The TEA Is Schooling Teachers on Boundaries by Using These Super-Creepy Videos

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Well, it appears someone at the Texas Education Agency has taken the phrase "fight fire with fire" quite literally.

In order to combat predatory behavior by Texas teachers, the TEA has done the only thing that makes sense: They've released a series of videos on teacher-student ethics that are just about as creepy as the problem they're trying to tackle.

But hey! Those creepy training videos are done in a clever sitcom style, so it's fine.

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Former HCC Lawyer: Trustees Wanted to Make Multimillion-Dollar Bond a "Private Slush Fund"

Categories: Courts, Education

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Photo by WhisperToMe

If you believe Renee Byas, her tenure at Houston Community College was an incredibly rocky one. Shortly after joining HCC as general counsel in 2008, the college, one of the country's largest community college systems, was rocked by allegations that board members shuffled contracts to family members and demanded kickbacks from vendors. She hired an outside firm to launch an internal investigation, which found that several trustees abused their office.

By 2012, as HCC prepared a record $425 million bond package that voters would ultimately approve, the board of trustees promised change. Byas helped draft new rules meant to quash any hint of favoritism in handing out contracts - the new rules banned vendors from giving gifts to trustees, limited financial contributions from vendors to trustees' political campaigns, and expanded conflict-of-interest questionnaires, among other things.

But the trustees bristled at one new rule in particular, according to a counter-suit Byas filed in court this week: instead of handpicking the numerous contractors for each of the bond's 14 major construction projects, the new rules required that the board tap 14 "construction managers at risk," general contractors large enough to put up a $2 million bid bond. Those firms would then tap the numerous local subcontractors to finish the job.

Meaning the trustees - if they wanted to - would have a tough time micromanaging the bond and shuffling contracts to friends and family, as they've done in the past. But Byas claims that's exactly what HCC trustees wanted to do this time around. In a counter-suit filed this week, Byas claims HCC terminated her because she wouldn't play ball - and because she talked to the FBI when federal investigators came sniffing around HCC last year.

Byas alleges her firing "is HCC's attempt to silence a public servant who refused to let HCC's Board of Trustees use a $425 million public bond project as a private slush fund."


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10 Signs You Went to the University of Houston

Categories: Education

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Katie Haugland

No matter when you attended the University of Houston, there are some things nearly all students have in common.

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Expelled Students Sue University of Houston Over Sexual Assault Investigation

Categories: Courts, Education

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Google streetview
The Den, where Ryan McConnell met the woman he was later accused of sexually assaulting.
The night of November 19, 2011, Ryan McConnell went to the Den, a pub near the University of Houston campus, for some drinks with friends. There McConnell met a fellow UH student, and, after several drinks, talking led to kissing. The two eventually got so drunk a bartender told them to leave.

McConnell and the woman stumbled back to his place at the Calhoun Lofts, where McConnell insists they had consensual, albeit very drunk, sex and fell asleep naked on the floor.

The woman, however, filed police reports after she woke up the next day at Ben Taub Hospital. The night before, fellow students had discovered her dazed and completely nude in the Calhoun Lofts elevator. There were scratches and bruises on her arms and neck. A university police officer took the woman to Ben Taub, and she was later transported to College Station Medical Center, where a nurse informed her that, based on her injuries and the results of a rape kit, she'd likely been assaulted. She couldn't recall being in McConnell's room; the last thing she remembered was drinking at the Den.


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Houston ISD Trustees Once Again Approve Class Size Waivers, But Promise to Think About It a Whole Lot More in the Next Year. Really.

Categories: Education

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Look real close and you might see one of the principals thrown under this Thursday night
Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones threw down a gauntlet Thursday night saying that Houston ISD continues to increase its class-waiver requests -- exceeding the state set maximum of the number of kids who should be in an elementary class and she wants it to stop.

Superintendent Terry Grier, bringing the idea of decentralization to new levels, said his principals were the ones responsible for this, and that "this is not something coming from the Central Office."

He pointed out that parents who wanted their kids at a certain school would not be happy to be told there was no more room and they'd have to go somewhere else. He then tossed down a gauntlet of his own, telling trustees that if they wanted, he would do just that and his administration would begin contacting principals Friday to start moving kids around.

Well it was pretty clear pretty quick that several trustees wanted no part of being on the receiving end of the deluge of phone calls certain to be heading their way, and rapidly shored up Grier's argument.


