Area Teachers get firsthand look at ‘Edge of the World’

Situated on the border with Mexico along the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park is described as a place where night skies are as dark as coal and rivers carve canyons through isolated mountains.

And it is here, at the “very edge of the world,” where 15 area middle school science and math teachers got a firsthand look at phenomena such as faulting, folding and jointing which results when tectonic plates shift, slide and collide. The trip was part of the Teacher Quality Grant Program, which provided 8th-grade science teachers with 110 hours of professional development during a two-week intensive summer workshop including Saturday sessions that spanned the academic year.

Donna Freeman is a teacher at Robbie E. Howard Junior High School in the Waxahachie Independent School District who made the eight hour trip to West Texas.

“My experiences at Big Bend enhanced my understanding of various Earth science content due to the visualization of being there in the park and also through hands-on experiences,” Freeman said. “The trip allowed me to see faults, layering of sediments, weathering examples and erosion.”

The North Texas Science and Mathematics Institute at UNT has supported the professional development of 50 middle school science and math teachers from Dallas, Fort Worth and Vidor independent school districts during the past two years.

The goals for these projects were to increase teacher content knowledge of 8th grade Earth science, 8th grade algebra I and middle school geometry teachers; to develop multiple instructional strategies nested within pedagogical content knowledge; to promote the use of technology as a transparent instructional tool; to increase teacher use of just-in-time formative assessment; and to promote communities of practice.

During the workshops, teachers learned about, and then implemented in their classrooms, specific pedagogical content knowledge and strategies that address the learning needs of students, using instructional techniques guided by learning progressions and questioning strategies designed to build proficiency and excellence in the application of these practices.

The professional development included the teachers making presentations at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching and, as a continuation of their professional development during summer 2018, 8th Grade science teachers traveled with UNT faculty to Big Bend National Park to complete an additional 40 hours of professional development.

“Around every corner, Big Bend offers luscious surprises,” said Pamela Harrell, Associate Dean for Administration and Assessment in the College of Education, who led the teacher training. “For example, who connects volcanos and oceans with a desert? One would not expect it, but fossils can be seen everywhere, such as in the desert rocks of Ernst Tinaja. Big Bend was covered by an ocean at one time and over time, it was the oceans and shallow seas that formed spectacularly etched canyons such as Boquillas Canyon and the Santa Elena Canyon. There is also evidence of violent volcanic activity that can be seen in and around Big Bend.”

Big Bend National Park is one of the few “dark spots” where there are naturally dark skies, infrequent cloud cover, and low humidity providing an unusual opportunity to investigate components of the universe with sharp visual acuity.

As suggested by past participants, this experience provides teachers with captivating stories and knowledge that will help engage students in abstract knowledge and processes that are poorly understood by students. Earth/Space Science is the lowest performing category on STAAR test, and this type of highly focused experiential learning is a high-yield instructional practice.

Pierre Ice, a teacher at the Dallas Environmental Science Academy, said he gained a wealth of content knowledge that he will bring back to the classroom.

“We learned of the many impacts of humans on the Rio Grande river. I saw first-hand how damming upstream of the river has caused the water level to decrease and stopped flooding along the river bank. This is important for several reasons. First, the low flow allows toxins to build up which can be dangerous to wildlife. The lack of flooding causes vegetation to overgrow on the river banks which can reduce the water levels due to plant overpopulation,” Ice said.

“The damming of the Rio Grande also reduces the economic potential of the area by limiting recreational water activities. Another human impact on this ecosystem is the introduction of invasive species. Tamarix ramosissima (Saltceders) was introduced to Big Bend and has become a major threat to the local ecosystem. It is an omnipresent plant at the river banks, and it uses up to 100 gallons of water a day.”

During the trip, the teachers stayed at the Chisos Mountains Lodge in the park and hiked trails and kayaked along the Rio Grande. An $858,781 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board funded the year-long training, and the College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration funded the field trip to Big Bend.

