Texas Tribune Previews Legislature’s Public School Priorities

EARLY COLLEGE HIGH FOR AIR

This story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. As part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, we are seeking a clearer understanding of factors impacting our region’s dropout rate and convening organizations sharing common goals to increase graduation rates.  

For Public Schools, What to Watch in Next Session

by Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune

When Texas lawmakers come back to Austin in January, there will be a new governor who touts public schools as a top priority, and plenty of money in the state bank account. But that doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly as the 84th Legislature navigates public education policy.

Here are five things to watch when the legislative session gets underway:

Education Committee Shuffling: Whomever Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick appoints to fill his spot leading the Senate Education Committee — Larry Taylor, Kelly Hancock and Donna Campbell are possible contenders — will wield considerable control over which education bills do and don’t get hearings. Patrick could also opt to combine the chamber’s higher and public education committees, another move that could affect how quickly and easily legislation makes it through the Senate. The House could also take the single education committee approach. With the departure of Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, that would leave current Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, who is expected to continue in that role, to preside over both.

Pre-K Fireworks: There’s widespread and bipartisan energy building behind a push to boost early education in the state. But there’s a catch — a divide exists between those who want to expand half-day programs to a full day and make them better, and others who want to first get a better handle on how the existing programs are working. Count education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas in the former camp, and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott in the latter. 

The School Choice Battleground: In the 2013 session, despite a loud drumbeat leading up to January from supporters including Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, legislation that would allow students to receive public money to attend private schools died with barely a whimper. Now, a skirmish over private school vouchers is brewing again, but it’s unclear whether 2015 will see a different outcome. Two areas that may instead become the school choice battleground: a proposal known as an “Achievement School District,” which would create a statewide entity to manage underperforming campuses, and efforts to loosen regulation of virtual education.

How Money Gets Doled Out: With a school finance lawsuit awaiting arguments at the Texas Supreme Court, the Legislature could easily punt on making any changes to the way the state distributes funding to school districts. But that might be too much of a delay for some lawmakers. State Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, has already filed a slate of bills that he told the Houston Chronicle he hoped would get the “conversation started” on school finance. And regardless of how Watson’s bills fare, lawmakers can still tinker around the edges of the school finance system as they make choices in how the budget allocates funding across school districts.

Revisiting the Big Ticket Items of 2013: Last time they were in Austin, lawmakers overhauled high school curriculum and scaled back standardized testing requirements. They also approved the first expansion of charter schools in the state since they were established in 1995. If the interim hearings over the last year on the rollout of those new laws are any indication, expect discussion about improving high school students’ access to guidance counselors, and clarifying the process the state uses to close low-performing charters schools.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/12/18/five-things-watch-public-ed-lawmakers-return/.

Community Cinema: A Path Appears 1/6

Join KLRU and the Austin Public Library for a screening and discussion of A Path Appears on Tuesday, January 6th, at Windsor Park Branch Library (5833 Westminster Dr.). The free event is open to the public and takes place from 7 pm to 9 pm.

Jan 6: A Path Appears from the creators of Half the Sky
A Path Appears goes to the USA, Colombia, Haiti, and Kenya to reveal the incredible adversity faced every day by millions of women and girls, while also presenting glimpses of hope and change. From the team that brought you the groundbreaking Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. KLRU’s screening will focus on Part 1 of the series, which focuses on sex trafficking. Join New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristoff, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively and Malin Ackerman as they meet activists fighting sex trafficking in the U.S.

Nicholas Kristof talks about his book A Path Appears on KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith.

Community Cinema is a groundbreaking public education and civic engagement initiative featuring screenings of films from Independent Lens on location in 100 cities and online. Between September and June, Community Cinema brings together leading organizations, community members and public television stations to learn, discuss and get involved in today’s critical social issues.

You helped us surpass our goal and raise over $250,000!

ThankYou110514

We wanted to offer a heartfelt thanks to all our members and viewers who supported us during our Winter fundraising drive. We are so humbled that over 1,400 people helped us raise over $250,000 in less than a month. It’s your generosity that gives us the ability to continue to tell stories that educate, entertain, inspire and change lives each and every day.

We also want you to know that Your Favorites week was a success! You did your part and we raised over $50,000 in support of your favorite PBS programs that help you explore your world and make connections in your community.

Thank you for strengthening your investment in KLRU this holiday season!

American Graduate: Alternatives and opportunities starting in Pre-K

During PBS NewsHour this weekend, our stories are both part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas.

On Saturday, we spoke with Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and AISD’s Director of Early Childhood Jacquie Porter about free all day Pre-K for qualified families. The two entities are teaming up to enroll more qualified four year olds in prekindergarten. Pre-K is free for children who have limited-English proficiency, are economically disadvantaged, those whose parents are active military or were killed in action, for children who are homeless, or who have ever been in CPS care.

“Pre-k benefits kids in a number of ways. We think academically, but pre-k also benefits children socially, getting along, taking turns. And it’s the best time for learning, so we want to make sure we capitalize on that and make sure kids are where they’re supposed to be when they start kindergarten,” Porter says.

For our Sunday story we traveled to Bastrop to hear about Colorado River Collegiate Academy – the district’s early college high school. The school opened this year and offers students the opportunity to earn their associates degree from Austin Community College before they graduate high school. The degree is free for families. The district is targeting students who are low-income or who will be the first in their family to attend college.

You can see an extended version that story in the video above.

