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Brian Thevenot

Latest Contributions

 Caleb Bryant Miller

Solving the Dropout Problem?

Across Texas, credit-recovery courses — self-paced online makeups offered to any student who fails — are expanding rapidly. In the spring and summer, 6,127 students in the Houston Independent School District earned nearly 10,000 credits in such courses, and another 2,500 are taking them this fall. Austin ISD and Dallas ISD enrolled about 4,000 students last year. For districts, they're a cost-effective way to bolster graduation rates, but questions remain over whether the digital curriculum offers the same quality of education as traditional courses. Little research exists on how much, or how little, learning is actually going on.

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 Wenjing Zhang

In Perfect Harmony?

Harmony Public Schools is the largest and fastest-growing charter school network in Texas, with eight new schools open this year and a total of 33 schools statewide serving about 16,500 students. Founded by Turkish academics, Harmony boasts small classes, a worldly faculty with advanced degrees and outstanding TAKS scores — which is why, perhaps, it's one of just three charter operators given permission by the Texas Education Agency to open new schools without going through the usual bureaucratic channels.

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 Elise Hu

TribBlog: American Grandstand

Members of the State Board of Education’s hard-right wing appear poised to inject themselves into the national fray over Islamic influence in America with a resolution warning textbook publishers that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks.”

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 Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

Surge Protectors

Two years after Hurricane Ike’s surge crossed Galveston like a speed bump on its way to Houston, planners and academics are staring down multibillion-dollar public policy dilemmas. To describe Ike as a “wake-up call” understates and trivializes the matter. Like other coastal areas around the nation and around the world, the Houston-Galveston region is only now grappling with complex and costly questions of how to protect sprawling seaside development from the combination of subsidence and an expected sea-level rise from global warming.

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TribBlog: The Bus Fuss

After a 2006 bus accident in Beaumont that killed two students and injured several more, parents and legislators successfully demanded the state finance seat belts in school buses. Today, four years later, the Legislative Budget Board finally gave approval for a grant program — but the rules the board set likely will exclude the Beaumont area from getting the money, even though the grassroots movement started there.

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 Graphic by Todd Wiseman

A Turf War Over Mental Health

The intent of the law seemed clear: The state’s 39 MHMRs would, wherever possible, stop offering direct medical services and start managing networks of private providers. But a bureaucratic scrum has delayed the privatization of care.

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

The New Math

Despite just-released ratings that show huge improvements, a Texas Tribune analysis finds that the performance of the state's public schools — when decoupled from the controversial Texas Projection Measure — is little changed from 2008, the year before the accountability formula took effect.

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 Justin Dehn

TribBlog: Texas Schools Fixed!

In new public school ratings released this afternoon, three-fourths of the state's public schools — graded under a controversial formula called the Texas Projection Measure — now rank "exemplary" or "recognized," the highest two of four categories of performance. Less than two percent of schools are ranked "unacceptable."

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 Justin Dehn

TribBlog: TEA's Scott "Happy to Scrap" Projection Measure [Updated]

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has been taking heat for ducking questions from reporters and a legislator regarding the Texas Projection Measure, the magic formula that last year suddenly moved thousands of Texas schools into higher state rating categories with little underlying achievement gain by students. He finally took questions from the Tribune, walking a fine line between defending the formula’s much-maligned statistical validity and saying it wasn’t his idea in the first place and, as he put it, “I’m happy to scrap it” if legislators and other critics have a big problem with it.

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

Faking the Grade

Last school year, the Texas Education Agency implemented a new “growth measure” purported to reward schools for improving student performance — even if they still fail state tests. The effect on state accountability ratings was immediate and dramatic: The number of campuses considered “exemplary” by the state doubled, to 2,158. But a new analysis shows the projections of future student success may be wrong as much as half the time.

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 Jacob Villanueva

State Board of Landlords?

Hoping to tackle the long-standing challenge of financing charter school facilities, the State Board of Education is considering taking on a novel and controversial role: landlord. SBOE member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, wants to use $100 million from the $23 billion Permanent School Fund to buy properties and then lease them back to charter schools, which have historically struggled with capital costs. Critics say the elected board can't possibly fulfill the mandate of the Fund — to invest for maximum return — while at the same time cutting charters a good deal.

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

Tickets for 10-Year-Olds

With the rise of get-tough juvenile crime policies across Texas, the municipal courthouse has become the new principal’s office for students who fight, curse their teachers or are generally “disorderly” — even in elementary schools. Campus police in the Austin, Houston and Dallas ISDs, among others, write thousands of citations per year, with young students tickted egularly and minority students targeted disproportionately. Fines of $250 or $500 are not uncommon, court officials say.

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 Jacqueline Mermea

TribBlog: SBOE's Last Laugh

You know that prayer that before today's State Board of Education meeting, which some found so inappropriate? It was read by arch-conservative Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond — but not written by her. In a gag on her detractors, she lifted the text from U.S. Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Earl Warren.

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