“It’s still hard for me to imagine the magnitude of force and motion that would create structures like the Sierra de Santa Elena, a limestone block that was uplifted about 1,500 feet. If I had the resources, Big Bend is an experience I would give to all teachers and 8th-grade students in Texas,” Harrell said.

First Day of UNT Classes

Date: 
Monday, August 27, 2018 (All day)

PDS 1 Expectations Meeting

Date: 
Thursday, August 16, 2018 (All day)

Supervisor Meeting

Date: 
Thursday, August 16, 2018 (All day)

UNT hosts 10th annual Autism Conference

The university's Kristin Farmer Autism Center hosted the 10th annual Adventures in Autism Intervention and Research Conference.

Kinesiology professor named to scientific journal editorial board

Brian McFarlin, co-director of the University of North Texas Applied Physiology Lab and director of the International Sports Medicine Federation Collaborating Center of Excellence, has been named one of five editors for the journal METHODS.

METHODS is a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering research on techniques in the experimental biological and medical sciences. McFarlin, a professor in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation, is one of only three Americans named to the editorial board.

“Getting picked to be a METHODS editor is a big deal,” McFarlin said. “This is a premier journal and, as you noticed, there are very few editors involved. The only other American is from the University of Michigan. This is huge that they would pick someone from UNT and consider that person on par with a faculty from Michigan. That aside, I am excited to contribute to a very significant journal in a meaningful way that will allow me to shape future science efforts.”

The editor-in-chief of the METHODS editorial board if Kenneth W. Adolph from the University of Minnesota and Niles Walter from the University of Michigan also serves on the board. Other editors are from Korea, France and England.

McFarlin previously served as a guest editor on the editorial board for the past three years. In his new role, he will oversee the development of concepts for upcoming special issues.

METHODS is indexed in PubMed, Web of Science, and has an impact factor of 3.802.

McFarlin also noted that METHODS isn’t focused on exercise physiology or sports medicine, which makes his inclusion even more significant.

“They are a strictly biological methods journal,” McFarlin said. “Traditionally exercise physiology isn’t considered part of that, so being apart of this journal gives me some translational exposure as well that is not common in our field of study.”

College of Education professors conferred Emeritus status

Three UNT College of Education professors were conferred Emeritus status during this academic year: Sue Bratton, Lyndal M. Bullock and William Marc Cutright.

Sue Bratton, Professor Emeritus

Sue Bratton, a professor in the College of Education, joined UNT in 1994 as an assistant professor in the College of Education. She was tenured in 2001 and promoted to full professor in 2010. Over the past 24 years, she has taught graduate courses with student evaluation scores consistently above the department mean — in a department with mean scores consistently above the college mean and in a college with mean scores nearly always above the university mean. 

As an author or co-author, Bratton has published more than 19 books, 29 book chapters and 31 national and five state journal articles. She procured 12 national, 24 state and 17 local external grants totaling over a half million dollars. As lead- or co-presenter, she presented 114 national, five regional and 27 state refereed conference presentations and 57 national/international, 44 regional and 27 state-invited professional presentations. Most of her publications, presentations and grants involved her mentorship of graduate — mostly doctoral — students. 

She served as chairwoman for more than 30 completed counseling PhD students and served on the dissertation committees of dozens more. For 10 years, she directed the counseling program’s Child and Family Resource Clinic and, since 2004, she has directed the program’s world-renowned Center for Play Therapy, overseeing several conferences each year, regularly publishing academic resources for researchers, and hosting international scholars. She has been honored with 17 national, one state and 12 local professional awards. 

 

Lyndal M. Bullock, Regents Professor Emeritus

Lyndal M. Bullock, regents professor in the College of Education, joined UNT in 1978 as an untenured full professor in the College of Education. He was tenured in 1981, remaining at the rank of full professor. In 1991, he was given the status of Regents Professor and he maintained this status until his retirement. 

