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Alignment of high school, college English curriculum focus of March 6 meeting at UTPA
Posted: 03/12/2010
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Nearly 100 public high school English language arts teachers, English department faculty from The University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College and representatives from Region One gathered March 6 to jointly work on a project to better prepare students for success in college level English courses.

The curriculum alignment project is an initiative of The Upper Rio Grande Valley P-16 Council of Hidalgo and Starr Counties and funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Launched in spring 2009, the project's goal is to align the English language arts curriculum between UTPA and STC, where 90 percent of the students in Hidalgo and Starr Counties attend college, and also between the public high schools in those counties and the two higher education institutions.

Among the Hidalgo and Starr County high school English language arts teachers who participated in the March 6 meeting at UTPA to discuss the curriculum alignment project initiated by the Upper Rio Grande Valley P-16 Council were left to right Art Villarreal and Abraham Cantu, LaVilla ISD, and Elizabeth Perez and Roger Rodriguez, Roma ISD.
"We wanted them to share expectations about what students in high school need in order to be prepared for success in college level English courses," said Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, senior vice provost for undergraduate studies, academic assessment and retention and Upper Rio Grande Valley P-16 Council facilitator. "This is an initiative that has never been undertaken before. It is going to be a team effort."

During the meeting, held at the UTPA Annex in Edinburg, the educators examined the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the course syllabi for freshman level English courses 1301 and 1302 at UTPA and STC for congruence and expectations.

The CCRS - what students in every school need to know and be able to do to be college ready - were developed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Agency, university faculty and teachers in the public schools. Now those standards are going to be used as the basis for end of course (EOC) examinations that will measure academic performance in core high school courses. These EOC exams will begin with the freshman (high school) class of 2011-2012 and replace the TAKS.

"The new exam will be more focused on higher order thinking skills. The students are going to have to demonstrate greater depth of understanding and knowledge in the test. The TAKS test was a general test that covered several areas. It was focused on reading, writing and math. This test will be focused on particular subject areas," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said every core area, which includes English, math, science and social studies, will have an EOC exam. For example, the EOC exam to determine college readiness is the English III exam. Students will also take English I and English II EOC exams. She said the core area focus will be on English and math first.

Before the EOC exams begin, Rodriguez said it made sense to look at the alignment of the curriculum of UTPA, STC and the public schools locally. For the past two months, faculty from UTPA and STC have met to develop common learning goals and outcomes for English 1301 and 1302 with the goal of moving seamlessly from the high schools ready to engage in learning in those freshman level college English courses.

"Impetus for this project is Texas' goal of closing the gap in increasing high school graduation and student access, participation and success in post-secondary education," Rodriguez said.

Another meeting for English language arts educators will be held in April. To learn more about Closing the Gap Plan and P-16 Council initiatives, go to http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/.