Community College Current Issues Symposium

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 9:30am to 11:30am
Omni Fort Worth Hotel

UNT Center for Play Therapy offers unique training

In a dark hallway divided by heavy black-out curtains, counselors and therapists from across the country peer through two-way mirrors as their fellow professionals work with young children in toy-filled rooms on the other side of the glass.

Through one window, two sisters play in a sandbox, filling buckets as a counselor utilizes therapeutic responses to convey empathy, understanding and support. The sisters are part of an intensive training session that caps off a two-week conference hosted by the University of North Texas Center for Play Therapy.

The focus of these unique practice experiences isn’t the children but training the most qualified play therapists worldwide, according to Dee Ray, professor in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education and director of the Center for Play Therapy. The 12 participants from around the world took part in the Intensive Supervision program that followed the Center for Play Therapy 2018 Summer Institute, in which they received training and direct supervision from prominent play therapy supervisors.

“Intensive supervision is a unique and invaluable experience,” Ray said. “The Center for Play Therapy is the only play therapy facility in the world that offers play therapists an opportunity to learn, develop, and implement play therapy skills within a five-day span.”

The Center for Play Therapy was established in 1987, with their first international play therapy conference in 1973. Today The Center for Play Therapy provides the largest play therapy training program in the world, attracting graduate students and professionals from all around the world. Participants from Canada, India, and Hong Kong attended this summer’s conference.

Olive Kwan is a family and marriage therapist from Hong Kong who traveled to UNT to learn more about Play Therapy in order to bring those techniques back home.

“I really wanted to learn what this is about from the original; not from second-hand,” Kwan said. “If children change, the family will change."

According to Psychology Today, play therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3 to 12 explore their lives and freely express thoughts and emotions through play. Play therapy occurs in a purposefully designed playroom, where children are able to freely express themselves through the developmentally appropriate modality of play within the therapeutic relationship. Play therapy may help children learn to express themselves in healthy ways, increase their empathy and understanding of others, limit their problematic behaviors, and increase their self-confidence.

Participants in the intensive supervision program were broken into small groups, and worked with experienced counselors in a group supervision format for three intensive days. During that time, they were able to practice play in therapy directly with children of all ages.

Amber Ensign is a therapist from Waxahachie, Texas. She works with law enforcement and child protective services with victims of physical and sexual abuse.

“This provides me with another method of working with children,” Ensign said. “A 3-year-old might not be able to verbalize their experiences, but they can express it through play.”

Shannon Lerach, a child psychologist from San Diego, said she appreciated the quality and caliber of the UNT facilities.

“This just isn’t available anywhere else,” Lerach said. “The facilities are just amazing."

Eliza Schindler is a clinical social worker and therapist from Austin who works with children in schools.

“Play therapy allows children to show their experiences rather than have you put the emphasis on them.”

The Center for Play Therapy at UNT will host CCPT 101: Basics in Child-Centered Play Therapy, a two-day foundational training, on Sept. 28-29, 2018. CCPT is an evidence-based intervention for young children and this workshop serves as the introduction to CCPT certification.

Participants of CCPT 101 will earn continuing education credits and complete the first educational component toward CCPT certification. Completion of this workshop allows the participant to have a greater understanding of CCPT and begin to practice basic CCPT skills.

Registration for the workshop is now open at

UNT visiting professor offers insight into new Texas school grading system

UNT Texas Higher Education Law Conference set for March 25-26

The Texas Higher Education Law Conference at the University of North Texas will be March 25-26 and is open to college and university faculty and staff. Members of the Texas State Bar and the general public are also welcome.

The conference will be at UNT’s Gateway Center, 801 North Texas Blvd. in Denton.

“The 2019 Conference will continue to include presentations on topics regarded as vital for student affairs professionals,” said Cliff Harbour, College of Education professor and director of the UNT Higher Education Development Initiative. “(But) we will include new topics and new presenters to ensure that we are also addressing emerging needs.”

As the premier conference on higher education law in Texas, the UNT conference provides college and university professionals in the public and private sector and the attorneys who advise them the most current information on important developments. Student conduct issues, First Amendment issues, technology challenges, and matters arising under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act are among the areas discussed by national experts in the field.

This is the 23rd year for the conference, which is sponsored by the UNT Higher Education Development Initiative, the Higher Education Program and the College of Education. For more information, visit

UNT assistant professor weighs in on new school district ratings

The Texas Education Agency released new report card-like grades for state school districts on Wednesday. The grade assigned to each school will be based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR test.

UNT’s College of Education assistant professor Noelle Paufler, a former high school social studies teacher, district administrator and applied researcher in large urban and suburban school districts, offered her insight into what those grades mean:

How do these rankings work, and how are they calculated?