During his tenure at UNT, he engaged in numerous scholarly activities including a significant number of refereed publications, leadership roles at the national and international levels through various professional association and regular invitations to present at national and international conferences. He also generated in excess of $16 million of external funding to facilitate research, program development, and support of graduate scholars. In addition to coordinating the specialization area of emotional/behavioral disorders in the Department of Educational Psychology and serving as principal investigator for numerous external grants, Bullock consistently taught a full teaching load, initiated recruitment plans for potential scholars, and served as faculty advisor and mentor to a large number of graduate scholars. 

Bullock served as the major advisor and dissertation chairman for 78 doctoral scholars during his tenure at UNT. In addition, he established a scholarship in the Department of Educational Psychology to help support the dissertation research of doctoral scholars majoring in special education.

 

William Cutright, Associate Professor Emeritus

William Cutright, associate professor in the College of Education, joined UNT in 2007 as an associate professor in the College of Education. Cutright focused his scholarship on the advancement of higher education in Africa, and in 2016 he was named a Fulbright Scholar to conduct this work in Uganda, supported by a UNT Charn Uswachoke grant.

Cutright's direction of the annual Texas Higher Education Law Conference, held at UNT each spring, is a substantial contribution to UNT and the higher education profession. First under his co-directorship, then under his sole directorship, the Page 283 of 299 conference draws an average of 250 higher education administrators each year from across Texas who seek to learn the most current information regarding legal aspects of their jobs. The conference has regularly generated more than $30,000 after expenses each year. Of this amount, Cutright has allocated at least $20,000 to support Higher Education student scholarships. 

Additionally, Cutright’s student evaluation scores were excellent. In a program that has one of the highest doctoral production rates at UNT, Cutright is tied with another faculty member for chairing the most dissertations to completion — at least 19 since 2010 when the department began keeping our own records. He has also served on numerous additional dissertation committees of completed doctorates.

College of Education Recognized for National Excellence in Educator Prep

The University of North Texas’ College of Education has received accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation for the school’s educator preparation programs.

The fall 2017 review by the CAEP Accreditation Council increased to 101 the total number of providers approved under the CAEP teacher preparation standards—rigorous, nationally recognized standards that were developed to ensure excellence in educator preparation programs. Since then, 46 other providers have been added to the list.

“As one of the many teacher preparation programs at UNT, we are proud that the Teach North Texas Program is not only accredited by CAEP but is also nationally recognized by our professional organizations, the National Science Teachers Association, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Association for Middle Level Education, for preparation of middle and high school, science and mathematics teachers,” said Pam Harrell, associate dean for administration and assessment in the UNT College of Education and co-director of the Teach North Texas Program. “The value of continual self-assessment and evidence-based analysis helps us to maintain a clear focus on the centrality of grades 4-12 learners as we examine our effectiveness as educators using rigorous standards designed to elevate the profession.”

The College of Education was an early adopter of the new CAEP standards for accreditation. Previously, the college was accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which has been replaced by CAEP.

CAEP accreditation covers about 30 educator preparation programs coordinated by the College of Education. The college coordinates these programs across seven of the colleges and schools at UNT

The focus of the CAEP review was on the quality of curriculum and coursework, the college’s collaborative relationships with partner school districts where students do their clinical practice and follow-up with graduates to ensure they are effective teachers in the schools and districts where they are employed.

CAEP is the sole nationally recognized accrediting body for educator preparation. Accreditation is a nongovernmental activity based on peer review that serves the dual functions of assuring quality and promoting improvement. CAEP was created by the consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. It is a unified accreditation system intent on raising the performance of all institutions focused on educator preparation. Currently, more than 800 educator preparation providers participate in the CAEP Accreditation system, including many previously accredited through former standards.

“These institutions meet high standards so that their students receive an education that prepares them to succeed in a diverse range of classrooms after they graduate,” said CAEP president Christopher A. Koch. “Seeking CAEP Accreditation is a significant commitment on the part of an educator preparation provider.”

