teacher

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Manuel J. Justiz is dean of the College of Education. He assumed the position in 1990.

Daily Texan: Could you start off by telling us about the most interesting projects going on in the College of Education? 

Dean Justiz: We are the largest college of education in the country in size. We are a non-traditional school, meaning that we are very performance-based with a heavy emphasis on student performance and research. If you look at our national rankings, we were ranked  number one among publics for four years in a row. We have been ranked number one in research expenditures among public and private [universities] for five or six years. We place heavy emphasis on being interdisciplinary. 

We are cofounders of the UTeach program within the Natural Sciences [college] preparing math and science teachers. We’re also cofounders with Cockrell [School of Engineering] on UTeach engineering. Those are examples of some collaborative efforts. We took the lead with Governor Richards on STEM initiatives. At her request, we developed the only proposal for the entire state on STEM education. We’re working with Governor Abbott’s office on their current education initiative. Internally, we have the Office of Educational Research to improve the participation of faculty, and we have the third highest research expenditure at the University, which is strange for a college of education. It’s a very large college with a comprehensive mission, but we are very proud. 

DT: What percentage of undergrad students go into graduate school immediately versus going into teaching? 

Justiz: Our undergraduate population are the ones wanting to be teachers. Probably 85-90 percent of undergrads go on to teach. The rest are going to graduate school. We have 100 percent job placement and have a 100 percent pass rate in our Teacher Certification Exam. I think a lot of our graduates will come back after a few years for graduate programs.  

DT: You are the first dean we’ve talked to that has mentioned working with gubernatorial administrations. Is that something the college tries to initiate or do those different administrations reach out to you? 

Justiz: They reach out to us. I think that speaks to how well regarded the college is. I’ve been here 25 years, I’m the senior dean at UT. When I came here, the first initiative we had came from Governor Richards, with whom I traveled extensively and visited schools. She chose our STEM proposal to send to a federal level. We’re being asked to take the lead on Governor Abbott’s initiative. We don’t look inward, we look outward.  

DT: What brought you to UT and what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time here? 

Justiz: When I was selected in a national search for a dean, I had been in a subcabinet post heading up the Research Agency in Education in Washington. I came to UT because it was a great opportunity. I fell in love with Austin and UT. It has been a great privilege for me to be a dean at the university. 

When I came, the college was under review. There were questions about academic integrity and the quality of our degrees. I felt this place could only go up. It was a low-risk situation. If I could build a team of people with the same vision, I knew I could improve the college and help it fulfill its promise. It is a work in progress, there are still problems and we need to make sure the leadership team is always working together. I’ve probably hired 92 percent of the college faculty by now.  

DT: Have you seen any changes in the types of students coming into the college? 

Justiz: When we started, most of our graduates were going into teacher education. Kinesiology has grown. Less people are going into teacher education and more into the health sciences.That isn’t so different from the rest of the university.  

DT: How large of a role does diversity play in your college? 

Justiz: Anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of minority graduates at UT graduate with a degree in education, and we have a strong, diverse faculty. In fact, I was the first minority dean in the history of the university.  

DT: What do you think will be the next big change in education? 

Justiz: We’ve been talking about creating a unique marriage between pedagogy and content in education through gaming. How do we bring the best facets of gaming to teaching and learning? How do we build that into a challenging curriculum that really engages you? How do you bring these practices in without compromising the integrity of the content? We think we need a public-private partnership to do this, but those are the kind of discussions we are having.  

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Student success in school is tied to how teachers perceive a student’s race, which can itself differ from how students racially identify themselves, according to Yasmiyn Irizarry, an African and African diaspora studies assistant professor.

The Population Research Center hosted Irizarry’s lecture, “Utilizing Multidimensional Measures of Race in Quantitative Research: The Case of Teacher Perceptions,” on Friday.

Racialization, or how people perceive race, doesn’t happen without context, according to Irizarry. Because teachers perceive students as belonging to certain racial groups, teachers are more likely to subconsciously treat them differently. This phenomenon happens widely throughout education, but has specific and adverse effects on teacher-student relationships, which creates gaps in learning and growth over time, Irizarry said.

