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:

Ashley Tilley wasn’t completely alone. She had her older sister along at least some of the time while she was bouncing around the foster care system. Her mother was coping with a mental illness, so Ashley had to come to terms with a new normal.

She tells KERA’s Krys Boyd that she and her sister are “just now talking about it ’cause it’s a shock…. You think it’s normal until you see other people and then it’s not.”

Scottie Gipson wants to own his own business. And after dropping out for three years, he now knows he’ll need to finish high school and go to college to accomplish that goal.

Scottie didn’t have a very stable life as a kid. His father’s been in and out of prison; he says his mother didn’t really seem to care whether he went to school or not. Scottie dropped out at 15 and began using and selling drugs to make ends meet.

When Prabhesh Patel was 5 years old, his father was killed in a car accident that also severely injured his mother. “She went into a coma for about three months,” he tells KERA’s Krys Boyd. “She couldn’t remember my parents or my dad, or really that I was even her son, which was a little scary.”

As his mom recovered, Prabhesh poured his energy into school and work. He graduated from Fort Worth’s South Hills High School last spring, and he’s now on a full scholarship at Texas Christian University.

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UPDATE: Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles has raided City Hall and hired the mayor’s Chief of Staff, Paula Blackmon. Her marching orders are to improve relations with elected officials and business leaders.                                      

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Today was the first day back to school for  most Texas kids.  – including a Richardson Schools 2nd grader named Thomas Jefferson the 5th. And like a lot of other kids, TJ strolled into Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet elementary side by side with a family elder. But here’s where the story gets interesting. The great grandfather TJ accompanied is 70 year-old Thomas Jefferson, Jr. – who attended Hamilton Park himself six decades ago. He made the same walk with his son, Thomas Jefferson the 3rd, and grandson, Thomas Jefferson the 4th. Here’s a look at an African American family legacy.

Jarrell Brown is an achiever, and even after meeting him you might not know just how difficult it was for him to get good grades, play sports and win college scholarships.

Brought up in a tough neighborhood, Jarrell worked hard in school, was elected  president of his senior class at Dallas’ South Oak Cliff High School and earned a full ride to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he’s just started his freshman year.

Leslie Beltran didn’t think she’d ever graduate from high school. After she got pregnant at 15 and dropped out, she tells KERA’s Krys Boyd, “Education really didn’t cross my mind. It didn’t seem as important to me as having the baby.”

Willow Blythe / KERA News

On this first day of school for most kids across the state, we check in with one of the North Texas students we’re following from 8th grade all the way to graduation. Today, we catch up with a member of KERA’s Class of 17 – Ricky Rijos Jr., who’s starting his freshman year at Flower Mound High.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

A long line formed outside the Dallas County Health and Human Services building on Friday. Most were parents waiting to get their child immunized before the first day of school on Monday.

Schools require that students be up to date on all of their required shots, but the recent outbreak of measles in North Texas may also have prompted some parents to take immunization more seriously.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The first day of school Monday will be a homecoming for returning middle and high school students in West.  After their schools were damaged in the April fertilizer plant explosion, they finished the school year in Waco. This year, they’ll be on a large campus of portable buildings.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

The Dallas school board has asked its investigator for more answers before he turns in the final report next month. Trustees say they’re pleased with the investigation so far.

 

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

This month, when the state handed out its newest version of school district ratings, Richardson once again scored more accolades than almost any other district in the state.  How do they do it?

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

The Dallas school board gets the first round of results Thursday of an investigation into actions by Superintendent Miles. Paul Coggins looked into charges that Miles broke contract rules.  

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Dallas claims more English language learners than any school district in Texas. Despite that, state funding cuts forced the district to close its "intake center" for immigrant families two years ago. But just in time for the new school year, which starts Monday, the center has reopened.

In Dallas at least, school zone lights have been flashing this week, and some cars have even slowed down to the required 20 mph. But hitting the brakes is not required yet, say school officials. That’s because school isn’t in session until this coming Monday.

The legal, slower speed limit is not in force until then. Apparently, officials activate the lights in advance to make sure the flashers work and to remind drivers that school’s about to start. But come Monday, tickets will be issued.

