Reporting Texas
News and features from UT-Austin's School of Journalism

Education

Construction Funding, New School Board Bring Changes, Optimism to Austin Public Schools

Travis High School was built in 1953, making it the oldest high school in South Austin, and a broken heating system is hardly the first issue to arise in the aging facilities. The school will soon get a major renovation to fix much more than the heating. The Austin Independent School District is set to receive $252 million to construct a modern facility completely replacing the old Travis High. 
The renovation of Travis High is part of $2.44 billion in bonds that Austin voters approved in November, when they also elected five former teachers to the district’s board of trustees. With the district facing stagnant state funding, a teacher shortage and decreased enrollment, AISD leaders see the election results as setting a new course for Austin public schools. 
“The community said they are willing to pay to improve our schools, but simultaneously they said they want new leadership on the board to guide this money,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the labor union for Austin school employees.

As Teacher Vacancies Mount, Special Education Teachers Struggle to Meet Student Needs

Nearly all states in the U.S. are dealing with teacher shortages in special education. Texas school districts have struggled to fill teacher vacancies for years. The situation worsened during the pandemic.

UT Professors: ‘Anti-Critical Race Theory’ Law Is Attempt to Avoid Historical Truth

In a series of interviews with UT professors in March and April, most said the law is an affront to the teaching of historical truth regarding racism.

Gender Gap Among STEM Faculty at UT Proves Difficult to Eradicate

At UT-Austin, women make up 45% of the total faculty, but a much smaller percentage in STEM majors. The departments of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, electrical and computer engineering, geosciences, mechanical engineering and physics all have less than 20% female faculty.

Apr 07, 2022

Sex Education Often Lacking in Texas Schools

In February of 2016, Elyse’s period was three weeks late. She didn’t think anything of it. In fact, she was grateful she got to skip a month. Three weeks, however, turned into five, which then turned into seven. Growing wary, the 15-year-old confided in her boyfriend at the time. The second he heard the word “late,” it clicked. She was pregnant.”I was a child expecting a child,” Elyse, now a speech-language pathology junior at the University of Texas at Austin, said. “I didn’t know what to do. I mean, there literally was no right answer.”

Mar 31, 2022

Pandemic’s Impact On Education Reveals Cracks in Public School System

Holly Barajas had enough. It was the end of a pandemic-ridden school year for this first-grade teacher. It, too, marked a final chapter in a two-decade-long career, where the emotional highs of seeing her work’s impact on children were fraught with the frustrations that came with the job. Long hours and low pay. Society’s strong […]

Dec 02, 2021

Amid Texas Debate Over Teaching About Racism, ‘Refusing to Forget’ Soldiers On

Since 2014, Refusing to Forget, a Texas-based nonprofit, has worked to increase awareness of racial violence aimed at Latino Texans throughout the early 20th century. Their work comes as the state enacts new guidelines aimed at limiting classroom discussion of systemic racism.

Now, with fierce debate raging over how Texas schools teach about racism, Refusing to Forget’s leadership says its mission is more important than ever. In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that critics say bans honest discussions of racism.

“Even though we’re in the midst of a battle to tell the real history to our children, it’s important for me to keep fighting, not for this politically correct fiction, but for the truth. History is both pretty and ugly,” said the co-founder of Refusing to Forget.

Nov 24, 2021

After COVID Put Students Behind, Central Texas Schools Are Working to Catch Up

Several studies have shown students, especially those from low-income families, fell behind academically during the pandemic.

Nov 24, 2021

Central Texas Christian School Enrollment Surges Amid Curriculum, COVID-19 Concerns

Enrollment at conservative Christian schools in Central Texas is booming. School administrators attribute the increase to parental anxieties surrounding COVID-19 policies, discussion of systemic racism in the classroom and the inclusion of curriculum with sexual content.

Nov 16, 2021

No GRE, No Problem: Texas’ Graduate Schools See Increase in Enrollment and Diversity 

More than 36,000 students applied to the graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin in 2020, a 24% increase from 2019. The university’s graduate programs set records for enrollment in 2021 — up 36% from 2020. More Asian American, Black, Hispanic and international students enrolled in graduate school at the university than ever before.

Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas State Universities all reported record-breaking enrollment during fall 2021 as well.

Experts credit the increases to waiving the GRE or making such tests optional, along with economic and career changes caused by the  pandemic. 

Apr 20, 2021

Houston Teachers Cope with COVID in the Classroom

In late October, the Texas Education Agency reopened public schools to in-person learning despite the state experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases earlier that month. While deaths have been comparably mild for school-aged children and adolescents, the health and safety of those teaching them is much less certain.  “Every other day, we have a case […]

Apr 07, 2021

A year into COVID-19, UT’s non-white, low income students feel left behind

Yliana Roland, an 18-year-old student University of Texas at Austin student, was raised in Houston in a low-income community of color in which mental health was a taboo topic often swept under the rug. It wasn’t until she first arrived on campus during the pandemic this year that she was formally exposed to mental health […]

Oct 24, 2020

Central Texas School Social Workers and Counselors Face Pandemic-related Challenges

Since the pandemic forced schools to limit in-person classes, social workers and counselors have struggled to maintain relationships with students. In addition to the difficulty of staying in touch with students virtually, social workers have had to navigate what experts call a mental health crisis.

Oct 17, 2020

Parents Navigate Virtual Learning for Kids

As a full-time restaurant manager and mother of three young boys, Carolina Benitez has a lot on her plate already. She works 55 hours each week and spends her two days off, Mondays and Tuesdays, supervising her oldest son, Jeremiah, while he attends school online. “I honestly am concerned that he will fall behind. I’m […]

Oct 17, 2020

UT Greek Life Struggles to Adhere to Pandemic Protocols

On the 2020 season’s first game-day Saturday, things seemed pretty normal for a University of Texas football weekend — pre-pandemic normal. At the Texas Rho fraternity house, dozens of UT students partied together in person. A leaked SnapChat video from inside the event showed attendees singing “The Eyes of Texas,” and standing shoulder to shoulder underneath a balcony packed […]

Jan 15, 2020

Austin Teachers Say They Face High Levels of Work-related Stress

Some Austin teachers say increasing levels of work-related stress make it difficult to effectively do their jobs.

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