“There are not only consistent racial gaps in student achievement, but also in student learning, and they widen as students move through school,” Irizarry said. “It’s important that we understand not just why they’re coming to school less prepared, but also why once they’re entering school they’re not learning at the same rate.”

In her research, Irizarry collected information on how students racially identify themselves and how teachers perceive the students’ race. Teachers perceived East-Asian students more positively and immigrant students as having more behavioral problems in the classroom. White and Latino nonimmigrant students were perceived to have average classroom behavior. 

“I’m really thinking about this complex nature of race and racialization and the multiple dimensions that people draw from when they’re categorizing, defining and valuing that individual,” Irizarry said.

It’s difficult to define one’s own experiences when there is tension between how other people categorize you and how you identify yourself, public affairs graduate student Jaehee Choi said. She said, either consciously or subconsciously, many Americans, including teachers, ask themselves how to deal with “otherness” or minorities.

“Teachers are probably the first adults outside [students’] families that they develop a relationship with,” Choi said. “I think it’s really interesting that the interactions between the children and teachers that happen in the classroom might affect children’s self-identification later on.”

People need to think about race in broader terms, according to Rachel Bott, a German, Scandinavian and Dutch studies freshman.

“There’s a disparity between people who identify as a certain race and [how] they’re perceived a different way, so then they have a whole slew of negative experiences with the race that people perceive them as,” Bott said.

UT should be planning how it will adjust if the legislation authorizing holders of a license to carry a concealed weapon on campus becomes law. The most obvious and helpful action would be simply to share information from the state list of licensees. The UT directory would thus identify all authorized gun carriers among faculty, students and staff.  A student’s knowledge of a teacher's possible concealed weapon might affect the choice of courses. The listing would help students select a roommate with compatible views on the carrying of guns, pro or con. And students with a license might be given seat assignments in class that would ensure an unobstructed line of fire, if needed. Although we can hope that a teacher's grade would not be affected because of concern about a student's gun, to be fair to the student, the license to carry should be noted on any transcript.

— Francis D. Fisher, senior research fellow in the LBJ School of Public Affairs

On Jan. 13, the 84th Legislature of Texas convened. Following a gubernatorial campaign that focused heavily on potential improvements to Texas’s education system, thanks in large part to the platform of Democratic candidate Wendy Davis, the legislature will vote on several bills this session that regard primary education in Texas. UT students should pay attention to several upcoming bills because, as future taxpayers, it will affect members of our campus in addition to the general landscape of primary education in Texas.

Although Wendy Davis did not win the gubernatorial election, one of the biggest dreams of her education platform may be realized should the Legislature pass House Bill 124, authored by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. HB 124 proposes the expansion of free pre-kindergarten education to include children that are unable to speak or comprehend the English language, homeless, educationally disadvantaged or are/ever have been under the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services, in addition to the children of active duty servicemen and children who have lost a parent while serving in the armed forces (as the law currently stands). HB 124 is an enormous step forward in aiding the facilitation of early childhood education for children whose education is compromised by means outside of their control. 

House Bill 256, authored by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, also seeks to give opportunities to those whose opportunities for educational success are at risk. Although the state’s compensatory education fund already lends help to pregnant students and student-parents, HB 256 proposes an expansion of the monetary assistance for some of the state’s students that are most likely to drop out due to outside influences. HB 256 would provide child care services or assistance with child care expenses for student-parents at risk of dropping out of school, or help with paying the cost of day care or assisted transportation through a life skills program in schools. Aiming to help student parents at risk of dropping out of school, HB 256 would empower student-parents to get a high school diploma and ensure the care of their children while they’re at school. Though dissenting representatives may argue that it is not the responsibility of the state to fund the child care services of students who chose to become parents, HB 256 is only an expansion of aid that already exists—aid that the state has already decided it is responsible to provide. HB 256 is an investment in a future generation of taxpayers by giving the student-parents the greatest opportunity to succeed (and give back to the state) financially. 

