Spotlight Texas

Here's What The Texas School Choice Bill Means in Plain English

For well over a decade, conservatives have been trying to install a school choice program in Texas. Last week, state Sen. Larry Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, filed Senate Bill 3, this legislative session's leading school choice bill.

The bill would create two new state programs aimed at subsidizing the costs associated with private school tuition and homeschooling for thousands of Texas schoolchildren. The first half of the bill proposes an education savings account program, which would allow parents to draw money from state-funded debit cards for tuition and other expenses. The second half of the bill creates a tax credit scholarship program, which would gives tax credits to certain businesses if they make donations toward students' private school tuition.

Southside ISD OKs $59.8 Million Bond Proposal, Meets New Conservator

The Southside Independent School District board of trustees approved a $59.8 million bond question for the May 6 ballot during the same Thursday night meeting that the Texas Education Agency introduced the district’s new conservator and produced a timeline for taking over the district.

The bond projects total $58.1 million, including contingency, but trustees rounded up to $59,750,000 for the ballot question. The additional $1.6 million is for unforeseen costs or an increase in market prices, but the district will not sell bonds beyond what is needed for the approved projects, spokeswoman Sylvia Rincon said.

About That Bill Abolishing The Department Of Education

Tuesday was a busy day for education policy.

Betsy DeVos, you may have heard, was confirmed as secretary of education with an unprecedented tiebreaker vote.

Texas Education Board Approves Curriculum That Challenges Evolution

Texas students will continue to learn theories that challenge the scientific understanding of evolution after the State Board of Education signed off Wednesday on a preliminary version of the state's pared-down biology curriculum.

The board, made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats, is in the middle of whittling down the state's voluminous curriculum standards, starting with science. Last month, a committee of mostly school district officials appointed by board members recommended paring down the language of, or removing, four standards that require the state's high school biology students to learn about scientific phenomena that evolution can't readily explain.

A-F Letter Grades: More Questions than Answers

When Representative Jimmie Don Aycock's HB 2804 passed in 2015, The Texas Tribune reported that, "The (A-F) approach’s supporters argue that it provides a simple and transparent way for parents and community members to understand the performance of their schools."

Belton ISD Duped Into Releasing Personal Data

Employees of a Central Texas school district were fooled by an email scam into releasing personal information for approximately 1,700 current and former district workers.

DISD Board Signs Resolution Protesting School Vouchers, A-F Campus Ratings

Dallas ISD's board of trustees is joining a growing list of Texas school boards to sign a resolution protesting the call for school vouchers in the Texas Legislature and the rollout of A-F campus ratings by the Texas Education Agency.

The district's trustees passed a resolution by a 7-2 vote to sign a document "that joins in collective efforts with other area Region 10 School Boards to have our voices heard" in opposition to those concepts, as well as asking the state for an increase in the basic allotment for each student.

Business Group's Report Says Broken Education System Will Sink Texas Economy

Advocates for education reform might finally be speaking the language of the Texas Legislature: economics.

According to a new white paper released by a group of independent business leaders and academic researchers, Texas’ current education funding crisis will jeopardize the state’s economy unless comprehensive reforms are put in place. The business leaders behind the report titled Why Investing in Education Fuels the Texas Economy claim that the state’s economic future depends upon fixing a broken and underfunded public school system.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pans Texas House budget proposal

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday panned the Texas House's budget proposal, suggesting it is fiscally irresponsible because it exceeds Comptroller Glenn Hegar's biennial revenue estimate.

"The only way the House budget will make any sense is if they raise taxes," Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, said in a radio interview. "Not going to happen on the lieutenant governor’s watch — or I don’t think Greg Abbott’s watch either. Or if they take our Rainy Day Fund and spend it on ongoing expenses. That’s not what the Rainy Day Fund is for."

Patrick Announces Senate Committee Appointments

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday announced his appointments of lawmakers to lead 14 Texas Senate committees that will field various legislation during the 85th legislative session.

