Spotlight Education Week 9/12-17

On Sept. 12-17, KLRU and PBS will be showcasing a week full of primetime programming which will focus on the challenges facing the American education system.

As part of KLRU’s and PBS’ commitment to education, the programs will explore the classrooms of today and explain how the amount of creativity and dedication that goes into teaching children makes a difference in schools and communities. Along with episodes from our core series such as POV, TED Talks and Frontline, the schedule will include primetime and PLUS programming, both of which are one-time specials.

Spotlight Education week in Austin is supported by Austin Community College.

Monday, September 12
9 pm – POV: All The Difference weaves together the stories of two promising young men as they navigate their lives in low-income, high-risk communities in Chicago. The 90-minute film explores the factors in their lives that made all the difference – an example of prioritizing education as a tool to secure a place in the middle class. Accompany two African-American teens from the South Side of Chicago on their journey to achieve their dream of graduating from college. Follow the young men through five years of hard work, sacrifice, setbacks and uncertainty.

10:30 pm – Arts In Context  Music for All Offering free, intensive music education to low-income youth from Travis and Hays County, Austin Soundwaves believes firmly in the principle that all students deserve a world-class education in the fine arts. Determined to make a difference in the minority community of Austin at a young age, the Hispanic Alliance of Performing Arts launched Austin Soundwaves. Program director Patrick Slevin and his team have already seen a positive impact on their students’ overall academics, motivation levels, and self-esteem. For Slevin, Austin Soundwaves is the first step towards providing the world class fine arts education that all students deserve.

Tuesday, September 13
8 pm  – FRONTLINE dives deep into the most pressing issues in education by updating two films.; “The Diploma Mill” and “Omarina’s Story.” “The Diploma Mill” (wt), a fresh look at the troubled for-profit college industry, examining reports of predatory behavior and fraud and the implosion of the education chain Corinthian Colleges. “Omarina’s Story” looks at how a program to stem the high school drop-out crisis has affected one girl’s journey. It chronicles how an innovative program to stem the high school drop-out crisis has affected one girl’s journey, from a public middle school in the Bronx to an elite New England private school to college. The film documents the divergent fates of two twins from the Bronx and sheds light on America’s dropout crisis and the brutal inequities in American Education.

9 pm – TED Talks: Education Revolution is hosted by writer/comedian Baratunde Thurston and actress/singer Sara Ramirez and includes short films, music, and inspiring speakers who are making a difference in our nation’s schools and universities. Explore innovative approaches to education. Speakers, including Anna Deavere Smith and Sal Khan, discus the school-to-prison pipeline, micromanaging kids and turning struggling students into scholars.

10 pm – The Address, a film by Ken Burns tells the story of a tiny school in Putney, Vermont, where the students are encouraged to memorize, practice and recite the Gettysburg Address, to unlock the history, context and importance of President Lincoln’s most powerful speech.

Wednesday, September 14
8 pm – NOVA: School of the Future, a two-hour documentary, looks at the school of the future by exploring “learning science,” a complex and interdisciplinary new field that encompasses neuroscience, physiology, and the psychology of children. In a new age of information, rapid innovation and globalization, how can we prepare our children to compete? Discover how the new science of learning can help us reimagine the future of education for all children.

Thursday, September 15
7:30 pm  – Eastside Education is a KLRU production. Follow students, teachers and staff at an Austin high school under threat of closure by the state. For years Eastside Memorial High School has been plagued by failing test scores and negative headlines.An Eastside Education spends one semester at one of Austin’s lowest income schools, as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.

8 pm  – Time for School is an award-winning documentary project that visited seven classrooms in seven countries around the world. View an update to the documentary project that visits seven classrooms in seven countries and offers a glimpse of seven children struggling to get a basic education. The film catches up with the now adult seven to see how their lives have turned out.

Friday, September 16
9:30 pm – Craft in America: Teachers begins its eighth season on PBS with a unique hour that celebrates teachers: craft artists renowned for their own artistic visions, and committed to passing on their skills and passion for craft to new generations of students and artists.

Saturday, September 17
American Graduate Day! Find out more

Spotlight Education week in Austin is supported by Austin Community College.

An Eastside Education: Behind the story

An Eastside Education tells the story of an Austin high school struggling to meet state standards. For years Eastside Memorial High School has been plagued by failing test scores and negative headlines. The story follows one semester as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.

