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Spotlight Texas


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Unveils Plan for Teacher Raises

Six days before the start of the Special Session, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) held a news conference Thursday to discuss his priorities.

"I intend to pass 20 of 20 of the Governor's priorities," Patrick said. "Which are his priorities, my priorities, the people's priorities."


Tensions Between Texas Legislative Leaders Show No Signs of Cooling

Five days before the Texas Legislature is scheduled to open a special session, it is clear the relationship between the leaders of the House and Senate remains as strained as it was at the end of the regular session.

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick used a press conference to blast fellow Republican and House Speaker Joe Straus, comparing his education funding proposals to a "Ponzi scheme," accusing him of laying the groundwork for a state income tax, and complaining that Straus won't even meet with him one-on-one to bridge their differences.


Dreamers Grateful Efforts to Repeal In-State Tuition Benefit Never Materialized

Houston is the only place Samuel Cervantes considers home. His parents brought him to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, at the age of five.

As an undocumented immigrant, Cervantes, a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin, said he never thought college was in his future until he learned of the in-state tuition benefit afforded students like himself.


In a Year of Cuts, the Texas Legislature Boosted Financial Aid For College Students

Attempts to freeze tuition may have stalled out at the Texas Legislature this year, but lawmakers did take one quiet step toward addressing college affordability: They gave the state's biggest financial aid program a boost.

The austere state budget currently awaiting Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's signature includes a 10 percent funding hike for Texas' main method of helping needy students attend four-year colleges. That money will address the aid program's biggest shortfall - that there's not enough money to give grants to everyone who qualifies. Advocates say that's a much-needed boost as cost of college continues to rise.


Zach's Journey: Heading to High School, Blind Teen Sees Opportunities Instead of Obstacles

The students packed the auditorium, diplomas in hand, on a Thursday in late May: the newest eighth-grade graduates of Mary Immaculate Catholic School. Over cake, they and their families marked the transition from one life stage to another while reveling in memories of the past, played out on a screen high above the crowd.

As the slideshow began, Zach Thibodeaux, 14, relinquished a stack of papers to his stepfather so he could focus on holding a cup of punch and a white cane. The graduates howled and giggled as the photos traced their lives from infancy to childhood to adolescence, but Zach could see none of this.


Texas Education Commissioner Kicks Off Statewide Tour in Abilene

The Texas Education Commissioner kicked off a statewide tour in Abilene Tuesday afternoon to get the word out about a new report card designed to help parents help their kids.

Commissioner Mike Morath visited with students at AISD's Academy of Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Science, or ATEMS campus. It's his first stop on a tour across Texas to let people know about a new tool for parents.


Texas School Districts Cut Costs to Avoid Closure as State Funding Cuts Loom

Doug Rice will take over next school year as principal of a single-campus rural school district east of Amarillo, close to the Oklahoma border. There's just one problem: He's already the superintendent.

He's putting on a second hat to save money since Kelton ISD will likely lose almost half its operating budget next year. A stalemate between the Texas House and Senate crushed any hopes of lawmakers making school funding formulas more equitable and simple this legislative session. That leaves school superintendents preparing to either work with much less in their coffers or risk having to shut their doors and forcing students to transfer to other districts.


In the Texas Capitol This Year, University Leaders' Worst Fears Never Materialized

Some of Texas’ top lawmakers entered the 2017 legislative session with big plans to shake up higher education in the state. Instead, their 140 days' worth of work was most notable for what they didn’t do to public universities.

The Legislature didn’t overhaul how the universities are funded — or hit them with big cuts. It didn’t freeze tuition. It didn’t repeal the state’s controversial automatic college admissions law. It didn’t pare back a free tuition program for veterans and their kids. And it didn’t eliminate a widely used but controversial financial aid program for poor students.


Krum, Ponder ISDs Brace for Loss of Millions in State Funding

With a state legislative session dominated by divisive issues, the state of public school finance reform was left in the air, much to the chagrin of area superintendents who could stand to lose millions of state dollars.