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UPDATED: USDA Warns UH Over Monkey Dehydration Death

Categories: Education

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Jean-Pierre Dalbera
Some water would be nice...

UPDATE 10:25 am: We just heard from UH Spokeswoman Shawn Lindsey, who tells us in an email that "The staff and the leadership of the University of Houston care deeply about animals and strive to create a humane setting for all animals. This accident serves as a reminder of the diligence required to promote the respect and compassion needed to ensure the safety and care of all animals....The loss of this animal was a great loss to our program and a personal loss to the Animal Care Operations staff who take great pride for these animals. We take the USDA warning very seriously and have invited delegates of the USDA back to the University to re-inspect our animal facility."

The USDA has warned the University of Houston that it could face severe penalties if it doesn't correct conditions in its research lab, where two rhesus monkeys have died since 2012.

The August letter was triggered by a March 2014 incident where three rhesus macaques closed a divider in their cage, cutting themselves off from the enclosure's water supply. One monkey died and two were treated for clinical dehydration.

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5 More Crazy Things in Texas's New Textbooks: Climate Change Edition

Categories: Education

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See, once the planet starts cooling, it will be exactly like this. Maybe.

If you were already disturbed by what we've already told you is in the proposed social studies textbooks soon to (most likely) be in a Texas classroom near you, you probably don't want to know what the books say about climate change, since a lot of it is about as accurate as The Day After Tomorrow. (Spoiler alert: the people writing these textbooks seem to have some problems with things like "fairness" and "facts".)

However, the folks over at the National Center for Science Education got curious enough to take a look at these textbooks, written according to the guidelines provided by the State Board of Education a few years back. The NCSE just published a report on their findings -- likely after they all got done dry-heaving and breathing into paper bags to adjust to what could be entering Texas classrooms come 2015. Here's a few of our, for want of a better word, favorites:

5. The text is fuzzy on what is causing global warming, even though scientists are, well, not. "Is global warming a result of human activity?" The Macgraw-Hill textbook, World Cultures and Geography, a sixth grade textbook, presents the whole global warming thing as a question. "Scientists agree that Earth's climate is changing. They do not agree on what is causing the change," according to the text. We know it's a shocker, but NCSE had some issues with that statement, which is addressed in the report with about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. "This entire section is misleading. Scientists do not disagree about what is causing climate change, the vast majority (97 percent) of climate papers and actively publishing climatologists (again 97 percent) agree that human activity is responsible."


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10 Crazy Things in Texas's Proposed New Social Studies Textbooks

Categories: Education

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Truthout.org


UPDATE September 16, 2014: Crazy things in textbooks aren't just limited to the field of social studies. A new report found some pretty crazy things on the subject of climate change as well.

It seems the Texas education system is still nursing a hangover from the State Board of Education's raucous culture-warrior party days. Hell, it's possible they're still drunk. A while back in 2009 members of the SBOE tried to cut the actual science from the state's science standards (namely, Darwinian evolution, go figure.) Then they came back ready to swing for the fences, passing social studies curriculum standards that even a conservative think-tank called a "politicized distortion of history" driven by the evangelical Christian-right agenda."

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Former Jefferson Elementary Teacher Fights Back, Sues Investigators for $1 Million-Plus

Categories: Education

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Elsa Rodriguez, who was among several teachers accused this year by Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier and his administration of manipulating test scores when the 2013 statewide tests were administered to Jefferson Elementary school students that April, has decided to fight back with a civil lawsuit calling for more than $1 million in damages.

According to attorney Larry Watts, who filed the case in state district court, there could have been no way that Rodriguez was involved in anything about the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) math and reading tests given at Jefferson on April 23 because she suffered such extensive injuries in a Sunday, April 7 car wreck -- a subdural brain hemorrhage, brain injury, concussion, cervical radiculitis and memory loss -- that she was out of work for months.


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Rice University Ranks 19 on US News' "Best Colleges of 2015" List

Categories: Education

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Rice University remains the best college in Texas according to US News & World Report's 2015 rankings. But it's hanging on to the top 20 by the skin of its teeth.

Rice fell from 18 last year to 19 this year. It's unclear who or what knocked the university down a peg from that slightly more secure position - that's not so easy to tell from the US News rankings. They claim to have a lengthy algorithm that takes into account a laundry list of variables including graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, endowment and the recommendation of high school guidance counselors. Maybe the folks at Princeton could figure it out - they placed first yet again.

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