Educators meet to discuss college readiness
Posted: 10/26/2009
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More than 100 administrators and educators from The University of Texas-Pan American, local school districts and other higher education institutions in the region met recently to learn about the current initiatives of the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) alignment process to ensure local students are college ready when they graduate high school.

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Colby Stoever, senior research specialist at Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Dr. Joseph Kulhanek, director of College and Career Readiness Program at Texas Education Agency; Priscilla Martinez, director of P-16 Outreach at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Dr. Paul Sale, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at UTPA; Dr. Kristen Kramer, senior program director of College Readiness Initiatives at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, senior vice provost for Undergraduate Studies at UTPA; and Dr. Shirley Reed, president of STC.

The Texas CCRS Regional Round-Up meeting, which was hosted Oct. 23 by UTPA and conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) in partnership with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), was one of many regional workshops organized throughout Texas to explain the rationale behind the development of the CCRS and to discuss what the next steps are for the South Texas educational institutions.

The objective of the College and Career Readiness Standards initiative is to dramatically increase the levels of expectation and achievement of students in the critical areas of English/language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science. Once fully implemented through end-of-course exams, the CCRS will pave the way to better alignment between the public and higher education curricula, thereby allowing students a more seamless transition from high school to college or the work force.

"It's really important for public education and higher education to be working together so we can talk about what's happening around the state," said Dr. Kristen Kramer, senior program director of College Readiness Initiatives with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, during the meeting. "College readiness standards will up the expectations that we have for all students and increase the rigor. It aligns high school expectations with college expectations, so when students graduate, they will be ready to take those entry-level college courses and do well."

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 90 percent of 21st-century skilled work force jobs will require some form of postsecondary education. Texas is among the first states in the country to implement standards such as the College and Career Readiness.

During the meeting, presentations focused on specific initiatives and resources to aid P-16 partnerships and vertical alignment efforts that affect long-term, systemic supports for college readiness.

UTPA's Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, said the vertical alignment teams, created by THECB and the TEA as charged by the 79th Texas Legislature, were made up of secondary and postsecondary educators across the state whom were tasked with identifying the knowledge and skills needed by high school students upon graduation to make the grade in college entry-level courses in the areas of English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

"What this means for UTPA is that we need to review the content of our entry-level courses so that we, too, are teaching content that really requires the prerequisite knowledge, skills and attitudes stipulated in the standards," Rodriguez said. "If the students meet these standards when they come to us, then we will need to look at increasing the rigor of our courses."

The College and Career Readiness Standards were implemented fall 2009 in the area of English and language arts said Rodriguez. The mathematics standards will be implemented in fall 2010.

She said ultimately the goals of the CCRS are to eliminate developmental (remedial) courses at the college level, and eventually replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test that is administered to 11th grade students with end-of-course exams in 2013.

Fifty-six UTPA faculty along with 13 South Texas College faculty, and 105 public school teachers reviewed and made comments on the CRS draft in November 2007 as a collaboration through the Upper Rio Grande Valley P-16 Council, which is made up of representatives from UTPA, STC, Region I Education Service Center, Mission and McAllen Economic Development Centers, and Hidalgo and Starr County public schools.

The Upper Rio Grande Valley P-16 Council was created to increase the number of students who complete high school, enter postsecondary education, and achieve a college degree in Hidalgo and Starr Counties.

For more information about the CCRS, contact Rodriguez at 956/316-7919.