Following a Texas Supreme Court decision that pointed to the flaws of the current school finance system, reform was a top priority for lawmakers going into the biennial session. In the end, disagreements between the House and Senate about a school voucher system killed a sweeping school finance bill.


Texas Senate Approves Bill Tweaking A-F School Grades

The Texas Senate early Thursday approved a bill that would tweak a plan to grade school districts — two and a half hours after a midnight legislative deadline.

The Senate voted 29-2 to pass its version of House Bill 22, which would make changes to a plan for grading school districts on an A-F scale. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, the bill's sponsor, made some compromises to appease educators but did not include several of the provisions they want the most — including a delay to the start date of the rating system from 2018 to 2019 and a limit on how much of their grades depend on standardized tests.


Rogers ISD Students Agree to Share Valedictorian Title

One day after the family of a Rogers High School senior filed for a temporary restraining order against Rogers ISD to prevent the district from announcing the class Valedictorian and Salutatorian, her attorney announced she and the other student will be co-valedictorians.


Texas Education Agency Will Not Take Over Hearne ISD

The Texas Education Agency has announced it will not take over the Hearne Independent School District.

The decision came in a letter from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath that they will not replace the Hearne school board following a second review of the district’s appeal of the initial decision.


Educators Take Issue With Senate Plan for School Assessment

Educators on Thursday turned up to a Senate committee hearing on a bill that would change how the state assesses schools and districts with a message for legislators.

"We were for the House-passed version," said Patty Quinzi, legislative counsel for the Texas American Federation of Teachers.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, presented a substitute version of House Bill 22, which would tweak the state's proposed system for grading schools and districts on an A-F scale. Taylor changed many provisions in the House's bill to bring it closer to Senate Bill 2051, which passed out of his committee last week.


Austin ISD Says $850K Marketing Campaign to Boost Student Enrollment Helped Mitigate Loss

The Austin Independent School District has struggled with enrollment decline in the past few years.

Aside from changing its transfer policy, the school district also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars for advertising to attract more families to enroll.


The New STAAR Report Card

The Texas Education Agency publishes STAAR report cards for all students every year. These STAAR report cards are often referred to as Confidential Student Reports (CSR). To improve communication and transparency with educators and families, TEA has conducted an overhaul of the STAAR report card. The goal of the redesign is to create a family-friendly report on student progress, specifically highlighting growth and improvement as much as proficiency, while giving parents concrete tools to help with student learning. It will be available starting in June 2017.


Senate Panel Tacks "School Choice" Provision Onto Education Finance Bill

The Senate Education Committee Thursday passed the House's major school finance reform bill, after adding a controversial provision subsidizing private school tuition for special needs students - a move unlikely to go over well in the House.

After a few hours of public testimony on the Senate's version of House Bill 21, the panel voted 7-1 to adopt the bill. The committee's chairman, and sponsor of the measure, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the Senate version would cost much less than the House version - which has been pegged at around $1.6 billion over two years. Public education advocates who expected to speak in favor of HB 21 ended up switching their position to oppose it once they heard it included tuition subsidies for students with disabilities.


HISD Teachers, School Staff Press Board Of Trustees For Raises

A few years ago, the Houston Independent School District recruited Jennalee Kwezi from North Carolina, offering a big salary jump. But the higher cost of living in Houston – plus divorce and two bouts with cancer – have taken a financial – and emotional – toll on her. She said that her campus at Westside High has become her family.

“It’s more than a job to me. It’s my life,” Kwezi said. “And I desperately, desperately want them to know that a lot of teachers feel this way. We want to stay with these kids because they need us, but some of us may not be able to afford to do so.”


‘School Choice’ Change to Finance Bill Begins High Stakes Negotiations

State lawmakers are running out of time. They’ve only got two more weeks to nail down a school finance plan. The Texas House passed a $1.6 billion revamp, but the Senate just shook things up.