Notably, Patrick shook up the Committee on Education, stacking it with some of the Senate's most ardent defenders of vouchers as he prepares to push an aggressive so-called "school choice" agenda. The issue has divided the upper chamber and the House in past legislative sessions, a trend that is expected to continue this time.

Vouchers Will Seriously Damage Texas Public Schools

School choice is a good thing, right? School vouchers are good for students, right? Who wouldn’t want free money from the state to help pay for private school, even for those who can easily afford it?

But consider this: Don’t you find it strange that the rollout of a flawed A-F accountability system conveniently coincides with the start of the 2017 legislative session — and with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s push for vouchers? Private schools have to be better than public schools, don’t they?

Tracking 8th Graders' Post-Secondary Success

Each year approximately 300,000 students begin 8th grade in a Texas public school. National employment and earnings statistics suggest that these students will have materially better prospects as adults if they finish high school and enroll in and complete a post-secondary certificate or degree program.

Love Or Hate Them, New A-F Letter Grades for Texas Schools Are Here to Stay, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Says

Education leaders across Texas have called a new letter grading system for schools and districts lots of things: unfair, misleading, morale-crushing, and in need of repeal.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called it something else Wednesday: here to stay.

Texas Educators Criticize Discrepancies Between New A-F And Past Ratings

Kevin Houchin saw the praise roll in for McGregor Independent School District when the Central Texas district's high school received top marks from the state in 2016 for high academic achievement and preparing students for college.

So the superintendent was surprised to see an F grade on the district's report card this month.







Classroom Tools

The Number Of Hungry And Homeless Students Rises Along With College Costs

There's no way to avoid it. As the cost of college grows, research shows that so does the number of hungry and homeless students at colleges and universities across the country.

Still, many say the problem is invisible to the public.

How Betsy DeVos Could Reshape National Education Policy

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as as education secretary Tuesday, but not without significant political division and an outpouring of public opposition. Audie Cornish talks with Lisa Desjardins about the confirmation battle that DeVos faced, then discusses what her confirmation means for policymakers and schools with Emma Brown of The Washington Post.

Deadline Alert! Short Story Contest With Scope Magazine And Lisa Yee

Help us spread the word! Scope, Scholastic’s award-winning print and digital Language Arts resource for middle school classrooms, has teamed up with beloved author Lisa Yee for an exciting new student fiction contest.

Here’s the scoop: Lisa Yee has written three first lines to stories that don’t exist. Students pick their favorite line and use it to write a short story of their own. The winning student will get $100 and his or her teacher will get a free year’s subscription to Scope PLUS a class set of Lisa Yee’s wonderful novel Warp Speed.

Not All Fun And Games: New Guidelines Urge Schools To Rethink Recess

What's the best time for students to have recess? Before lunch, or after? What happens if it rains? If students are misbehaving, is it a good idea to punish them by making them sit out recess?

Those are just a few of the issues addressed in new guidelines designed to help schools have good recess. The recommendations come from a group called SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Identity Theft and How to Prevent It - A New Common Craft Video

Not every attempt at identity theft is as obvious as the Nigerian Prince scam. Attempts at identity theft come in the forms of emails that look like they might be from your bank and phone calls from people asking you to give away "confirm" your account information. I once had someone attempt to get me to divulge my health insurance account number in a phone call placed at 8:30pm on a Friday. Being aware of the signs of an identity theft scam is the best way to avoid falling for them. In a new video, Common Craft explains what identity theft is, the signs of it, and how to avoid it.

National FFA Week: Feb. 18-25, 2017

Each year, FFA chapters around the country celebrate National FFA Week. The week-long tradition began in 1947 when the National FFA Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington's birthday as National FFA Week in recognition of his legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. The first National FFA Week was held in 1948. Today, FFA Week always runs Saturday to Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, Washington's birthday.

