AUSTIN, Texas —Sixty-six secondary school teachers from across Texas are participating in a month long summer institute June 5-30 at The University of Texas at Austin to learn how to better prepare their students for higher education. The teachers have come to the University campus from 34 different towns and cities in the state.
The chemistry, English and calculus teachers — who include those preparing students prior to Advanced Placement (AP) as well as those who teach Advanced Placement courses — will return to their hometowns and implement curriculum revisions and professional development for other teachers. UT Austin developed the institute because of the demand for an increase in content rigor of all math and science courses as well as the expansion of AP initiatives in Texas schools.
According to the U.S. Secretary of Education, only 49 percent of the nation’s high schools offer AP courses and only 10 percent take the demanding courses. The Texas Science and Technology Council also has recommended that all Texas students have greater access to AP coursework.
The Advanced Placement Program is sponsored by the College Board and offers 32 college-level courses and examinations in 19 different subject areas. Students completing AP courses and scoring a three out of five on the national AP exams receive college credit at a wide variety of Texas and national higher education institutions.
“The AP program has been shown to be an effective means of motivating students to prepare for college, and we want to encourage more students to participate,” said Raul R. Romero of Houston, a member of the UT System Board of Regents. Romero is chairman of the Regents’ Special Committee on Minorities and Women, which is working with system components to organize an AP program initiative. “Disadvantaged students deserve the chance to complete college-level course work, and to build the sort of credentials that will lift the education and life prospects of thousands of young Texans.”
There are compelling arguments for expanding the AP program across the state, said Dr. Mary H. Walker, project director for AP initiatives in the UT College of Natural Sciences. Such an expansion, however, requires an intensive, long time commitment to the professional development of teachers. “And, opportunities for university refresher courses in specific content areas have been extremely limited,” said Walker.
Participants will live on campus and receive three hours of graduate credit for the completion of the intensive coursework. In addition, they will receive a stipend of $1,000 and a lap top computer to use during and after the institute. They learn to design and maintain web pages that electronically link classrooms across the state and support a wide variety of telecomputing projects.
The courses are co-taught by university faculty and secondary school master teachers with experience preparing successful Advanced Placement students. In addition to deepening their content knowledge, the teachers also will have the opportunity to learn how to sharpen their research skills in their discipline.
“Since the teachers keep the lap top computers, they can stay connected when they return to their local schools around the state,” said Walker. “Through the use of telementoring, teachers continue to share successes and receive training in innovative practices by building their own learning communities in cyberspace.”
The ultimate success of UT’s Master Teacher Institute is determined “by the admission and retention at higher education institutions of a substantial number of students reflecting the full range of cultural diversity in Texas,” Walker added.
The Master Teacher Summer Institute is a collaboration of the UT Austin Colleges of Natural Sciences and Liberal Arts. “The institute is an important part of UT’s overall plan to work with our colleagues in secondary education for the improvement of Texas schools,” said Dr. Richard Lariviere, dean of liberal arts. “For the College of Liberal Arts, this is one of our highest priorities.”
Support for the program has come from various sources, including an individual donor and corporate partners. Microsoft Corporation has contributed technology training and software, and Siemens Foundation has contributed funds for computer equipment.
Participants in the English literature and composition session will investigate the current practices of scholarship at a research university, with the goal of expanding and refining the AP English curriculum in their schools. UT Austin professors will share successful strategies for reading and writing about English. Participants also will address the crucial need for cultural diversity in the AP curriculum, and will share strategies and materials during the institute. The English session will be co-taught by UT English Professor Dr. Kurt Heinzelman and AISD teacher Paul Sullivan.
Teachers participating in the chemistry session will explore several topics, including chemical bonding, thermodynamics and kinetics. The courses will include laboratory experimentation and field experiences. UT chemistry and biochemistry professors Alan Campion and David Laude and AISD chemistry teacher Leyla Cohlmia are teaching it.
Teaching the calculus session will be UT math professors Gary Hamrick and Efraim Armendariz and Nancy Gause of Cypress Springs High School in Houston. Participants will study topics of rates of change, accumulation, limits and modes of functions and graphing.