“Today, all public school districts in Texas received a letter grade of A to F, based on a score (1 to 100) that reflects their performance across three domains, student achievement, school progress, and closing the gaps. Collectively, these three domains are intended to provide a snapshot of how well districts and campuses (in August 2019) are educating students. The first domain, student achievement, is intended to measure students’ knowledge and skills in STAAR-tested subject areas and for high schools, graduates’ readiness for college, a career, or the military. The second domain, school progress, measures growth in one of two ways using students’ STAAR scores (whichever is higher), namely the academic growth of individual students from one year to the next or their performance relative to other students in peer districts with similar proportions of economically disadvantaged students. The third domain, closing the gaps, measures the performance of student subgroups, based on race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English language proficiency, receipt of special education services, and mobility. Components in this domain include targets for student achievement domain scores, proficiency and growth on STAAR in reading and mathematics, 4-year graduation rates, and college/career/military readiness. For each district (and campus next year), an overall score and corresponding letter grade is calculated based on two of the three domains, either student achievement or school progress (whichever is higher) at 70 percent, and closing the gaps at 30 percent. Additional caveats apply when assigning an overall letter grade to districts and/or campuses with a grade of D or F in one or more domains. Districts also have the autonomy to develop a local accountability system within certain parameters to use in place of the A-F model, pending review and approval at the state level.”

What will these rankings — good or bad — mean for schools?

“These letter grades reflect not only the state Legislature’s effort to quantify district and campus performance, largely based on students’ scores on STAAR in tested subject areas, but also a larger national trend to increasingly hold educators accountable for student achievement using snapshot measures of what students know and are able to do. Although these letter grades are intended to provide the public with more information about the quality of school districts and campuses in Texas, any indicator of quality that is meaningful to parents and community stakeholders and actionable for educators should be based on measures of the 21st century knowledge and skills that students need to be successful after high school. What useful information can a district or campus letter grade of A to F, which is based largely on students’ scores on a multiple-choice test such as STAAR, provide to a parent about whether his or her child is developing important skills such as how to apply critical thinking skills to solve problems, work collaboratively on a team, or effectively use technology, just to name a few? How should a community member interpret letter grades as a measure of performance when comparing one district or campus to another, especially when districts are allowed to develop their own local accountability systems? To what extent do letter grades provided actionable data to educators such that they can develop plans for continuous improvement? These are only a few of the questions that should be asked if letter grades are supposed to measure and communicate to the public whether districts and campuses are effective in ways that matter.”

Some people are critical of the ranking system. What could the state do instead? What do parents and communities wish to see in school rankings?

“The A-F Accountability model assumes that district and campus performance must be quantified and labeled accordingly in order to hold educators accountable for ensuring all children receive a high-quality education. Furthermore, it assumes that letter grades communicate meaningful information to the public about performance beyond what data districts and campuses can provide. If the broader objective for assigning letter grades is to determine how well districts and campuses prepare students to be successful in the future, it would seem to make sense that local educators, parents, community members and others should decide what constitutes preparedness. However, if holding low-performing districts and campuses accountable is really the purpose, developing local accountability systems negates the ability to compare them relative to one another. It seems that the larger question is which of these is most important. The intended use of any indicator of quality should be clearly articulated before trying to determine what is a valid, reliable measure.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.”

Elizabeth Dracobly

Administrative Coordinator, Office of the Associate Dean for Educator Preparation Programs
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Matthews Hall 119-I

Kinesiology senior brings home the gold

Jacob McBee

Instructional Design Consultant, Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation
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Physical Education Building 210-J

Jasmin Vissage

Administrative Specialist, Educational Psychology
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Matthews Hall 316-E

UNT ranks among best Gifted and Talented Education programs in the nation

The University of North Texas Gifted and Talented Education programs have been ranked among the best in the country.

College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources, ranked University of North Texas College of Education’s program as the No. 2 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Gifted and Talented Education, the No. 6 Best Online Master’s in Gifted and Talented Education and the No. 7 Most Affordable Online Mater’s in Special Education.

According to College Choice, the ranking is based on institutional reputation, graduation rates, selectivity, and faculty resources. The data from their ranking comes from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, and individual college websites.

In its description of UNT, College Choice noted, “The Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Gifted and Talented Education prepares students to develop outstanding educational programs for exceptional students. The university offers 20 different online programs in an exclusive ‘Executive Summer-to-Summer’ program, allowing students to earn master’s degrees in as little as 15 months.”

Originally founded as a teacher’s college in 1890, the University of North Texas is one of the nation’s largest universities. UNT offers 103 bachelor’s, 86 master’s and 38 doctoral degree programs.

Learn more about UNT’s online master’s program at