The University of Texas-Pan American's teacher preparation program is among the strongest in the state, according to a national study.
The National Council on Teacher Quality - a nonpartisan research and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. - released its report, "Ed School Essentials: Evaluating the Fundamentals of Teacher Training Programs in Texas" April 29, which reviewed 67 undergraduate schools of education throughout the state.
The study assessed each school based on 25 standards for teacher preparation, including admissions standards, the training student candidates receive to teach reading and mathematics, content preparation and special education.
Though the report states many institutions have flawed programs, it listed UTPA as one of four schools that have strong overall program designs. The other three are: Dallas Baptist University, Southern Methodist University and The University of Texas at Austin.
"It just shows off some of the work we're doing," said Dr. Hector Ochoa, dean of UTPA's College of Education.
Areas where the University fared well on the assessment include: preparing candidates to teach reading and math, including early reading and early elementary math; offering required classes - including those for high school certification - for students throughout the year; assigning faculty to teach in their areas of expertise and offering separate classes that are geared specifically toward preparing candidates to teach either elementary or secondary levels.
UTPA also received a nod for only qualifying middle school teacher candidates for certification in areas for which the TExES licensing tests appear to be adequate, according to the report.
The council gave the universities copies of their findings of those institutions last fall and gave them an opportunity to make comments and refute any information they believed was false.
Deans from some of the schools that received low marks from the council criticized the study, saying its findings were based on misinformation and used criteria not consistent with state requirements, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
Though overall he is pleased with that report's findings, Ochoa said the study could have been more accurate if those conducting it would have given the institutions the opportunity to explain their programs in more detail.
In his response to the study, Ochoa mentioned the University's teacher preparation program was evaluated by the Texas Education Agency last year and was found to be in compliance with all the state's criteria. Representatives from the agency visited the campus and conducted interviews. No one conducting the council's study came to campus or conducted interviews.
"Moreover, we received 10 commendations from the Texas Education Agency during this review. Given the extensive scope of this recent review, I believe the TEA's evaluation of our program provides a more accurate account regarding the quality of our preparation program. Moreover, all of our teacher education programs have been received and approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board," Ochoa wrote.
To read the full report, visit www.nctq.org.