Apply For TRTF's Classroom Assistance Grants

Today’s classroom teachers use a variety of tools to educate children, but due to lack of sufficient funding, many find new technology items out of reach. TRTF’s Classroom Assistance Grant program helps teachers improve the learning environment for students by giving $500 towards projects, learning platforms, software, and much more. Since 2008, TRTF has provided $56,000 in grants to active educators all across Texas.

Apply For TRTF's Beginning Teacher Scholarships

The Beginning Teacher Scholarship will reimburse applicants for certification tests and test results, and provide funds to help the applicant purchase materials for his or her classroom during his or her first year of teaching. TRTF will award ten $750 scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year to candidates who are relatives of an active member of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), who have earned or are earning an undergraduate or master’s degree in education at a Texas university or college, and have pursued or are pursuing their teaching certification exam.

Education Department Drops Fight Over School Money

The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students.

"The law is clear that it is unacceptable to systematically underfund low-income schools and fill the hole with federal resources," explained Dorie Turner Nolt, a spokeswoman for the education department. "While we worked tirelessly to put forward a regulation that implements that simple requirement and to incorporate the extensive feedback we received, we ultimately did not have time to publish a strong final regulation that lives up to the promise of the law."

Helping Secondary Students to Engage With Shakespeare's Work

Teaching Shakespeare can be at once exhilarating and terrifying; inspirational and life-threateningly tedious. I like to think that the contradictions here echo, or at least nod, to the emotional rollercoaster that was early modern drama. When speaking to students – Secondary school and university – a common stumbling block is invariably language. Besides the archaic vocabulary – ‘hautboy’, ‘nonce’, ‘tun-dish’ and ‘fardel’ come to mind – there’s also the syntax, the distinctly Christian rhetoric, and seemingly endless concerns about marriage and death. For pupils in Secondary school these subject matters, compounded by unintuitive phrasing and words, can be a categorical turn-off.

TCTA 2017 Conference: Feb. 2 - Feb. 3

The TCTA Representative Assembly will convene Feb. 2-3, 2017, at the Sheraton Hotel at the Capitol in Austin during TCTA's Annual Convention. (The TCTA Directors' Council will meet Feb. 1.)

Obama's Impact On America's Schools

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the country was on edge, the economy in free-fall. The federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, was also in need of an update after earning the ire of teachers, parents and politicians alike. In short, there was much to do.

In time, that update would come, but President Obama's education legacy begins, oddly enough, with his plan to bolster the faltering economy.

Promoting Geography Awareness

I’m not usually one to brag, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is winning the National Geographic Bee at my school as an eighth grader. Although I may have peaked early, winning the bee set this once geography obsessed, nerdy middle schooler on the path to becoming an even nerdier geography obsessed adult. This lifelong passion is the reason I try to weave a range of geography themed lessons and activities into my classes.

TASA Midwinter Conference: Jan. 29 - Feb. 1

The TASA Midwinter Conference has become the most popular conference of the year for Texas school leaders because it provides such a valuable opportunity to come together to discuss and share innovative practices, network with peers, address the administrative issues administrators face every day, and gain fresh insights. We hope you and members of your leadership team will join us in Austin January 29-February 1, 2017.




Letting Loose In The Library

Socially struggling students have historically sought solace in the silence and solitude of their high school libraries. “It was definitely silent,” Chimacum (WA) High School Principal Whitney Meissner said of her high school's library during the mid-1980s.

Teacher Has Personalized Handshakes With Every One of His Students

Barry White, Jr., a fifth grade English teacher at Ashley Park PreK-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has an elaborate, personalized handshake with every one of his students. Every. Single. One.

This Teacher's Clever Classroom Game Helps Kids Think About World Peace

Virginia public school teacher John Hunter has a unique tool that he uses to teach his students, but it's what he's teaching them with it that could change the world.

Hunter's invented what he calls "The World Peace Game:" a multilevel board game of sorts that he uses as an interactive, immersive way to teach kids about world problems in an effort to get them to think about ways to solve them.