Earlier this year, the Texas House-led by Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, banned public dollars for private schools. Instead, they approved a plan by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, to raise all public school money. But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate will not fix school finance without some tax dollars in private hands.


Aiming to Stop Suicides, Texas Senate Supports Crackdown on Cyberbullying

The state Senate cleared legislation Wednesday aiming to curb teen suicides by cracking down on cyberbullying - relentless online attacks that have pushed some Texas teens to take their own lives.

Senate Bill 179, dubbed "David's Law," unanimously cleared the chamber, after the bill's Democratic author, Sen. José Menéndez, supported amendments from Republicans who were initially concerned the legislation went too far in levying penalties and requiring action from school districts.


Texas' Retired Teachers Face 'Death Spiral' in Health Insurance Unless Lawmakers Help, Add Money

An insolvent health insurance program for retired Texas teachers on fixed incomes will force them to pay much, much more for coverage if lawmakers don’t infuse the system with cash and let it dial back benefits, according to lawmakers and experts.

Painful changes are coming, no matter what, because over the next two years, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas’ “TRS-Care” program is expected to have nearly $1.1 billion less than it needs to pay the bills.


 

 

 

Classroom Tools


Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?

School districts — hard up for cash — are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country.

The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits.


What It’s Like To Be a Teacher With an Anxiety Disorder

We all feel anxious sometimes. Maybe it is going into a new situation such as starting a new job, or having to have a difficult conversation. The feeling of nervousness and anxiousness is completely normal, and an evolutionary necessity. However, for some people, like me, that feeling of anxiousness never goes away. You live with it day in, day out, and it can have quite a detrimental effect on your life and mental health.


National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy is observed annually on the fourth Saturday in July.


5 Neat Things You Can Do With Google Sheets

Once you get the hang of working with Google Sheets there are a lot of great ways to use spreadsheets as a teacher or as a student. Here's a run-down of some of my favorite things to do with Google Sheets in the classroom.


School Leaders: Top Tips For Keeping Your Morale High

Leading a school is a privilege, and a tremendous opportunity to have a positive influence – to lead in the way you think it should be done, to focus on the priorities you believe to be the right ones and to create an environment where it is possible for those you lead to be their best selves. You have the chance to make a difference to the lives of students, and of staff, on a scale unlike any other you have ever known. There’s huge reward and satisfaction in this, and, in my experience, joy.


Celebrating Best Friends, Both Real and Fictional

Today is National Best Friends Day, which has me thinking about what it means, exactly, to be a best friend. Among my closest friends, I know that I can count on them to be there for me no matter what. We laugh together until we cry, and we sometimes cry together until we're laughing again. No matter how far away from each other we live or how long it's been since we've talked, I know that we can pick back up like nothing's changed whenever we want to. And we all know each other's favorite ice cream.


Increasing Salaries So Teachers Don't Have To Become Principals

Spencer Campbell spends much of his days walking the halls of Elk Ridge Middle School, checking breezeways for kids playing hooky, redirecting foot traffic between classes and checking on substitute teachers.

Campbell is one of two assistant principals at Elk Ridge, a school just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's his first year in the role and he looks the part. He's in his late 30s, sharply dressed, walks briskly and carries a walkie-talkie on his belt.


Where the Teacher's Pet Sleeps in a Dog Bed

Room 125A at Public School 75 in Manhattan has all the usual trappings of an elementary school classroom. There are low tables and little chairs. There is student work on the wall, covered in crooked, wobbly letters and the occasional rainbow. There is a computer for the teacher and a colorful carpet.

And then there is the dog bed, puffy and yellow with toys burrowed in its crevices. That belongs to Maisy, a friendly beagle-Jack Russell terrier mix, who works at this public school on the Upper West Side. She commutes to school each day by subway with her human, a kindergarten teacher who carries Maisy in a large black bag.