Other bills, though well intentioned, may not be pragmatic. House Bill 387, authored by Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, proposes to take $1 billion out of the economic stabilization fund, colloquially known as the ESF or Rainy Day Fund, to distribute evenly among Texas school districts for the purpose of raising teacher salaries. As public servants who have dedicated their lives to the education of our society’s youngest generations, teachers certainly deserve the highest salary that can be afforded. Furthermore, every UT student owes their current educational situation to at least one teacher along their individual path to higher education. However, the Rainy Day Fund is not the place from which to draw these necessary funds. The Rainy Day Fund was created to be a savings account for the state, not a means of paying for normal funding. To use it as such will create a dangerous precedent for the state. The one-time extraction of $1 billion to increase teachers’ salaries would leave teachers unsatisfied two years from now when the 85th Legislature may not vote to extract another $1 billion to continue funding their increased salaries. Though increasing teachers’ salaries is a noble endeavor, and one I hope to see lawmakers pursue further, HB 387 is remiss in its proposal of using a finite and unreliably-fluctuating account to pay for a permanent increase in teacher pay. 

The upcoming legislative season may affect several changes in the landscape of primary education in Texas. Although members of the UT community have passed out of the direct influence of bills that endeavor to reform Texas’s education system, UT students should remain vigilant in their voice over bills that could affect them as taxpayers or parents.

Smith is a history junior from Austin. She writes about state politics. Follow Smith on Twitter @clairseysmith.

Jo Worthy, language and literacy studies professor and Tasha Beretvas, associate dean for research and graduate studies, received the College of Education’s Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award. 

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Jo Worthy, language and literacy studies professor, and Tasha Beretvas, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education, both received the College of Education Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the college’s most prominent award, last week. 

Worthy, a former elementary and middle school teacher, specializes in children’s reading interests and bilingual education. She also focuses on the alternatives to ability grouping, which she said is the method of categorizing and sectioning young students based on expectancy of success in academics.

“Putting kids into these ability groups can be really harmful,” Worthy said. “If we’re not teaching them as a whole, then they don’t get the equal treatment that encourages success.”

Worthy said group categorizing students discourages them to break apart from the labels they are given. The most well-known categorization is to break up students into gifted and talented in middle school and regular or distinguished in high school.

According to Worthy, her method of teaching involves getting to know students on a personal level.

“It is important to me to know what the students need and especially what they’re interested in learning,” Worthy said.

Beth Maloch, associate dean of teacher education and chair of the award’s committee, said Worthy has designed and taught a signature undergraduate studies course, which has received exceptional course evaluations.

Beretvas teaches statistics and psychometrics in the Department of Educational Psychology. Her course, “Introduction to Statistics,” helps students understand how to apply statistics to their own respective fields.

“There are a lot of people coming in who are fearful of math,” Beretvas said. “When they’re shown in a way that they can grasp it, they can easily use [statistics] with their own interests.”

According to Maloch, the committee bases its decisions off student and faculty-peer evaluations for both graduate and undergraduate teaching.

“Research is important at a top-tier institution like UT,” Beretvas said. “But we also value teaching and seeing these awards really does substantiate that.”

Both Worthy and Beretvas have previously received honors, including the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

“They’ve invested all across the college throughout the years,” Maloch said. “It’s a long way to say that it was not surprising that they were nominated.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

George P. Bush, Republican candidate for land commissioner, opened the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival on Friday by discussing his stance on a wide-range of issues impacting the state. 

At the talk held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, moderator Evan Smith asked Bush, the grandson of presidents George H.W. Bush and nephew of George W. Bush, if the magnetic pull of his surname drew him into politics.

“I would describe it more as a desire to serve others,” Bush said. “Always think about others before you think about yourself. Not all Bushes are in politics there are 18 grandchildren, and I’m the only one crazy enough to enter the arena.”

After being introduced by President William Powers Jr.,  Bush said his skill sets would help him fill the role of land commissioner successfully. He spoke about his hope for the future of Texas energy.

