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:

Members of the Children and Families Lab at UT Dallas study a video as part of the Dallas Project on Education Pathways project.
UT Dallas

The Dallas Project on Education Pathways has been described as one of the most comprehensive studies into childhood development and school readiness in the nation. The multi-year project has been following the lives of hundreds of low income African-American and Hispanic children.

It's no secret that wealth brings advantages when it comes to sending your kids to college. Rich and famous parents can donate large sums of money to schools or lean on their names and connections. Some ritzy colleges explicitly prefer the children and grandchildren of alumni — at Harvard University, an investigation found last year that these "legacy" admits were over five times more likely to get in than the average Joe.

Gov. Greg Abbott is urging Texas universities to re-evaluate their admissions processes in the wake of a federal investigation that led to bribery charges against a coach at the University of Texas at Austin.

UT Austin men's tennis coach Michael Center has been arrested and charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a wide-ranging, multimillion-dollar college admissions scandal.

Go to college, we tell students. It's a ticket out of poverty; a place to grow and expand; a gateway to a good job. Or perhaps a better job. But just going to college doesn't mean you'll finish. To unlock those benefits — you'll need a degree.

And yet for millions of Americans, that's not happening. On average, just 58 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Former UT Austin President William Powers Jr. died Sunday from complications after a fall in September. According to a press release from the university, Powers had oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder. He was 72.

Texas Senate Unanimously Passes $5,000 Teacher Pay Raises, Adding Librarians

Mar 5, 2019

The Texas Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would provide $5,000 annual pay raises for full-time classroom teachers and librarians, at a cost of $4 billion over the next two years.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

For Angelica and Diana Canchola, meeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the highlight of their day.

The 16-year-old twins introduced Pelosi to their peers and teachers at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in downtown Fort Worth on Monday.

From Texas Standard:

College has become a prerequisite for most high-paying jobs in the U.S., but college itself is out of reach for millions, and that number is growing. And the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that in the past 10 years, student loan debt has grown by more than 100 percent. People ages 19 to 29 hold more than $1 trillion in student debt, and that's just the Millennial generation. With a wide-open Democratic primary field, it's almost certain that college affordability will be an issue during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Adam Harris writes in The Atlantic that the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates have focused their attention on how to make college affordable in the future,  proposing free college tuition or policies that would allow students to leave school without debt.

Harris says that prior to the 2016 election, momentum had been building nationally for some sort of free college program. But once Donald Trump was elected president, that momentum shifted to the states.

Natasha Boone high fives a student as they went over a story the class was reading Jan. 14, 2019 at Edward Titche Elementary School in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas.
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

When third-grade reading teacher Natasha Boone told her peers she was considering a job at Titche Elementary School, a chronically low-performing school known for its low test scores and rowdy classrooms, they all asked, "Why?"

Shutterstock

From dealing with memory loss to regrowing brain cells, Veronica Blackman's mind was buzzing with new ideas as she waited for a ride to the airport. Blackman is a teacher in Detroit who works with students from kindergarten to third grade. 

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools are unconstitutional.

In 2018, on the 64th anniversary of that ruling, a lawsuit filed in New Jersey claimed that state's schools are some of the most segregated in the nation. That's because, the lawsuit alleged, New Jersey school district borders are drawn along municipality lines that reflect years of residential segregation.

After a contentious three-hour public hearing Monday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed a bill that would provide annual $5,000 pay raises for all full-time classroom teachers in the state.

Why The STAAR Test May Be Setting Students Up To Fail

Feb 22, 2019

From Texas Standard:

From botched distribution of exams to concerns about so-called teaching to the test, educators and parents alike have been critical of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standardized tests since their rollout in 2012. And over the past few years, something unusual has been happening: students who are otherwise successful in the classroom are failing the exams.

The current wave of teacher walkouts started a year ago this week, when educators across West Virginia were out of the classroom for nine days. The movement spread to five more states before the school year was over.

From Texas Standard:

As Texas lawmakers begin tackling one of this session's top legislative priorities – school finance reform – a state Senate measure proposes giving public-school teachers a raise. How much money is on the table and what difference would it make for teachers living paycheck to paycheck? It depends on whom you ask and where you live.

From the 1880s to the early 1960a, the African American Freedmen's Community called Little Egypt was in this neighbodhood, at the corner of Thurgood and Shoreview in Dallas' Lake Highlands. It spread across 35 acres.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Texas is dotted with Freedmen’s communities — African American neighborhoods that sprouted after the Civil War in the era of segregation. They range from Ellis Alley in San Antonio to the Fourth Ward in Houston to Deep Ellum in Dallas. Another one in Dallas that's been nearly forgotten, Little Egypt, is getting a renewed look thanks to Richland College.

Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they're not there in the first place?

A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class.

"Teacher's pet." "Know-it-all." "Brown-noser." These are just some of the terms students lob at each other in (and out) of school - especially at students who demonstrate strong mastery of a subject or are enthusiastic in class. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton  explore how and why those labels are used and why they might not pack the punch they used to.

SMU professor Corey Clark is a member of the grand prize winning PeopleForWords team. The team shared the Bush XPrize for creating a successful literacy app.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

More than 36 million adults nationwide lack basic English literacy. A team from Southern Methodist University and Literacy Instruction for Texas are hoping to help chip away at that number with their award-winning phone app.

Four years ago, Gates Elementary on San Antonio’s east side was on the state’s list of failing schools. Only 15 percent of its students were reading at grade level.

Now Gates is one of the fastest improving campuses in the San Antonio Independent School District. School officials credit its success in part to teachers like Kayla John.


Bill Zeeble / KERA News

The new manufacturing lab at the University of North Texas could put Denton’s engineering school at the forefront of 3D printing technology. In the lab, engineers are working to change the way many things are made.

How One Tiny School District In Rural West Texas Is Making It Work

Feb 1, 2019
Rebekah Oñate is the youngest teacher at Valentine Independent School District. Eighty percent of her colleagues are old enough to retire.
Sally Beauvais, Marfa Public Radio

From Marfa Public Radio:

In the tiny West Texas town of Valentine, population 130, there’s no gas station, and it’s a 30-mile drive to the nearest grocery store. But there is a school, and somehow, year after year, it outperforms the state average in academics.

Onetime Dallasite, and UT-Austin student, Sahana Srinivasan is the host of the Netflix series, "Brainchild."
Netflix

Most people know Bill Nye the Science Guy. Well, Texas has its own science booster of sorts, but she is what the Dallas Observer called "the hipper, more accessible Bill Nye for the digital generation."

Sahana Srinivasan is a University of Texas at Austin senior who was born in Houston, raised in Dallas and is the daughter of engineers. Her Netflix science show "Brainchild" has made her one of the fastest-rising young celebrities in streaming TV.

Students at John Paul II High School in Dallas discuss immigration during the campus-wide Solidarity Week.
Stella Chavez, KERA News

The debate over immigration and funding for a border wall has dominated the headlines. Against that backdrop, students at one North Texas Catholic high school spent the past few days in a campus-wide conversation about immigration – from government policies to personal stories.

From Texas Standard:

The possibility of an emergency at a school isn’t an idea most of us like to dwell on. But as schools continue to be targets for those intent on causing widespread harm, training teachers and kids on what to do “just in case” has become common practice.

But though it’s common, that training is hardly standardized across Texas – or even at different schools within the same county. That’s why one Texas county decided to take the lead on designing a program to get everyone on the same page – that includes even the very youngest students.

James E. Smith and his son James Jr., 6, stand in front of Kashmere Gardens Elementary School in Houston on Sept. 7, 1960. The Texas Tribune explored the legacy of desegregation and its continuing impact in a series of stories called "Dis-Integration."
Associated Press

Texas has a long history of neglecting schools tasked with educating students of color. Poor facilities, underfunding, less experienced or qualified staff — they're just a few of the complaints mentioned in lawsuits filed against Texas towns and school districts.

Thousands of people will rally at the Capitol today to call for more K-12 options as part of National School Choice Week. But inside the Capitol, the once-prominent conversation isn't happening.

Should Texas Eliminate The High-Stakes STAAR Test?

Jan 22, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Stakes can be high for students and teachers in Texas when it comes to standardized testing – specifically, STAAR testing. Students usually need to pass to advance to the next grade, and eventually, to graduate. Families, teachers and teacher groups have been vocal in the past about how stressful the tests can be. They're concerned that spending the entire school year on preparing for the STAAR takes away from other learning opportunities.

Now, a Republican lawmaker has filed a bill in the House that would repeal STAAR testing.

Dallas ISD / Twitter/@dallasschools

Students in the Dallas school district recently competed in the annual Foley Gardere Oratory Competition that honors Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s eight finalists, fourth- and fifth-graders, delivered speeches answering the question: "What would Dr. King say to the children of today's world?"

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