9 TED Talks recommended by students, for students

Which TED Talks do students love? We asked TED-Ed Club Members around the world to share their favorites.


At 43, Goodwill Helped Her Get A High School Diploma

At 43 years old, Katina Johnson is planning her high school graduation party. It's been about thirty years since she dropped out of middle school when she found out she was pregnant.

Even before then, though, she'd never had a stable education. Her mother was addicted to drugs and moved her around a lot before she died when Johnson was just 12 years old. "That was the last time I even seen the inside of a school," she says.


Teaching Your Students How to Have a Conversation

I was recently in a third grade classroom and was struck by the presence of rules that were posted for how to have a conversation. The poster said, "Each person must contribute to the discussion but take turns talking. Ask each other, 'Would you like to add to my idea?' or 'Can you tell us what you are thinking?' Ask questions so that you understand each other's ideas. Say, 'Can you tell me more about that?' or 'Can you say that in another way?'"


Last Week of Session: Latest Updates on TRS-Care

TRTA Executive Director Tim Lee is joined by Bill Barnes and Ronnie Jung to discuss the Texas Legislature's budget and HB 3976.


Reflecting On the End Of the School Year

The last month of school is a bookend, just as defining as the beginning. As teachers, we start the year sharing our expectations and setting classroom routines, as well as getting to know the dynamics of the students and their classes. But how do you tie it all up at the end?


Can't Pay Your Student Loans? The Government May Come After Your House

On Adriene McNally's 49th birthday in January, she heard a knock on the door of her modest row-home in Northeast Philadelphia.

She was being served.


HEB Excellence in Education Awards

Created in 2002, the H‑E‑B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H‑E‑B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same./p>


School Bullying Is Down. Why Don't Students Believe It?

Read this article if you're having a rough day. This is a rare story about positive social change.

Every state now has laws against school bullying. In the past decade, many districts have overhauled discipline policies and created interventions to increase mutual respect at school. Pop culture and the news media have focused on the harm that is done when children target each other with cruel treatment. Marginalized groups have found solidarity in social media campaigns such as It Gets Better and World Autism Awareness Day, underlining the message that everyone is worthy of learning in a safe environment.


You Snooze, You Peruse: Some Schools Turn to Nap Time to Recharge Students

You may be quick to dismiss the notion of sanctioned school napping as some nefarious, self-indulgent millennial trend. However, the initiative isn’t as absurd as it sounds when you consider the substantial evidence linking sleep deprivation to cognitive and behavioral problems. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived students are more likely to feel depressed, distracted, and unable to engage in critical thinking. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reviewed literature on the impact of sleep duration on health and found that teenagers suffering from chronic sleep deprivation had a higher likelihood of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.


Memorial Day Lesson Ideas

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, a day to honor American Civil War dead. Following World War I, Memorial Day became a day to honor soldiers killed in all wars. Honor the nation's fallen military men and women with the following lessons and activities.


Every Student is a Potential Change Agent

My sixth graders were in the back of the room, chatting and coloring and writing. Piles of Valentine’s Day cards were in their midst.

For an entire week, each morning, they were working on a growing collection of cards for military veterans at the nearby Soldier’s Home.


Pre-K: Decades Worth Of Studies, One Strong Message

Some of the nation's top researchers who've spent their careers studying early childhood education recently got together in Washington with one goal in mind: to cut through the fog of studies and the endless debates over the benefits of preschool.


A Timeline for Transition from Old Google Sites to New Google Sites

Last November the new version of Google Sites was made available to everyone who wants to use it. For many people that marked the beginning of the end of the classic version of Google Sites. In fact, earlier today someone asked me when the old version would be going away. By pure coincidence, not an hour later Google published this blog post explaining when the old version of Google Sites would be phased out.


Student Loans: You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers

With student debt at a staggering $1.3 trillion, many families are facing a huge financial dilemma: Their final springtime decisions about college enrollment and acceptance. The NPR Ed team teamed up with Weekend Edition to answer some listener questions about debt and degrees.


