The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education recently learned the state has recognized its teacher curriculum as exemplary according to a report by the Texas Education Agency Division of Educator Standards.
The five-year compliance review, which is conducted at all other universities and entities that certify Texas teachers, was completed by two TEA representatives earlier this year. TEA spent three days at UTPA interviewing 44 advisory council members, local teachers, faculty, administrators, staff members and student teachers.
The UTPA College of Education was found to be in compliance in all five areas that were examined: commitment and collaboration, admission criteria, curriculum, program delivery and evaluation, and on-going support. Furthermore, they received 10 commendations, meaning they exceeded state requirements, in a number of areas.
"Overall, I was very pleased with the report. I think that TEA was able to verify the quality of teacher training we are doing at UT Pan American," said Dr. Hector Ochoa, dean of the College of Education. "The report indicated that we go beyond the minimum requirements and I think TEA recognized that in our admissions and training standards."
Ochoa said he is excited they received a commendation for requiring the curriculum and related field experiences focus on enhancing students' understanding of and ability to address the needs of diverse student populations.
"We have training for educators at both the elementary and the secondary levels to help them learn to teach students who have disabilities and/or students who are dual-language learners," Ochoa said. "That's very critical because we need to ensure that the teacher candidates we produce can work with all students - regardless of whatever gifts, talents and unique needs they bring to the classroom."
The COE was also commended for embedding technology into the entire teacher preparation curriculum and for its creation of the Curriculum Resource Center and Educational Technology Resource Center to provide support and opportunity to enhance student teachers' lesson plans and instruction. The Educational Technology Resource Center provides desktop computers, wireless laptops, online data collection processes, and server management, among other things.
"We have a facility - the Educational Technology Resource Center - which is not found in many other colleges of education," Ochoa said. "The advantage of having these centers is that it enables our students to more effectively plan their lessons."
The TEA commendation for program delivery and evaluation was based on the effort to provide structured and relevant field experiences with supervision from the professors, as well as the hours of early field experience required over and beyond the 30-clock hours mandated and for its assignment of 15-17 weeks of student teaching.
"The number of hours we require for field experiences is more than double of what is required by the Texas Education Agency," Ochoa said. "When our students are out in the field in public schools for longer amounts of time, they are able to observe good teaching and witness best practices. Thus, they are able to bridge theory and practice together. They then proceed into student teaching having a much better understanding of the classroom and what's expected of them."
The TEA also commended the program for the addition of the TExES coordinator position. The TExES coordinator assists teacher candidates in preparation for the Texas Examinations of Educator Standards (TExES), provides review sessions and workshops on test-taking strategies, coordinates preparation efforts between students, professors, and the College of Education instructional team.
UTPA's Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez said the TEA commendations are very well deserved.
"I believe that the quality of the UTPA teacher preparation program has improved significantly in the last few years. When our students, who are prepared by the College of Education, go out into the schools, they are well-prepared to meet the challenges of the classroom," Rodriguez said.
For more information about UTPA's College of Education, call 956/381-3627.