Willow Blythe / KERA News

Last week, we introduced you to Chance Hawkins, a 15-year-old teen battling Duchenne muscular dystrophy who maintains a positive outlook on life in spite of the physical and academic challenges he’s facing. He failed the STAAR test at Dunbar Middle School and his mom was determined to find a smaller school for him.

The state’s new school accountability system came out last week and many folks are still looking at how schools in their area fared and what it all means. Education Reporter Matthew Haag at The Dallas Morning News points out how four Dallas public schools did what only 22 other Texas schools did — go from the lowest rating of “academically unacceptable” under the previous accountability system to “met standard” under the new ratings. It was the most of any school district.

A new documentary about teachers is coming to CBS this fall. The two-hour TV special Teach will focus on the year-in-the-life of four public school teachers during the 2012-13 school year. One of them is Lindsay Chinn, a 2003 graduate of Coppell High School. Chinn teaches at Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College in Denver, Colorado.

Fort Worth voters could be looking at a bond election in November. This week, Superintendent Walter Dansby presented several possible scenarios for bond programs ranging from $585 million to $777 million. Trustees are expected to vote Aug. 23 on whether to hold a bond election in November.

Seth Sawyers / Flickr Creative Commons

Fort Worth voters could be looking at a bond election in November. This week, Superintendent Walter Dansby presented several possible scenarios for bond packages ranging from $585 million to $777 million.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the least costly option would include a new high school, more classrooms and security and technology improvements. A different package includes the construction costs of a performing and fine arts campus, new buses and student uniforms. Trustees are scheduled to vote on whether to hold an election on Aug. 23.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Texas schools will begin this year with more state money than last year, but most are getting less than they did in 2011, before state lawmakers dramatically cut the education budget.

Funding still varies dramatically from district to district, which is one of the reasons a state judge in February found Texas’ school finance system unconstitutional for the second time in a decade.

As part of KERA’s American Graduate Initiative KERA took a look at the funding gap and how it’s affecting kids in a district that is often at the end of the receiving line.

Tom McFadden

How do you get kids interested in science? You have them rap about it. At least that’s what some schools around the country are doing as featured in this recent NPR story. Students in the San Francisco Bay area squared off with hip-hop songs about complex science topics they researched and wrote.

Via NPR: Science Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. Bring Hip-Hop Into The Classroom

Willow Blythe / KERA News

Every year, a group of Dallas public school librarians puts out a list of 20 children’s books that are bilingual or in Spanish. The objective is to help other librarians pick out books for the nearly 40 percent of students in the district who don’t speak English or speak it well. Since this initiative began in 2006, the list has gotten the attention of librarians far beyond the district.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

It’s the season of spending for parents of school-aged kids. And no matter how well you plan, pencil cases, new sneakers and graphing calculators can put a dent in anyone’s budget.

Tax free weekend kicks off today, but some North Texans are wondering, is saving sales tax worth braving the crowds and picked over supplies?

The Texas Education Agency accountability ratings out today reveal that most school districts – 92.5 percent — achieved the new “met standard” rating — the state’s temporary pass-fail system that replaced the exemplary-to-unacceptable scale. Both the Dallas and Fort Worth school systems passed.

 

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

  UPDATE The Texas Education Agency accountability ratings reveal most school districts – 92.5% - achieved the new, acceptable rating “Met Standard.” Both Dallas and Fort Worth Independent School Districts “Met Standard.” there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Texas school district and campus ratings come out today. Terms like exemplary and acceptable won’t be there.

Marketplace aired an interesting story about online summer school last night. School districts around the country are offering classes via YouTube and other online sites in an effort to cut budgets.

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Texas school district and campus ratings come out tomorrow. Terms like exemplary and acceptable won’t be there.

Texas Graduation rates continue to go up and have a reached a new record high, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said Tuesday.

A study released by the Texas Education Agency shows the Class of 2012 had a graduation rate of 87.7 percent up from 85.9 percent in 2011. The graduation rate has steadily increased since the class of 2007 when 78 percent of students graduated.

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