The Texas CRS Regional Meeting, which was hosted Nov. 10 by UTPA and conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), was the 11th of 14 regional workshops organized throughout Texas to explain the rationale behind the development of the CRS and to discuss what are the next steps for the South Texas educational institutions.
The objective of the College Readiness Standards initiative is to develop and implement standards and activities to improve alignment between high school and higher education institutions, resulting in an increase in students being more prepared to succeed in college and careers. According to literature by EPIC, which was provided to attendees at the meeting, the goals of CRS include assisting high schools in setting the challenge level and content necessary for college readiness, creating a more rigorous high school senior year, aligning high school and college courses, increasing course consistency in higher education, and developing better college placement criteria.
“What this means is that implementing these standards in the secondary school curricula will prepare students graduating from high school to be more ready for success in entry-level college courses,” Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, UTPA Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and CRS adviser, said. “The standards were developed by vertical teams over two years and are now ready to be implemented.”
Rodriguez said the vertical alignment teams, created by THECB and the Texas Education Agency 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.
The workshop was also an opportunity for the region to begin forming its own vertical alignment teams to meet on a regular basis to discuss regional alignment plans and the implementation of the CRS in the area.
“I think it is not going to be an easy task; it will be challenging because it is going to mean change, not only for our public school people but for our faculty as well,” Rodriguez said. “We have had meetings with faculty to explain the CRS and they have been really receptive. They would really love the students to be ready to come to college rather than spend a lot of their time to get them ready.”
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.
The College Readiness Standards are expected to be implemented starting in fall 2009 in the area of English/language arts said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said ultimately the goals of the CRS 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 2012. According to THECB Developmental Education data from 2005, 40 percent of all new Texas students were underprepared for college and required developmental education.
Rodriguez said she is excited about the new standards and is looking forward to working with UTPA faculty and local school districts to make it a success in the region. The new standards, Rodriguez said will also help with the state’s Closing the Gaps by 2015 higher education plan – which has four goals directed at closing educational gaps in participation, success, excellence, and research.