Spotlight Texas


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.


Two Houston ISD Schools Among the Nation's 20 Best

Gilbert Martinez graduates from high school in May, but he's already on the cusp of selling a calculator app company for millions of dollars.

While that may shock a lay person, he said that type of thing is normal at Carnegie Vanguard High School in the Houston ISD. One classmate invented a water filtration system to serve poverty-stricken communities, earning him the ear of Rice University researchers. Another created a wristband that changes color when the wearer is dehydrated, while a recent alum toured the state with his model wind turbines.


National Association Taps Dallas' Michael Hinojosa As Latino Superintendent Of The Year

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is the 2017 Latino Superintendent of the Year, according to the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS).

In a statement, executive director Nancy Lewin said, "The committee was very impressed with your application, your work, your passion and commitment to education and your continued involvement with ALAS."


In Texas, Thousands Of Students Are Dropping Out As Early As Middle School

A new report out says in the 2014-2015 school year, 8 percent of Texas students who dropped out did so in the seventh or eighth grades. The Fort Worth school district is taking several measures to prevent students from dropping out before high school and keep them on the path to graduation.


Texas Lawmakers Consider Fixes to New A-F Grades for Schools

Legislative fixes to the new A-F system for grading public schools are underway even before the new accountability standards take hold.

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee discussed one way to tweak the system, which is supposed to issue ratings next year. The House is expected to debate its version Wednesday.


House Gives Preliminary Approval to Bill Overhauling School Finance System

State Rep. Dan Huberty succeeded at a difficult task Wednesday: getting the Texas House of Representatives to vote for legislation overhauling the funding system for public education, without a court mandate.

After a four-hour discussion of more than 30 proposed amendments, the House voted 134-16 to tentatively accept its top education leader's plan to inject $1.6 billion into public schools, simplify the complex formulas for allocating that money, and target certain disadvantaged student groups for more funding. The bill must still be approved on a third and final reading in the House. (Update, April 20: The Texas House gave final approval to House Bill 21 on Thursday in a 132-15 vote.)


For Plano ISD high Schoolers, Class Rank May Soon Be a Thing of The Past

In highly competitive Plano ISD, where the race for valedictorian has been decided by precious few hundredths — or thousandths — of a grade point, most students may not know exactly where they stand for much longer.

The district is considering dropping class rankings beyond Nos. 1 and 2.


 

 

 

Classroom Tools


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.


TRTF Delivering Grants!

Yesterday, Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) Trustee Carolyn Lance delivered a $500 Classroom Assistance Grant o teacher Brittany Miller (center). Brittany Miller works at A.C. New Middle School in Balch Springs, teaching technology to 7th and 8th graders. With her grant funds, Ms. Miller will create a robotics club, purchasing LEGO Ev3 robotics kits. The club will foster curiosity in fields of work that could help make them financially stable in the future. Also featured in the photo are Ms. Miller's students who attend her technology class and Dr. Stacy Carpenter, A.C. New Middle School Principal (right).


Down With 8 A.M. Classes: Undergrads Learn Better Later In The Day, Study Finds

Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, began to notice a trend in her morning classes: Her students were falling asleep.

While this would make most feel discouraged in their teaching abilities or agitated over their students' idleness, Evans instead was curious. Was there more to this than just laziness?


Smart Ed-Tech Strategy That Comes From the Classroom

Three times Joseph Williams was asked to become technology director of Southern California’s Perris Union High School District.

Three times he refused.


TRTF Honors Long-Serving Trustees

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) is pleased to honor the service of two long-serving trustees on our board, La Vonne Rogers and Carolyn Lance. Their terms with the board will expire this year on June 30.


Where Corporal Punishment Is Still Used In Schools, Its Roots Run Deep

Robbinsville High School sits in a small gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Green slopes dotted with cattle hug in around the school before they rise into a thick cover of pine trees.

David Matheson is the principal here. And he's the only high school principal in the state who still performs corporal punishment. At Robbinsville, corporal punishment takes the form of paddling - a few licks on the backside Matheson delivers with a long wooden paddle.


National Teacher Day is May 9

Teachers give us so much. A boost of confidence when we really need one. Extra help when we’re having trouble. A welcoming presence when everything else seems out of control. And though we know we can’t ever thank them enough, we can take a moment during National Teacher Appreciation Week to share our appreciation for the special educators in our lives.


 

 

 

Breakroom


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!


Amid Leaks, Recalling an Epic Battle Over Press Freedom in Nixon Era

As details trickled into print and pixels about Russian tampering with the election that put him in the White House, a snappish President Trump lashed out in his favored medium. On Feb. 15, he wrote on Twitter: “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”


Do You Even Remember The Real Colors Of These Logos?

A quick test of your brand knowledge.


Nine Female Adventure Photographers Who Push the Limits

What does it take to be an adventure photographer? You need stamina, expert skills in a sport, and the ability to work under extreme conditions, often with a team. You’re the last to bed and the first to rise. Your free time is spent downloading and organizing thousands of photos and videos. The role can be both physically and creatively draining.


St. Patrick's Day Layered Rainbow Jello Recipe

Is there anything more magical than rainbow jello? I remember being so excited when my mom used to make this for us when we were kids. Of course, she didn’t really do whole rainbows, just 2 or three colors. I have fond memories of me trying to peel apart the layers perfectly.


 

 

 


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