The Best YouTube Channels for High School Classrooms

With the increasing popularity of blended learning and flipping the classroom, teachers are hungry for new and exciting ways to engage their students, while meeting 21st century standards.

YouTube has been around since 2005, but it is really just now beginning to hit its stride as an educational tool. More and more, entertainers are collaborating with educators in order to create content that reaches and engages our modern-day, tech-savvy students.


 

 

 

 

Breakroom


After Doctors Told Her She's At Risk For Alzheimer's, This 70-Year-Old Started A YouTube Channel To Document Her Life

If you think YouTube is just for millennials, my oh my are you wrong. While it is true the platform attracts lots of young creators, people of all ages and backgrounds have taken to YouTube to express their opinions, creativity, and more.


'Mountain of God' Volcano Preparing to Erupt

An active volcano in northeastern Tanzania known to the Maasai as the “Mountain of God” has been quietly rumbling—and it is showing signs that an eruption is imminent.


Meet the Coach Who Devotes His Life to a Deadly Motor Race

A deadly road race around an island in the Irish Sea draws motorcycle riders seeking a buzz they can’t get anywhere else. With the help of a former winner, two local rivals prepare to compete for the first time.


How Filmmakers Captured a Daring Escape From ISIS Territory

This week, U.S.-backed forces launched an attack to retake an ISIS stronghold in Syria, beginning what is expected to be a long and difficult fight in the midst of international terror attacks and diplomatic discord. In a new documentary, Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested examine the horrific conditions created by ongoing violence in the region, and how its effects reverberate around the world.


Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Recipe

Something magical happens when you bake spaghetti - it turns into a whole other dish with flavors that are completely different. If you have leftover bolognese or meat sauce on hand, try this. You really can't go wrong with cheese, noodles, and sauce baked to perfection.


Beached Baby Dolphin is Saved on Texas Gulf Coast

A stranded baby dolphin was given a second chance at life thanks to a good Samaritan in Texas. Spotting the baby floundering in the surf, the gentleman, whose video of the incident was aired on the Weather Channel, gently assisted the dolphin back out into the ocean without causing additional strain to the animal. Posted to the channel’s Facebook account on June 3, it was clear that the animal was in need of some help.


Fort Worth's Weston Gardens Features English Styling with a Texas Twist

Amongst 17 acres of peaceful sanctuary, amidst evergreens, ferns, birds, and creatures, framed by an assortment of blooms and supple grasses, sits Weston Gardens in Bloom in Fort Worth. A year-round natural space to visit and “get away from it all,” these gardens offer up a remarkable beauty in springtime in particular. Dedicated to plant species that are native to Texas and acclimated to their environs, their lush landscape has been developed in the historic English style of demonstration gardens, with a Texas twist.


This Dad Raised Enough Money To Pay Off An Entire School District's Lunch Debt

When Seattle father of three Jeffery Lew heard about the "lunch shaming" that was occurring in schools around the country, he decided to take action.


The World's Softest Wool Comes From This Remote Isle

At one-and-a-half miles in diameter and home to just 55 people, Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. Mati Vetrillon lives in a small, weather-worn stone house on the island where she knits and sells Fair Isle sweaters, continuing a tradition passed on by generations.


Chris Cornell: 15 Essential Songs

The singer's most memorable moments: Soundgarden's grunge classics, Audioslave's hits and his poetic solo material.


Philly Cheesesteak Recipe

I feel like every city wants a food item to claim as their own. Chicago has pizza —but then again, so does New York— Boston has clam chowder, and Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. I don’t know how a city gets to lay claim to a specific food item, but I do know that people will defend said food items with a fierceness that is usually reserved for first born children.


The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada

On the afternoon of March 21, 2011, a heavy-equipment operator named Shawn Funk was carving his way through the earth, unaware that he would soon meet a dragon.

