H-E-B | READ 3 Literacy Program
The READ 3 Literacy Program is an H-E-B Corporate Initiative that began at one of our legacy institutions – The University of Texas Brownsville and the Brownsville Independent School District. The H-E-B Corporation launched Read 3 to emphasize the importance of early literacy education and nutrition. The main goal of this program is to promote a healthy, nutritional diet and lifestyle as well as school readiness of three to four-year old children, who will soon start the pre-k program in their respective schools. Since its inception, the project has been facilitated by Dr. Carmen Garcia-Caceres from our college.
This year, 63 education students volunteered to work in the program. Students attend partner READ 3 Project schools for 12 consecutive Fridays where they teach prepared lessons to pre-k students. The education students that volunteered for the program were taking part in the Introduction to the Teaching Profession course, which is taught by Dr. Garcia- Caceres. These students credit the program for giving them hands-on experiences with very young children early in their teacher preparation. Selected school site principals embrace the program as well.
As one principal stated: “It is helping to prepare young children to be better prepared when they enter into our school site pre-kinder programs.”
STEP UP (Student Teacher Educator Preparation: University Partnership)
A major factor in preparing excellent teachers is providing rich clinical practice to teacher candidates. The STEP UP program is a collaborative venture between the CEP and Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District (HCISD). The goal of the program is to engage teacher candidates in a yearlong immersive experience that will bridge theory and practice, and provide extensive opportunities for teacher candidates to develop their knowledge, skills, and dispositions through guided reflective practice.
A team of administrators and faculty from both organizations met monthly during spring 2016. From initial discussions, design teams were created to research elements of successful clinically-based programs, align them with the missions of the college and district, and propose practices to be implemented as part of the model program. The design teams focused on the student-teacher experience, the cooperating teacher experience, program assessment, and communication of the new plan.
The team designed a program that allows teacher candidates to work under the supervision of highly experienced and skilled cooperating teachers over a full academic year. Teacher candidates will spend an entire year (one day a week in the fall, and every day of the week in the spring) on their HCISD campus engaged in structured field experience and student teaching activities designed to provide more challenging and integrated experiences as the year progresses. Teacher candidates will work closely with their cooperating teacher and a university supervisor to develop skills in planning, instructional delivery, reflection, and improvement of practice. Effective collaboration between the university supervisor and cooperating teachers will provide teacher candidates with meaningful and relevant feedback about teaching practices and recommendations for improvement. In addition, a strong focus of the program is to build a culture of inquiry among participants that will lead to highly developed skills in data literacy and evidence-based decision making, and self-study through action research.
Another key element of the program will be the professional development provided to cooperating teachers to better prepare them for the role of mentor with their teacher candidate. In addition, they will engage in district planning processes and have opportunities to work with university faculty on action research and potentially serve as adjunct instructors. The program will begin as a pilot in fall 2016 and will expand the following academic year.
Creating Pathways to Teaching
Leaders from the CEP and Region I Education Service Center first met in November 2015 to discuss new initiatives in recruiting undergraduate students into the field of education. The impetus for this discussion was data from TEA indicating that a high percentage of newly certified teachers received their training outside of traditional university educator preparation programs. Leaders at this meeting expressed the belief that alternative certification programs play an important role in certifying new teachers with a history of employment success outside of education, but that traditional preparation through comprehensive and rigorous programs that focus on evidence-based practice and provide strong mentoring are essential in ensuring highly effective educators.
Subsequent meetings led to an initiative to create pathways to teaching by nurturing high school students’ interest in teaching, and creating a bridge from high school to the educator preparation program, which traditionally begins in students’ junior year of college.
These two initiatives were facilitated by Dr. Steve Chamberlain, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and P-16 Integration, and Dr. Tina Atkins, administrator, College, Career & Life Readiness, Region I ESC. Both initiatives will be expanded to both campuses, with an increase in the number of offerings to meet the needs of students interested in teaching as a profession. Both the course and the camp involve a significant mentoring component that will provide ongoing communication between students and CEP into the future as a bridge between these activities and their enrollment in the educator preparation program if they continue in their desire to pursue teaching as a profession.
Edinburg Housing Authority and Community-Based Learning in Teacher Education
During the summer of 2016, the College of Education and P-16 Integration formed a partnership with Edinburg Housing Authority to begin a new community immersion project. While many prospective teachers in the CEP Teacher Education Programs may be Rio Grande Valley natives, the value of connecting to the community in meaningful ways is an important experience in the journey to become a teacher. A group of prospective teachers enrolled in an undergraduate course taught by Dr. Kip Hinton had the opportunity to interact with families in the community in positive ways. Prospective teachers visited the summer program in two communities of Lantana and El Jardin to work with children, ranging from pre-k to 5th grade, and families. Prospective teachers encouraged literacy in fun and expansive ways in an effort to develop a love of reading and writing along with providing numerous outdoor activities and games.