“You look at the potential for a generation to be truly energy secure,” Bush said. “When I was graduating from UT-Austin, we were importing two-thirds of our petroleum products. Now we’re at a quarter. Within ten years, we’ll only need Canadian and Mexican [products] to power our needs.”

Bush, who is a businessman and former history teacher, said he also wants to push water conservation. According to Bush, brackish water has potential for the Texan economy.

“In terms of water conservation, there’s a lot we can do,” Bush said. “[Water] is a 22 billion problem we will face for the next 20 years. Brackish water can be used in fracking for industrial purposes. We have enough to cover the state with four feet of brackish water.”

Smith, the Tribune's CEO and editor-in-chief, then shifted the conversation to issues that Bush has firm stances on. Bush said he supports the state law allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at public universities.

Bush also said he is not sold on the true cause of global warming.

“What we can agree is, over the course of human history, is that there are climatic changing,” Bush said. “The bigger debate is if its man-made. We need to depoliticize the debate and allow scientists to make a definitive call and look at it through a long-term lens. I have to deal with the immediate needs on the gulf coast, and that’s where I have the most impact.”

When audience member Charlie Bonner, a Plan II and government freshman, asked how Bush viewed the politicization of textbooks, Bush said he would give curriculum authority to local government and school boards.

Bonner said he was not impressed with his answer.

“I actually just thought of the question when he said was a teacher and and member of the Republican party,” Bonner said. “His answer jumped around the issue by putting it back in the hands of locals, which could still lead to the political winds of the teachers and communities. I’m not sure he actually solved any problem with that question.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was as far removed as an American could possibly be — in more than one sense of the word. I was about 2,000 miles away from the attack, cheerfully working on a handout in my elementary school on the border. I was deeply entrenched in Mexican culture at school, and when class let out, I went home to an Asian household with two immigrant parents. Needless to say, my circumstances left me with a very fragile sense of patriotism. 

The day was a haze. My second-grade teacher directed the class’ attention to her and told us that we would be leaving a little early today — no other explanation. One by one, all of us went up to the teacher’s desk to call our parents to pick us up early. I remember my mom was one of the last parents to come, rolling the window down while balancing a cell phone on her shoulder and waving hello to my teacher, probably as unaware as I was of the monumental point in history we were living in. I got home and gleefully jumped on my bed to celebrate the unplanned half-day. I still cringe at the thought.

I found out what happened when I went to school the next day. I had only a vague understanding of the attack, but I did begin to grasp the concept of terrorism for the first time. I started to flip to news channels at home, watching horrifying coverage of the devastation 9/11 left behind. I grew up a little faster that year. 

I’ve visited Ground Zero twice since then, once when a mess of construction and yellow tape took its place in 2008 and again in 2012 when two commemorative deconstructivist pools were nestled there instead. The names of the fallen spanned the walls of the memorial as far as I could see, and I thought about how the people impacted were more than just the seemingly infinite number of names etched in front of me — not etched in the bronze were the names of their mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, and friends. 

Though I didn’t personally know anyone directly impacted by the attack, September 11, 2001, marked a turning point in my sense of identity and cultural belonging. Thirteen years went by and I grew up, learned more about the history of this country and wandered away from the confines of my small border town. I have since reinterpreted my lack of the quintessentially “American” upbringing to define my own understanding of patriotism — one of unity in diversity, hope in devastation and resilience in chaos.

Huynh is a Plan II, business honors and supply chain management junior from Laredo.

Five more universities will implement the UTeach program starting in fall 2014 bringing the total number of universities to 40.

Founded at UT in 1997, UTeach is a program aimed at increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and math — commonly known as STEM — teachers in the country. It offers students a path to teacher certification without requiring them to change majors or add any time to their four-year degree plans. The program has received national attention, including a shoutout from President Barack Obama in 2010.

