Spotlight Texas


Feds, TEA To Tour Texas For Public Comment On Special Ed

The U.S. Department of Education is sending representatives to tour Texas and take comment from school community members on special education, continuing to look at whether the state is denying services to students with disabilities.

Representatives from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services will join Texas Education Agency officials for "listening sessions" in five Texas cities between Dec. 12 and 15.


Why Spending More on Texas Schools Isn't Enough

The highest-poverty school districts in Texas receive 11 percent less funding than wealthier districts. That’s according to a new policy brief from the Center for Education Research and Policy Studies, CERPS, where I work, at the University of Texas El Paso College of Education.


Texas House Speaker: Transgender Bathroom Bill Not a Priority

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus doesn't think passing a transgender bathroom bill is a pressing issue state lawmakers need to address during the 2017 legislative session.

"This isn't the most urgent concern," Straus, R-San Antonio, said on Tuesday during an interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. When asked whether it was a priority, he added: "It isn't. But that doesn't mean the House is going to feel differently than I do."


More Money, Certainty Needed to Upgrade Pre-K, Study Finds

If state lawmakers want to upgrade pre-K programs in Texas schools they need to kick in more money and make a longer-term commitment, according to an early report card on a new state grant program aimed at bolstering early education.

Gov. Greg Abbott included early education reform on his list of emergency items for the 2015 legislative session, and lawmakers passed House Bill 4, which sent $118 million in one-time grants to school districts for pre-K programs that meet state standards.


School Vouchers Vs. School Finance Reform: A 2017 Legislative Preview

The divide over how Texas should educate its 5.3 million public school students will become clear during the 2017 legislative session.

School vouchers and school finance reform are the two main education priorities for many lawmakers and lobbyists heading into the 2017 legislative session, and Texans should expect a battle between the groups that support these measures.


Mine Closures Challenge School Districts' Budgets

The superintendents at two area school districts where coal mines fed Luminant power plants for decades — and fueled the annual spending plans of Beckville and Tatum ISDs — say they are adjusting to their new reality.

Luminant of Dallas announced recently that it will lay off 132 East Texas mine workers by year's end when it shuts down mining operations as part of a restructuring to emerge from bankruptcy.


Legislative Study Group Releases Health Insurance Report, Retirees to Bear Burden of Growing TRS-Care Costs

TRTA has stated for years that TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare are in trouble, and this report confirms our belief. The report says "continuing to fund (TRS-Care) on a biennial basis is no longer feasible because costs continue to rise at an alarming rate."

TRTA retirees are extremely grateful for the health care program provided by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The partnership between all involved parties is what has made this important benefit available for retirees. Unfortunately, this report's primary recommendation is to put the burden of change, the impending $1.3 to $1.5 billion budget shortfall, on retirees.


Disability Advocates Ask Feds To Continue To Investigate, Monitor Special Ed In Texas

When the Texas Education Agency tried to calm concerns with federal authorities over the state’s special education program, they promised they would make changes. But some advocates want the feds to continue to investigate.

Those advocates worry that children with disabilities will continue to have limited access to services until Texas completely removes its benchmark for special education. State officials said they would provide updates to districts to clarify “recent confusion.”


Texas State Board of Education Rejects Mexican-American Studies Textbook

The State Board of Education voted 14-0 Wednesday to deny the adoption of a Mexican-American studies textbook decried by opponents as racist and inaccurate.

The textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” was the only submission the board received when it made a 2015 call for textbooks for high school social studies classes, including Mexican-American studies.


Finding Out Exactly What the Election Winners Have in Mind

Change gears. The elections, which were almost a week ago, are old news.

It's time to move on and to move the pending Texas legislative session to the top of the list of "Things that are looming." To wit: Today is the first day lawmakers can start filing legislation for the session that begins in January. It's time to see what the winners are going to try to accomplish.


 

 

 

 

Classroom Tools


6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education

Brains, brains, brains. One thing we've learned at NPR Ed is that people are fascinated by brain research. And yet it can be hard to point to places where our education system is really making use of the latest neuroscience findings.

But there is one happy nexus where research is meeting practice: bilingual education. "In the last 20 years or so, there's been a virtual explosion of research on bilingualism," says Judith Kroll, a professor at the University of California, Riverside.


Employee Social Media Policy Receives Approval in Austin Public Schools

This goes without saying: Be careful with what you post.

The Austin Public Schools board approved a social media policy for its employees on Monday night, expressing that those who work for the district must present themselves professionally whether at school or on social media sites.


10 Tips for Planning Project Based Learning: Using Time Lines

I’ve been hanging out at William Allan White Elementary School, Wichita Kansas, in Kelly Kelly’s third grade classroom digging into the social studies topic of how and why communities change. Here are some activities we used to help all of her students develop a greater understanding of the third grade social studies concept that societies experience continuity and change over time.

For many of the tips, I’ve added some sample activities created for her students on the topic.


Using Technology to Inspire Independent Readers

As teachers, one of our most critical jobs is to create independent readers. Getting kids excited about books is the first and most crucial step on this journey. The more passionate students are about books, the more they read, and the more they read, the better they get. Making book commercials—or persuasive pieces to inspire their peers—is one great way to help students share their excitement about books with each other and create a community of passionate readers.


