Educators Round-Up Advances New Texas Standards

ACC co-hosts conference with TEA, Coordinating Board

Taking on the landmark task of overhauling Texas academic standards, state, local, and regional education leaders are gathering at Austin Community College on October 30 for “The College & Career Readiness Regional Round-Up.”

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The event brings together up to 200 Central Texas educators to create teacher training to bridge the identified gaps between curriculum and standards that every school district must address. It is hosted by Austin Community College, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Education Agency.

“This is a massive undertaking with educational systems working together so all students can have a fighting chance at success once they finish high school,” says Gary Madsen, ACC P-16 director and Round-Up organizer. “People inside and outside of education have called for change, and that’s what we’re working toward.”

The Round-Up will focus on the new standards coming out of the state-mandated College and Career Readiness Initiative (CCR), which began in 2006 as part of the sweeping education legislation under House Bill 1.

Initial efforts identified skills and knowledge that students need when entering college or the workforce and began creating new standards to reflect the new information. Subjects under review include mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies, but educators are also looking at career and technical education.

The Round-Up will give high school teachers and college faculty an occasion to gather in person and strengthen their partnership on implementing the new standards, says Evelyn Hiatt, deputy assistant commissioner for P-16 initiatives at the Coordinating Board.

“Teachers and faculty will hear updates on state laws and discuss strategies for putting the standards to work in high school classrooms so students’ transition to college can be more seamless,” Hiatt says.

Madsen says a lot has been accomplished since ACC held its first CCR forum in 2008. Standards have been written, validated by college professors, and compared with the high school Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) assessments to identify content gaps. While the public reviews the results, state teams are working to produce instructional examples of how to close those gaps.

“School districts are taking a look at ways to integrate instruction starting at the high school senior level and working backward,” Madsen says. “What we’ll end up with is a seamless education system from kindergarten through the bachelor’s degree.”

The process, called “vertical articulation,” ensures that students have access to the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college-level freshman courses, in particular, but also in the workforce.

“Business and industry representatives told us they want these new standards for all students,” Madsen says. “At least some college is required in most of today’s workforce opportunities, but even careers that don’t require a college education still need the same level of academic preparedness coming out of high schools.”

Collaboration is especially critical because Texas students soon will be assessed on these new, more rigorous standards.

“High school students will be tested on College and Career Readiness for the first time in 2011 on their end of course exams,” Madsen says. “These exams will replace the TEKS testing in high school that year.”

State officials will use the Round-Up morning sessions to update participants on new legislation regarding college readiness accountability and vertical articulation. Afternoon sessions will bring together college faculty, Region Service Center XIII specialists, public school curriculum specialists, and teachers to identify and discuss solutions for closing the gaps between high school graduation and college entry standards.

“Secondary and post-secondary educators do not always speak the same language, and it takes considerable effort to bring both entities together to complete the task of preparing all students for college and career,” Madsen says.

Hiatt says the College and Career Readiness Standards are all about expanding opportunities for Texans.

“Students will have greater potential for success whether they choose to enter two-year, four-year or technical colleges, or they decide to work or enter the military before seeking future education,” Hiatt says. “And the state will benefit from a better-educated workforce that can help strengthen and expand the Texas economy.”

“The College & Career Readiness Regional Round-Up” is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, October 30, in the Multipurpose Room 8500 of the ACC Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Rd. For information contact Gary Madsen at gmadsen@austincc.edu.

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