The National Math and Science Initiative, which administers the program, will be implementing it at the following universities: University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of Maryland, College Park; Oklahoma State University; Florida International University; and Drexel University.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute issued a $22.5 million grant in March to fund the expansion. Another five universities will be added by fall 2015.

Michael Marder, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and executive director of the UTeach Science Program, said the program is an efficient way for future STEM teachers to grow.

“The whole country has a shortage of math and science teachers,” Marder said. “UTeach was very promising here and received interest from other universities.” 

According to Marder, expanding the program is a five-year process, and the money will go toward hiring staff and helping the universities integrate UTeach into their systems. 

“Creating a new program is like creating a new department,” Marder said. “The universities need to set aside space, add faculty and add supportive staff. This grant will help them do that.”

William Kiker, a UTeach alumnus and UT graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics, said the UTeach program creates effective and passionate teachers. 

“The UTeach program supports each of its students through their content-area growth,” Kiker said. “It also equips them with the theory behind successful teaching strategies and practice implementing them in the classroom.”

Larry Abraham, UTeach co-director and an education professor, said the medical institute has had a long-term interest in the UTeach program, and its talks with the National Math and Science Initiative led both organizations to believe the grant would have a positive effect on STEM teaching quality nationwide.

“The [medical institute] specifically noted the proven success of the UTeach program in helping universities recruit more STEM majors into pursuing teacher certification, entering the classroom and staying there longer as reasons to invest in this program expansion,” Abraham said.

Photo Credit: Lucy Griswold | Daily Texan Staff

UT had more recruits in Teach For America’s 2013 cohort than any other university in the nation. Teach For America, an organization that places high-achieving college students into low-performing schools in an effort to directly address educational inequality, appears for many UT students to be an avenue toward participating in a broader movement for social justice. 

For me, a student who considered and ultimately decided not to apply to TFA, the program’s appeal had little to do with the organization’s promises that I would be a part of the “civil rights movement" of our generation. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in working on the problem of educational inequality. I was. But my first encounters with TFA challenged the organization’s claim that it was in fact working toward ending educational inequality and revealed the many problems with the organization. Among them: the minimal training its recruits receive before taking control of their own classrooms, its role in the casualization of the teaching profession and its unclear record of increasing student achievement.

Moreover, despite the radical rhetoric TFA often employs, it has no public record of denouncing austerity and de facto school segregation, and has received generous donations from conservative foundations — hardly the marks of an organization that claims to be part of a progressive revolution in educational justice.  

Still, I remained interested in TFA for pragmatic reasons: I knew I wanted to be a teacher in an under-resourced district, and TFA was a way to do that while getting a master’s degree for free.   

Unlike many of TFA’s recruits, I planned to be a career educator, and looked to TFA as more than just a stepping stone to adult life. For this reason, I played with the idea that I was exceptional among TFA recruits, that a handful of life experiences and political views made it OK for me, a white woman, to dive into America’s lowest-performing schools untrained. 

After all, I had attended a multi-racial school in an urban setting, worked as a camp counselor throughout my college summers and had several experiences developing curriculum and lesson planning. I had critical-theory coursework and anti-racist organizing experience. I considered that perhaps these were enough to allow me to stand in front of a class of students who more than likely would not look like me without reifying racial hierarchies.  

Ultimately, my decision not to apply to TFA came down to two unresolvable issues. First, given my knowledge of TFA’s role in education “reform,” there was no way I could comfortably be associated with the organization — even if I knew privately I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. TFA cannot be separated from the corporate-driven movement it is embedded in and of which its alumni have become key leaders. This movement, funded in large part by wealthy benefactors such as the Gateses and the Waltons, the families behind Microsoft and Wal-Mart, respectively, relies on applying business practices such as increasing competition, emphasizing data and evaluation and promoting efficiency in the educational sphere. Despite huge investments of both public and private funds, these strategies have done little to increase student achievement and reduce educational inequality. Disturbingly, TFA as an organization propagates the same misguided assumptions of their big-time donors, among them the idea that all students can learn despite their circumstances, an assertion that grossly underestimates the role that poverty and racism play in the lives of students.

