The crowded class keeps growing.

Salma Paredes, a senior at Arlington Collegiate High School, enjoys graphic design, watching documentaries and hanging out with friends — when she has the time. She’s typically busy taking college courses and planning her future. She will graduate from high school this spring with 60 college credits, the equivalent of an associate’s degree, or half of a bachelor’s degree.

NPR/Ipsos conducted a national poll recently and found that more than 8 in 10 teachers — and a similar majority of parents — support teaching kids about climate change.

But in reality, it's not always happening: Fewer than half of K-12 teachers told us that they talk about climate change with their children or students. Again, parents were about the same.

Right now, students across the country are in the process of choosing where to go to college. For many, that decision is closely tied to a school's financial aid offer. But with no current standardization of these offers, letters look vastly different from one college to the next. They're often filled with confusing terms and jargon, and not all colleges define and calculate these terms the same way.

As the first wave of Texas students sit down to take the state standardized test this week, many parents, educators and lawmakers are wondering whether those tests are fair. Some are convinced the answer to that question is no.


An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway of a shelter in San Diego after arriving from an immigration detention center on Dec. 11, 2018. Experts say when parents are detained or deported, the children's trauma can last a long time.
Associated Press

In the small town of Honey Grove, Texas, several families face an uncertain future after an immigration raid in August.

Experts say that for children whose parents are detained or deported, the trauma can last a long time.

If you're naming top colleges, you might not think of the City University of New York right away. It's not selective — it serves what one former official called "the top 100 percent." It also has a pretty low graduation rate.

But if you look deeper, at metrics like diversity and sheer number of lives changed, then CUNY can make a strong case.

Food distributor Marty Renaud (right) hands a fruit popsicle to eighth grader Mia Martinez at Dallas ISD's Fresh Food Fest on March 28, 2019.
Miguel Perez / KERA News

The Dallas school district hosted a taste test of potential menu items Thursday, and the food went before about 150 of the toughest critics: children.

The University Texas campus in Austin
Associated Press

Eight universities embroiled in a massive college admission cheating scheme, including the University of Texas in Austin, are now being investigated by the U.S. Education Department.

For the second time in as many years, the nation is in the midst of a frenzy over who gets to sleep in the extra-long twin beds at a tiny fraction of highly selective colleges and universities. Last year, it was a lawsuit over Harvard University's admissions process, particularly its treatment of Asian-Americans.

UT Faculty, Students Feel The Impact Of Airbnb Blacklist

Mar 27, 2019
The iPhone Airbnb app. March 26, 2019.
Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

When Amanda Bosky, a graduate student in sociology, goes to an academic conference, she often uses Airbnb to save money. Now the University of Texas at Austin student is worried that she can't anymore.

The University of Texas at Austin is among eight schools now being investigated in connection with a nationwide admissions bribery scandal.

Damon Richardson, in a classroom at LIFT, using the app Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis. "It was a wonderful success. I had people come to me and ask me how it works."
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

As many as one-third of Dallas adults are barely literate. Each year, literacy groups only reach 1.5 percent of them. 

Texas received an F when it comes to lead levels in drinking water at schools, according to the Texas Public Interest Research Group and Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. That was the same grade it got in 2017. Texas was among 22 states that received the failing grade.

School districts ranking high in feeding low-income students supplement the traditional cafeteria line with breakfast in the classroom using a grab-and-go model.
Shutterstock

Irving, Dallas, Garland, Crowley and Arlington all rank highly among Texas school districts when it comes to feeding students in need.

Today, ethnic studies is an accepted part of academia. Many if not most college students have taken a course or two. But 50 years ago, studying the history and culture of any people who were not white and Western was considered radical. Then came the longest student strike in U.S. history, at San Francisco State College, which changed everything.

The groundwork was laid for the strike a couple of years before, when black students organized to press for a black studies department and the admission of more black students.

Ben Margot / Associated Press

Recent federal indictments of dozens of parents, coaches and an admissions consultant put in the spotlight the lengths some will go to to place students in prestigious schools.

As a master teacher at the San Antonio Independent School District, Michelle Olivarri gets a $15,000 stipend to teach at a school with a history of low student outcomes.

During a reading lesson in her third grade classroom earlier this semester, sounds of excitement blended with energetic music from a computer game on the parts of a story.

“I’m in second,” shouted one student after filling in his answer on a tablet.

“I’m in fourth,” said another. “Ms. Olivarri, I was on fire!”


Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

For five years, KERA followed a group of high school students for a series called Class of '17. One of the students was Chance Hawkins, who graduated last year from Fort Worth's Dunbar High School. He had a rare degenerative muscle disease. Chance died last weekend; he would have turned 21 on Sunday.

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