Both stories will air locally as a KLRU News Briefs during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm. Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

 

Science Night December 17

Science Night on KLRU begins at 7 pm Wednesday evening. Here’s a quick look at the exciting programs set for Wednesday:

Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story

“Born Free” – a book and then a film that changed forever the way we think about wildlife, marked its 50th anniversary of the publication in 2010. What has happened to lions since this story? And what has happened to the people featured in the film? What has “Born Free” taught us?

 

NOVA | Making Stuff Wilder at 8 pm


David Pogue explores bold innovations inspired by the Earth’s greatest inventor, life itself. From underwater wi-fi based on dolphin communication, to robotic “mules” and “cheetahs” for the military, to swarms of robotic bees, Pogue travels the world seeing the “wildest” ideas put into action in new inventions and technologies. It is a journey that sees today’s bacteria turned into tomorrow’s metallurgists, viruses building batteries, and even DNA, the Code of Life, put to work in “living” computers. Will the stuff of the future take on a life of its own?

 

NOVA | Making Stuff Colder at 9 pm


For centuries we’ve fought it, shunned it and huddled against it. Cold has always been the enemy of life, but now it may hold the key to a new generation of science and technology that will improve our lives. David Pogue explores the frontiers of cold science, from saving the lives of severe trauma patients and cooling a warming planet to ultracold physics, where bizarre new properties of matter are the norm and the basis of new technologies like levitating trains and quantum computers. In this brave new world, cold isn’t to be avoided. Cold is the new hot.

Highlights December 14-20

KLRU Highlights

Enjoy and entire evening watching Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey on KLRU. Episodes 3, 4 and 5 begin airing at 7 pm on Sunday.

Two hours of the Antiques Roadshow begins at 7 pm on Monday.

We’ll show you what that means for one dedicated group of students, rehearsing and performing in some of George Balanchine most celebrated works on Curtain Up: The School of American Ballet Workshop Monday at 9 pm.

Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler Tuesday at 7 pm goes with a group of active duty and retired U.S. military, wounded in Afghanistan, Iraq and other American wars, as they travel to the Catholic shrine of Lourdes in southwest France in search of healing.

In a second hour of Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler Tuesday at 8 pm, Feiler circles the island of Shikokyu in Japan, following a pilgrim trail that’s taken by hundreds of thousands of Japanese and international pilgrims every year, a Buddhist pilgrimage that welcomes pilgrims of all faiths.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2014 Tuesday at 9 pm promises to include appearances and performances by some of the most recognizable names in entertainment. The evening’s festivities will be capped off with the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which is traditionally handled by the President and First Family.

In celebration of the release of his 2013 album, Musical Gifts, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell welcomed cameras into his elegant Manhattan residence for a rare and intimate concert on Joshua Bell Presents Musical Gifts Tuesday at 10 pm.

“Born Free” – a book and then a film that changed forever the way we think about wildlife, marked its 50th anniversary of the publication in 2010. Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story Wednesday at 7 pm revisits the story.

In a mini-series, Nova Wednesday at 8 pm and 9 pm, New York Times’ technology correspondent and best-selling author David Pogue takes a wild ride through the cutting-edge science that is powering a next wave of technological innovation.

Famed Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela performs a unique fusion of flamenco, jazz and rock on Austin City Limits Wednesday and Friday at 10 pm.

Martin Amis, a celebrated and prolific author whose credits include London Fields, The Rachel Papers, Time’s Arrow and The Information, joins Evan Smith on Overheard Thursday at 7 pm.

Blue Lapis Light transforms urban environments into works of art on Arts and Context Thursday at 7:30 pm.

Downton Abbey Rediscovered Thursday at 8 pm will combine clips, interview bites, and behind-the scenes footage.

Chet on Daytripper Thursday at 8:30 pm heads to Grapevine, the “Christmas Capital of Texas” to catch the spirit of the season.

On Great Performances Thursday at 9 pm, legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman and celebrated cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot join forces for a musical exploration of liturgical and traditional works in new arrangements for both chamber orchestra and klezmer settings.

Catch-up on this week’s news with Washington Week with Gwen Ifill Friday at 7 pm and Moyers and Company at 7:30 pm.

On Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Friday at 8 pm, Soprano Deborah Voigt and acclaimed British actor John Rhys-Davies join the choir and orchestra at Temple Square for a Christmas concert of holiday favorites.

Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir Friday at 9 pm was filmed in Trondheim, Norway’s magnificent Nidaros Dom cathedral, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in the world.

Mingle herbs for food, wildlife flowers and what ails you into your waterwise scheme on Central Texas Gardener at noon Saturday. Visit a gardener who removed grass for a menu that serves up art, food, and wildlife invites.

Prepare yourself for a Downton Abbey marathon! Episodes 1-4 of the fourth season with be airing Saturday at 7 pm to midnight.

Aaron Higdon, Dahlstrom MS Teacher, wins Get Your Tech On Sweepstakes

KLRU Educational Services congratulates Aaron Higdon, the Gateway to Technology teacher at Dahlstrom Middle School in Buda. Aaron recently received a Samsung Galaxy tablet and a PBS LearningMedia Custom account. Here, he gives us some background and how he incorporates technology:

This is my 11th year as a teacher, two years in Houston ISD and nine in Hays CISD.  I taught middle school science, then math, now STEM.  This is my 4th year teaching STEM.

My students use Google apps all the time.  Each student has a gmail account that is managed through the district.  they use Google drive (and all the apps with that).  They’ve created Google sites to make engineering portfolios.  And, we’re now using Google Classroom to manage assignments and feedback.  We occasionally use other apps like Kahoot! on student devices.

Like Julie Hildebrand, our 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, we salute Aaron and his work, and we encourage all educators to submit an application now to be a 2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator.

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