That Monday had started like any other at the Millennium Mine, a vast pit some 17 miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, operated by energy company Suncor. Hour after hour Funk’s towering excavator gobbled its way down to sands laced with bitumen—the transmogrified remains of marine plants and creatures that lived and died more than 110 million years ago. It was the only ancient life he regularly saw. In 12 years of digging he had stumbled across fossilized wood and the occasional petrified tree stump, but never the remains of an animal—and certainly no dinosaurs.


Newly Discovered Species Resembles Yoda, Just In Time For 'Star Wars Day

May 4 is the unofficial "May the fourth be with you" Star Wars holiday, While many celebrate by dressing up as their favorite characters, re-watching the films, and paying tribute to the films on social media, conservation groups are using the day to announce a newly discovered species of tarsiers, a nocturnal primate.


Center Point: Discover a Secret Treasure in the Center of the Hill Country

Located in the heart of the Hill Country lies Center Point, Texas, one of the largest unincorporated communities in the state of Texas with all the charm expected of the picturesque towns you come across.


Mom And Her Six Sons Donate 17 Feet Of Hair In Amazing Act Of Solidarity

When the Kannisto family from Buffalo, New York decided to grow out their hair, it wasn't for style. The family decided to donate their locks to Children with Hair Loss, an organization providing hair replacements for kids with medically related hair loss.


Sinfully Sweet Viral Video on Texas Sheet Cake Cookies 'Stirs Up' Recipe Debate

A recipe video regarding the tasty treat that is the Texas Sheet Cake – made into a cookie – was posted on the 12 Tomatoes Facebook account and caused quite a stir (in more ways than one)! The video entails the seemingly innocent process of making the cookies, complete with all of the recipe details. And that’s when the great debate began.


10 Badass Travelers Throughout History

These trailblazers staged epic journeys across new lands, broke cultural barriers, and revealed the radical diversity of the world around us.


10 Bucket List Cruises of a Lifetime

Spanning seven seas -- and countless waterways in between -- the world's horizons stretch every which way for would-be cruisers.


11 Reasons Not To Feel Bad About Eating That Chocolate Bunny This Easter

Religious traditions aside, Easter is a time of egg painting, family gatherings, hunts, and of course eating candy. Few Easter celebrations would be complete without some delectable Cadbury Creme Eggs or a chocolate Easter bunny. And while you might feel guilty for "indulging" in some of that chocolate, rest assured there are actually lots of health benefits to eating some of those candy-wrapped bunnies.


Everything's Bigger in Texas and the West Texas Wink Sinkholes are No Exception

The Wink sinkholes are not unfamiliar to the average Texan, and not even to many outside of our fair state. But for those that need a refresher, and those that are simply curious, the vast expanse that is known as West Texas is home to many things, not the least of which are deep depressions in the earth, cavernous, wide, and apparently expanding.


Found: Fresh Clues to Mystery of King Solomon's Mines

Manure preserved for millennia by the arid climate of Israel’s Timna Valley is adding fresh fuel to a long-simmering debate about the biblical king Solomon and the source of his legendary wealth.


The Picture Book Behind The New Movie 'Boss Baby'

The new animated movie, Boss Baby, was No. 1 at the box office last weekend. But before it was a full-length film, starring the voice of Alec Baldwin, it was a 32-page picture book written by award-winning author and illustrator Marla Frazee.


11 Recipes We Actually Tried And Loved This Month

Here’s what our editors and writers are making in their own kitchens.


5 Food And Drink Habits That Legitimize Your Texan-ness

Yes, Texas has foods from around the world (most of which can be bought in a four block radius in Houston alone). Yes, we take Tex-Mex quite seriously. And yes, we sputter when someone says they don’t want sweet tea. These are just some of the food/drink quirks about us that we’ve come to accept as a norm, not to mention a blessing! But here are five food and drink habits that clearly prove your level of Texan-ness – because if you’ve said “Huh?” to any of these, you’re not even on the scale!


 

 

 


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