Educator preparation providers seeking accreditation must pass peer review on five standards, which are based on two principles:

  1. Solid evidence that the provider’s graduates are competent and caring educators, and
  2. Solid evidence that the provider’s educator staff have the capacity to create a culture of evidence and use it to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs they offer.

If a program fails to meet one of the five standards or required components under the standards, it is placed on probation for two years. Probation may be lifted in less than two years if a program provides evidence that it meets the standard. Providers, seeking first-time accreditation, that do not meet one or more of the standards are denied accreditation.

"These providers should be very proud of the work they are doing. The profession has set a high bar with the CAEP Standards, and earning CAEP Accreditation validates the work educator preparation providers are doing to meet those standards,” said Kim Walters-Parker, Chair of CAEP’s Accreditation Council and high school teacher in Versailles, Kentucky. “Candidates in CAEP-accredited programs are investing in programs designated as nationally accredited for educator preparation.”

UNT's College of Education prepares students to contribute to the advancement of education, health and human development. Founded in 1890 as a teacher's training college, UNT now enrolls more than 4,500 students in the College of Education, which consists of four departments — counseling and higher education; educational psychology; kinesiology, health promotion and recreation; and teacher education and administration. UNT is one of the top producers of teachers, administrators, counselors, health professionals and other school professionals in Texas. Students are also prepared for careers as researchers, counselors, leaders, physical activity and health promotion specialists, child development and family studies specialists and more.

UNT shares SUCCESS with English language learners and families

 

The first year of a $2.7 million grant that gets University of North Texas’ College of Education working with teachers of English language learners in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District is in the books with a little help from Dean Randy Bomer.

The Title III National Professional Development Project SUCCESS is a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded to Rossana Boyd, director of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Program, as principal investigator and Ricardo Gonzalez-Carriedo, associate professor, as co-principal investigator. Both work in UNT’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

The partnership is about to wrap up the first year of the project benefiting 70 Latino families and about 100 English learners through the Latino Family Literacy Project.

Dean Bomer and Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD’s former Superintendent Bobby Burns recently handed out bilingual books for home libraries to parents participating in the project at a special event at Central Elementary School in Carrollton to celebrate the program.

The program’s focus is on working with parents on ways to help their children with literacy and biliteracy development and to establish a reading routine at home with their children.

Only about half of the parents speak English with Spanish being the dominant language at home.

Parents worked with the teachers at the schools for 10 weeks learning how to teach reading to their children in English and Spanish at home.

UNT also recruited 15 students pursuing teaching certification in bilingual education and English as a second language education to participate in professional development on how to develop culturally responsive lessons, alternative assessments, and how to use the state’s English language proficiency standards. They worked with 15 teachers in grades PreK-2 from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD to help plan and implement activities to guide Latino parents on how to help their children with literacy and biliteracy development.

“(UNT students) received scholarships to pay for tuition and fees for five courses, and they participated in 20 hours of professional development. These included working with the CFBISD teachers to teach families how to read to their children in English and Spanish,” Boyd said.

Boyd described the program as a unique opportunity for UNT students who normally don’t get to work with parents and community members until they are teaching. It also helps expose those students to parents for whom English is not their native language.

The grant also provided professional development to 20 content and dual language teachers, and six 3rd grade English Language Arts teachers. These last started their professional development through a literacy course offered by Janelle Mathis from the College of Education.

Boyd said they plan to repeat the same activities in year two of the project starting Sept. 1.

“But one activity that will be implemented in the fall for the first time by a cohort of 3rd grade teachers participating in a quasi-experimental study is small group instructional interventions for ELs struggling to read,” Boyd said. “Our evaluation team led by Dr. Darrell Hull, also from the College of Education, will collect student baseline reading performance data. They will use it to find out if after the teachers implemented the interventions the improved instruction for ELs resulted in higher student academic outcomes.”

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