To see what it took to put the project together, we sat down with the KLRU minds behind the project, producer and writer Allison Sandza and videographer and editor Blair Waltman-Alexin.

Q: Where did the idea for the project come from?

A: KLRU was awarded a grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which made us an American Graduate station, which funded reporting on the dropout crisis in our region. So, we wanted to take a hyperlocal look at the dropout crisis in our region and we started talking about what schools we could use as a lens to talk about that issue, and we remembered Eastside Memorial. Everyone in Austin has heard about Eastside Memorial before. It’s had a lot of bad press for over 10 years. It hasn’t been able to meet state accountability, it’s been repurposed, renamed, all these different things, so we thought, “Hmm, let’s check in there.” We had recently met the dropout prevention specialist, or the graduation coach [at Eastside], and he mentioned to us just offhand that the dropout rate at Eastside had dropped from 6 percent to 1 percent in just a few years, so that kind of piqued our interest as well. We went over there, we started talking to them, and we realized there was so much more to the story, so we wanted to follow them for a whole semester and see what a school like Eastside was like for a whole semester. -A.S.

Q: What was it like spending an entire semester at Eastside?

A: It was interesting. It was very different from how you normally approach filming and producing a news-focused story, because if you’re doing a regular news piece on a school, you’re in a classroom for maybe 15 minutes, get a few shots, talk to a couple of people, and then that’s it, you kind of leave, you’re disassociated from the group, and there’s more distance between you and your subject. But with this, we were checking in with the principal all throughout the semester, checking in with the same teachers all throughout the semester, asking them, “How are things going? How do you feel like you’re doing with testing?” So you get a lot more involved than you normally do with a regular news story. Also, you’re trying so hard not to be obtrusive, but you have to be there so much more of the time. We spent a lot of time in one of the teacher’s English classes, so you’re hanging out for maybe, like, an hour, waiting for the class to end so you can interview her, and then you also want to get her teaching the class, so you’re trying to cover that as much as you can, but then also not distract the students, because they’re there to learn and you’re trying to not interfere with that, so it’s a little bit different. You’re trying to be there as much as you can, and also be invisible as much as you can. -B.W.

And so much of the story at Eastside relies on how they’re going to perform on the STAAR test, the state accountability exam, so much of the spring semester that we were there has to do with that test that happens in March and April. So it was interesting to be able to watch these students come back from winter break, you know, everyone’s still kind of on vacation mode, then buckle down, do mock testing, do the real test, deal with the emotional and physical exhaustion that goes into taking this five-hour exam, and then watch these administrators and the students and the teachers wait for test scores to come back. It was a really interesting thing to see, just the spectrum, and then you end with graduation, which again, is a celebratory thing, and people getting ready for vacation. I’m glad that we followed them during the spring semester, I think that was a really interesting thing to experience. -A.S.

Q: The media hasn’t been friendly to Eastside in recent years. What was your reception on campus from students and teachers who are concerned about bad press for their school?

A: It seemed like there was a little bit of unease, not everybody, but a few people. There would be a little bit of, you know, “What are you going to say about our school?” And I think that’s a well-deserved emotion for them to have, because they’ve had kind of a rough time in the media for several years, and you think, “Oh, someone else is going to come in and bash our kids, or our teachers, and we’re trying really hard.” Sometimes there would be a little bit of, “What are you doing?” And then we would explain what the project was, and then it was this very immediate, “Oh, okay, that’s cool,” and that seemed to kind of break the tension, once they understood it was a long-form project, that we wanted to talk about how much they’re fighting to stay open, and the history of the school, and it seemed like that put people at ease pretty quickly. -B.W.

I also thought it was interesting that you could tell that these kids had been on camera before, and that there had been cameras in their school before. I think if you went to some of the other high schools in the area, and maybe elsewhere in the state, maybe they would be waving at the camera, but these Eastside kids and their parents and the teachers have been through this before, and yes, there was that standoffishness because they wanted to know, is this another round of bad press that was on the way? But it was almost like they could get used to ignoring a camera in a classroom. It was sort of bizarre in that way, and sort of sad. -A.S.

Yeah, I was thinking about a couple of other shoots we’ve done at other high schools, and that does kind of seem to be a thing, you get this weird look from kids like, “Why are you here and what are you doing in my classroom?” And they’ll either get really nervous and giggly, or they’ll immediately just hide their face, but most of those kids at Eastside, they kind of had this familiarity with, “Oh, it’s a news crew in our school,” and then they just kind of go about their routine. -B.W. 