Creative Commons Explained In Simple Terms

Whenever I give a presentation or run a workshop about student video projects, I spend time explaining what Creative Commons licensing is and its benefits for consumers and producers of media. Sometimes in my workshops I use Common Craft's explanation of Creative Commons licenses and what they mean for consumers and producers of media. I've embedded the video below.


Classroom Assistance Grants Available

Classroom Assistance Grants are awarded to public school teachers who on a daily basis demonstrate commitment to public education and Texas children through the creation of programs, events, or other learning platforms. Since 2008, TRTF has given away over $41,000 in classroom assistance grants.


A Lesson For Preschools: When It's Done Right, The Benefits Last

Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.

We know that most pre-kindergarten programs do a good job of improving ' specific skills like phonics and counting, as well as broader social and emotional behaviors, by the time students enter kindergarten. Just this week, a study looking at more than 20,000 students in a state-funded preschool program in Virginia found that kids made large improvements in their alphabet recognition skills.


Solving Real-World Issues Through Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is integrated at Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC, at every grade level—pre-K through eighth grade. Students are presented with a real-world problem, undertake a series of investigations, and create a product that they present to an authentic audience as part of the Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education framework.

PBL enables the school to reach all learners. “There are multiple entry points,” explains Julia Tomasko, a fourth-grade teacher. “It’s easy to scaffold [PBL] for students who need more support, and the sky’s the limit for extensions.”


On The Lesson Plan: Make Stuff. Fail. Learn While You're At It

We've always been a hands-on, DIY kind of nation. Ben Franklin didn't just invent the lightning rod. His creations include bifocals, swim fins, the catheter, innovative stoves and more.

Franklin, who was largely self-taught, may have been a genius, but he wasn't really an outlier when it comes to American making and tinkering.


6 Techniques for Building Reading Skills-in Any Subject

As avid lovers of literature, teachers often find themselves wanting to impart every bit of knowledge about a well-loved text to their students. And this is not just an ELA issue—other disciplines also often focus on the content of a text. However, teaching reading skills in English classes and across the disciplines is an almost guaranteed way to help students retain content. Unfortunately, the tendency to focus on the content is a real enemy to the ultimate goal of building reading skills.


Nov. 17 is National Parental Involvement Day

National Parent Involvement Day, November 17, 2016, provides a yearly opportunity for schools and families to honor and highlight the powerful contributions parents and caregivers provide at school and home to support student success. However, parental involvement shouldn’t be confined to just one day – it should be emphasized all year long. Below are some ideas on how you can get involved in your student’s learning on National Parent Involvement Day, or any day of the year.


 

 

Breakroom


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.


Ed Sheeran Sang For This Young Fan In The Hospital And Put A Huge Smile On Her Face

Ed Sheeran just made one of his biggest fans very happy.

The singer surprised 9-year-old Melody Driscoll last week by visiting her in the hospital, where she has spent 80 percent of her life undergoing more than 40 operations. Melody has a rare neurological disorder called Rett syndrome, and she cannot walk or talk. Doctors thought she wouldn't live past age 4, but she beat the odds.


Anime Master Hayao Miyazaki is Coming Out of Retirement to Make One Last Film

Back in 2013, legendary Japanese animator and director Hayao Miyazaki announced he would be retiring; making no more feature-length films in order to concentrate on smaller projects. Well, it turns out you can’t keep a good Oscar-winning artist down, and Miyazaki says he’s now coming out of retirement to make one last movie.


Amazon Just Opened Its Black Friday Deals Store

Black Friday may be weeks away, but for those who want to get a head start on savings, Amazon just launched its Black Friday Deals store.

The store includes over a dozen curated gift guides for the holidays, and daily deals on everything from electronics and household goods to toys and clothing.


Inside the Quest For a Real 'Star Trek' Warp Drive

Within the Star Trek universe, traveling across the galaxy is a breeze thanks to the famed warp drive. This fictional technology allows humans and other civilizations to zoom between star systems in days rather than centuries.

Such rapid travel times are impossible in the real world, because our best theory for the way the universe works, Einstein’s special relativity, says that nothing moves faster than the speed of light.


25 Things For People Who Value Comfort More Than People

Hold on, there’s a missed call from my sofa.


Taste Test: Could Soylent Replace Food?


Green Chili Frito Pie Recipe

Frito pie is a Texas icon. This tangle of corn chips topped with chili, jalapeños, cheese, and onion is a staple at football games, church suppers, school lunches, and perhaps even your own kitchen. It’s certainly a favorite of mine and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy one either when I see them out in the wild or have some extra chili and Fritos around.


How Experts Traced the DNC Hack to Russian Spies

Donald Trump insists that we don’t know who was behind the cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee. Is he right? In this week's Decrypted, Bloomberg Technology’s Jordan Robertson talks to Mike Buratowski, who oversaw Fidelis Cybersecurity's investigation into the malicious code that spied on emails sent by DNC officials and others. After examining the hints left behind, they tackle the big issue: If hackers backed by Russia really were the perpetrators, what more could they do to mess with Americans’ votes and U.S. democracy?


 

 


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