A brief five-question survey was given to the 25 participants with 17 responding. Ninety-four percent felt the course’s community based learning experience allowed them to explore issues related to bilingualism, gender, socioeconomic status and parental support; 100% believed their interactions with the children were a positive learning experience and 94% felt that the activities helped them understand the community better.
Service Learning in the Colonia
May 2016 represented the eighth year of Dr. Kathy Bussert-Webb’s community service learning class in a colonia’s after-school tutorial agency. A colonia signifies an unannexed settlement lacking basic services. Although this particular colonia does have running water and paved streets, the college graduation rate is 1.3%, compared to the surrounding cities of 16%. To address the educational disparities, Dr. Bussert-Webb’s students in the Literacy, Culture, and Diverse Learners course tutor children, plan and implement strengths-based lessons, and create a group project. This year, students created a bilingual newsletter, which included the children’s poems, stories, drawings, and photos. Dr. Bussert-Webb teaches the course on-site allowing students an opportunity to apply what they are learning, thus helping to bridge theory to practice.
Holmes Education Cadets Program
The Holmes Education Cadets (HECs) Program, sponsored by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), supports high school students from historically underrepresented groups interested in a career in education. The CEP has partnered with the Business Education and Technology Academy (BETA), a high school at South Texas ISD, with the goals of encouraging high school students to pursue a career in education; diversifying the educator pipeline to better reflect pre-k-12 demographics; improving the quality of the education workforce; establish strong mentoring environments and opportunities for participants; engaging participants in national networking opportunities, and strengthening connections between pre-k-12 and higher education. The CEP-BETA partnership is one of the first in the nation. The program was initiated on August 2, 2016, where university and district officials met along with 50 high school students to finalize details of the partnership. The program, which will officially roll out this fall, includes dual-credit courses, summer bridge programs, and professional development and mentoring opportunities at UTRGV.
The Torneo de Ortografia
The Torneo de Ortografia is becoming a UTRGV tradition. CEP began hosting the torneo (Spanish Spelling Bee) at one of our legacy institutions, The University of Texas Pan American, 13 years ago in order to provide bilingual students a venue to demonstrate their spelling abilities in their native language, Spanish. The torneo is the only free academic competition in Spanish for 2nd-12th grade students from the region, an area of about a 100-mile radius. The event began with less than 50 participants from one school district, and grew to 14 school districts, with more than 550 students competing this year. The event is gaining popularity and growing each year. One of the reasons is that this event is one of the few academic events in which students can participate in Spanish. We have created this experiential learning experience with the goal of promoting and heightening Latino culture and bilingualism so: (1) bilingual children in the area can feel proud of their language and culture; (2) parents feel accepted and valued; and (3) pre-service teachers gain first-hand experience on the importance of engaging students in culturally and linguistically relevant activities.
Since the inception of the Torneo de Ortografia, the Rio Grande Valley-Texas Association of Bilingual Education (RGV-TABE) has provided economic support and has seen its growth over the years. This year, RGV-TABE, in collaboration with the UTRGV Center for Bilingual Studies, chose the torneo as the most appropriate venue to conduct their annual conference for parents of English Language Learners. They chose the torneo because it is one of the most rapidly growing academic activities that serve bilingual children and their families.
In addition, the torneo also provides pre-service teachers with real-life experiences. During the torneo, the pre-service teachers not only serve as judges supervising the students and making sure they are writing the words correctly, but they also utilize the projects and lesson plans they create during their teacher preparation program in working with students. As a result of this experience, many of our former pre-service teachers are bringing their students and others from their districts to participate in the torneo.
The JSTEM (Journalism, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)
The JSTEM Project Based Learning (PBL) camp is an innovative summer enrichment program offered by UTRGV Continuing Education in partnership with College of Education and P-16 Integration. This program is an opportunity for the area high school students to learn STEM in an authentically situated research setting at UTRGV.
In the STEM portion, students participated in the research of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium that can be found anywhere, as a potential organic pesticide. Students isolated and cultured BT as a bioassay for the control of mosquito larvae. The Journalism PBL takes place in tandem with STEM PBL and is designed to provide opportunities for students interested in mass communication and marketing to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experts in the fields. The role of the journalism participants was to chronicle the activities within the STEM research, provide updates via social media, and develop a multimedia product to highlight the initiative.
Enhancing Leadership Development through District Partnerships
The Department of Organization and School Leadership has created a Leadership Development Partnership with PSJA ISD and Mission CISD for the purpose of developing and enhancing leadership effectiveness of prospective educational leaders. A unique feature of the partnerships is the strong collaboration between the Department of Organization and School Leadership faculty and District personnel in integrating rigorous and relevant field based experiences pertinent to specific district needs. Course assignments are intentionally related to district policies, data, and programs. Completion of coursework leads to a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Texas Principal Certification. All courses are aligned to Texas and national principal standards. PSJA ISD graduated its cohort in August 2015 and has begun a second cohort. Mission CISD just graduated the first cohort in August 2016 and will begin a second cohort in summer 2017. Plans are underway for another Leadership Development Partnership with Harlingen CISD in spring 2017.