Photos of a Dictator's Peaceful Downfall, 30 Years On


That's the occupation that Corazon Aquino listed 30 years ago when she registered to run for president of the Philippines in 1986. She was a political neophyte who stepped forward to challenge a strongman widely believed to have been involved in the assassination of her husband, opposition leader Senator Benigno S. “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos had hastily called snap elections in a bid to strengthen his hold on office after months of political turmoil that followed the killing in 1983.

'Donnie Darko' Director Hints At Sequel

Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly has responded to suggestions that there could be future activity in the franchise.

Malaria And The Silent Spring

Warm and Cozy Beef Bourguignon

There’s something extra cozy about coming in from the cold to a huge pot of something delicious bubbling away on the stove. It’s been extra cold here in Tokyo. The other day, we went to a pottery fair and froze our butts off looking at all the gorgeous pieces. I felt bad for the vendors – at least we were able to move into the sunny patches and warm up for a bit.

7 Practical Ways To Eat Healthier This Week

Swaps and snacks to power you through the week.

Rare Ruby Seadragon Caught on Video for First Time

In a gem of a find, scientists have filmed the ruby seadragon, a brilliantly colored fish related to seahorses, in the wild for the first time.

Nintendo Switch Off to Wobbly Start as Pricing, Timing Unveiled

Nintendo Co.’s new Switch gaming console is off to an underwhelming start.

The new machine, a tablet-sized device with wireless controllers that can be used anywhere but also connects to TVs, will go on sale March 3 at a price of $300, with a brand-new Zelda game as its launch title. None of that, however, was enough to convince investors that it will be a big moneymaker for the Kyoto-based company, whose shares fell 5.8 percent to 23,750 yen after Nintendo executives held a presentation in Tokyo on Friday.

Watch This Father And Son Start Their Day Together With A Positive Morning Affirmation Pledge

Many students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as soon as they get to school. One second-grader, Joshua Williams, begins his day with a pledge of allegiance to himself. "It just lays the foundation and the expectations for what he is to do and become," Joshua's father, Jenabu Williams, told A Plus.

Here's How You Defrost Your Windscreen In Super Fast Time

I watched by housemate defrosting his car windscreen using his hands for a good 10 minutes this morning out of my living room window, and boy did he not look to be having fun.

I mean I'm usually a fan of a bit of schadenfreude, but even I felt sorry for the guy. Why didn't he just get one of those scrapers out?

29 Times a Student's Test Answer Made Us LOL

Chris Pratt Pretended To Mess Up a Magic Trick And Left Jennifer Lawrence Dumbfounded

Chris Pratt appeared on BBC1’s Graham Norton Show with his Passengers co-star Jennifer Lawrence.

Norton handed Pratt a set of cards and asked him to do some magic.

What a Donkey Knows About Autism

Hal Walter uses burro racing to help his son with autism.

A Forgotten Adventure With a Telepathic Tribe

Near the top of a mountain in the Peruvian Andes is a small lake named Laguna McIntyre. This is the source of the Amazon River, so named for the National Geographic photographer, writer, and prolific explorer who made the discovery. “Amazing is the word heard most often at National Geographic headquarters to describe Loren McIntyre, who surmounts all obstacles with ease,” read a 1987 editor’s note marking his 70th birthday.

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

For your next vacation, forget about taking inspiration from Instagram. You’re going to go where nobody has been before, on a trip that nobody has ever taken—and that nobody after you will ever take again.

The Fight to Save the Amazon

Eat Like a King With Poor Man's Filet Mignon

Do you have a rich man’s taste and a poor man’s wallet? Join the club! But being pocket-poor doesn’t mean your taste buds need to suffer when there’s steak to be had. Feast your eyes on the Poor Man’s Fillet Mignon.

No, this is no magic trick, and you won’t be shelling out large quantities of cash to sample a succulent piece of steak that’s beyond your price point. You’ll simply be trying a tip from Jack Scalfani of the Cooking With Jack Show that allows the average Joe (not Jack) to eat like a king, turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse…or a cheaper cut of beef into a melt-in-your mouth meal.

Best Nature Trails

Best trips 2017.



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