Second, I have come to believe that despite the limits of our current model of higher education, all teachers should be extensively trained before they enter the classroom. One TFA alum quoted in a recent educational study explained why: “My students need experienced teachers who know what works and who can implement it effectively … instead, they have me, and though I am learning quickly, I am learning on them.” 

Additionally, teachers who seek placement in urban districts should be trained to build inclusive classrooms and work with curricular materials that are relevant to the demographics they are teaching, especially those recruits who are white and did not come from urban communities. One study of TFA’s training practices revealed that the conversations about the role of race in the classroom during TFA’s five-week summer training course “developed superficial racial know-how for white students … and offered little insight to corps members of color.”

Too often, TFA preys on idealistic students who are excited by the chance of putting their ideas into action and who are largely ignorant of the broader implications and potential problems of participating in such a program. For many of those students who are aware of TFA’s many problems and still decide to participate, their reasons for doing so, a need for free advanced education, are often quite valid. But until TFA fundamentally changes its model for teacher training, it should not be “used” as an avenue to the classroom by Longhorns who are serious about achieving educational justice. The many problems of TFA are too large and myriad to be addressed by even the best of intentions.

Griswold is a government senior from Indianapolis. Follow Griswold on Twitter @GriswoldLucy.

Editor's Note: A link to a study titled "Teach for America: A Review of the Evidence" has been moved to more clearly reflect the information it verifies. 

Wendy Davis released her educational proposal early this month, which aims to increase the supply of teachers and counselors in Texas schools through university admissions and financial incentives.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A little more than a week after gubernatorial hopeful and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, released part of her educational platform aimed toward increasing the number of teachers and counselors in Texas, graduate students weighed in on the potential impact.

The aim of Davis’ proposal, “Great School: Great Texas,” is to increase the supply of teachers and counselors in Texas schools through university admissions and financial incentives. If implemented, the top 20 percent of high school juniors — if they commit to pursuing a teaching career — would be guaranteed automatic admission to any Texas public university. The proposal would also establish a policy by which one year of loan debt would be forgiven per two years of teaching.

Several details about the plan are largely vague, and Drew Anderson, the Davis campaign’s regional press secretary, declined to answer specific questions about implementing the proposal despite several request for comment.

Kyle Williams, educational psychology graduate student, said she thinks personal characteristics like patience and creativity are more important considerations of what make an effective teacher.

“I think the 20-percent rule will attract smart people to the teaching profession, but that’s not always the key thing,” Williams said. “Most of the teachers I know do the job because teaching is their calling, not necessarily for the incentives, although those are very helpful.”

Under the top-10-percent rule, 76.6 percent of all enrolled freshmen from Texas high schools admitted to UT were admitted, according to a fall 2013 enrollment analysis conducted by the University.

Kay Randall, communications coordinator for the College of Education, said between 85 and 90 percent of students who complete the college’s teacher education programs become teachers. Ninety percent of this group find teaching positions immediately after graduation.

Williams said she thinks Davis’ proposal could increase the number of people looking for teaching positions in Texas but said the measure is different from educating and attracting quality teachers.

“I think that [financial and admission bonuses] would make a great incentive and would be effective in attracting teachers, but, again, part of the issue is attracting students who will make good teachers, not just students who are getting teacher certified as a ‘back up,’ as I often hear it,” Williams said.

Andrew Costigan, educational psychology graduate student, said he agrees with Davis’ idea to increase the number of school counselors. Costigan is a co-director for the Consortium for Research in Teachers Education, a student organization that aims to promote teacher-education research.

Costigan said Davis’ plan to raise teacher pay may increase the appeal and status of teachers in society.

“Teachers are notoriously underpaid and their job is extremely difficult and raising their pay will show that it’s an important job,” Costigan said.

Costigan said he thinks the proposal is a good idea in general, but is concerned that some students may take advantage of the relatively lenient admission policy into the College of Education.

“How do you account for people who try to take advantage of the loophole?” Costigan said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”