Q: What did you learn from this project and what should the public take away from the story?

A: I think the biggest takeaway was how many people it takes to keep a school afloat and successful. Everyone thinks of teachers right away, they might think of the principal, but Eastside’s a school with support staff, with outside organizations that help them. Some parents are super involved, some parents aren’t involved at all because they work multiple jobs. But they also have proud alumni who come back to the school, and Eastside’s actually a really small school. It’s probably one of the smallest high schools, if not the smallest high school, in the district. It was a major takeaway, just how many people put their everything into keeping this school alive, you know, even their own money to help these kids be successful. It was pretty inspiring, actually. -A.S.

Yeah, I would say it almost kind of felt like there was this small gravitational pull toward the school, where you have kids that graduated that wanted to come back and help out or do what they could to support the school and show that it’s a school worth fighting for and that there are success stories there. And you had teachers that would stay late every night to work on stuff. There are teachers that help students pay for their prom dresses. It was that type of staff, where they could go home and chill out, but they’re spending their time at the school. You have community members at the school, you have some people in the area that volunteer in their free time to help out with different extracurricular activities because they want to. It just seemed like there’s this pull to do something there and there’s a pride people have in that community for that school that they want to hold it up and see it survive. -B.W.

And I think the takeaway from that is that if this school does get shuttered, it’s more than just students that’ll be relocated and teachers that will get relocated. It’s an entire community that really is fighting to keep it open. When they all used the word to tell us that if the school gets shut down it’ll be “devastating” to this community, I think even a cynical journalist would hear that and learn about the school while reporting on it all semester and say, “Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it would be devastating.” -A.S.


 

An Eastside Education is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The American Graduate initiative seeks to establish a clearer understanding about why students drop out of high school and how drop out impacts our economy and society. An Eastside Education examines these issues up close by exploring how one school, in an at-risk community, is overcoming years of poor performance and trending toward success.

Click here to watch the full six-part digital news project, An Eastside Education.

On Friday, June 26, KUT Austin’s Jennifer Stayton interviewed Allie and Blair about the project. Listen to the interview below.

Watch An Eastside Education

An Eastside Education – a six-part digital news project that follows one semester at the most talked about school in one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.

Prologue: All In
The Texas Education Agency gave Eastside Memorial three years to meet state accountability standards or watch their school by shuttered. Principal Bryan Miller calls this year “make or break.” In the prologue we explain how the school got to this point and why the staff is all in on making the grade this school year.

Chapter 1: East Side
Johnston High School opened in East Austin in 1960, when mostly African Americans and Latinos lived east of I-35. In recent years parents, students, and community members have rallied to keep the doors open.

Chapter 2: Family Lives Here
Students at Eastside see struggles most teens don’t have to deal with. But many of them agree with the school’s unofficial motto: Family Lives Here. We follow two seniors through their final semester as they overcome statistics and graduate.

Chapter 3: At Risk
It’s Graduation Coach Harry Brooks’ job to keep dropout rates low and graduation rates high. We follow him through the halls, to Truancy Court, as he conducts home visits, and watches his students walk across the stage at graduation.

Chapter 4: High Stakes
Eastside’s survival depends on how well the students perform on end-of-course STAAR exams. We follow as students, teachers, and administrators brace for test day.

Chapter 5: Waiting Game
If Eastside fails to meet standards again this school year they will only have one more school year to make it happen, or be shuttered for a year. Preliminary test results are back and some students will be forced to return to Eastside during the summer. We check in with teachers as they pack up their classrooms and watch the Class of 2015 graduate. Everyone at Eastside will have to wait until August to find out if they finally made accountability.

Epilogue: Test results released (Updated reporting to come in August)
School ratings go public in August – stay tuned to find out how Eastside Memorial fared.

This project is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The American Graduate initiative seeks to establish a clearer understanding about why students drop out of high school and how drop out impacts our economy and society. An Eastside Education examines these issues up close by exploring how one school, in an at-risk community, is overcoming years of poor performance and trending toward success.

An Eastside Education premieres June 23rd

You’ve probably heard of Eastside Memorial High School before, but not like this. This story follows one semester at the most talked about school in one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.

Click here on June 23 to watch the six-part digital series from KLRU­-TV, Austin PBS.
Sign up here to be notified when the story is published.