College of Education

The graduate school of education ranks among the highest ranked public schools in the country, according to a new survey by U.S. News & World Report.
Photo Credit: Ethan Black | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Education is ranked among the top 10 graduate schools of education in the nation for 2016 because of its increased focus on research, according to a University official.

U.S. News and World Report released the schools ranked within the top 10 graduate schools last week, but they plan to post exact ranking on the website Tuesday. 

UT is one of only three public institutions among the schools listed on the U.S. News ranking. Last year, the University’s College of Education ranked 10th overall and fourth among public schools. This year, it is expected the University will rank tenth overall again and move up to third place among public schools, according to senior associate dean Marilyn Kameen.

Research is highly prioritized by both the college and U.S. News and World Report officials, according to Natasha Beretvas, associate dean for research and graduate studies. 

“The more money we are spending on research, the higher the ranking,” Beretvas said. “The total research expenditures makes up 15 percent [of the ranking], but then the research expenditures per faculty member are also 15 percent, so it’s, like, double-dipped.”

The College of Education’s research expenditures have increased almost $10 million from last year, according to Kameen.

“We’re number two in the country in research expenditures for the college,” Kameen said.

Over the past year, the college has focused its research on a variety of areas, including educational psychology, teacher retention rates and racial identity in the classroom. 

For Patrick Vincent, educational psychology graduate student, the education college’s research influenced his decision to attend UT for graduate school. Many other schools lack research opportunities, which makes UT’s College of Education stand apart, according to Vincent.

“Some of the programs that I interviewed at … didn’t seem like they were at the front of all the research and understanding where the field was headed,” Vincent said. “It’s more about just creating people to go out into the workforce. Research is actually being conducted [extensively] in this department.”

The main difference in ranking between public and private institutions is based on the availability of funding, Kameen said. Private schools are wealthier because of endowments, whereas public schools such as UT rely on grants and state funds, she said.

“It’s important to emphasize the distinction between a ranking among all public and private [universities] and then what our ranking is among public universities since they’re so different,” Kameen said. “We really compare ourselves to the public universities because that’s our peer group.”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Shared Services, a plan to centralize the University’s human resources, information technology, finance and procurement services, will be implemented differently in future pilot programs as a result of feedback from the first round of voluntary implementation. 

After months of discussion last spring, Shared Services’ implementation was scaled down to a few pilot programs in the College of Education and the Provost Portfolio, an administrative unit that oversees academic and professional areas in the University. The scaling down of the program was a result of recommendations made by the Shared Services Steering Committee. In February 2014, the Committee released a report calling for the University to conduct a pilot version of Shared Services so administrators would have more information about the effectiveness and impact of the program before rolling it out to the entire campus.

Now that pilot programs have been active for one long session, administrators are working to see what has gone well — and what could be going better. Jamie Southerland, associate vice president for Shared Services and Business Transformation, said the College of Education’s pilot program revealed issues as the semester went on.

“As the fall progressed, it became clear that the academic units involved in the pilot did not desire to reduce [their own] cost and/or administrative staffing, and therefore Shared Services offered no benefits to the units,” Southerland said.

To remedy this problem, administrators will recruit departments with a more active interest in implementing the pilot program’s services.

“We are also exploring the idea of offering services that any campus department could opt-in to,” Southerland said. “We know that there are processes that no one is happy with. We are in the process of determining how we can combine re-engineered processes into a service that campus finds valuable.”

Although groups such as the UT Save Our Community Coalition insisted that Shared Services would result in mass layoffs, one year after the pilot programs began, no jobs have been terminated, Almasy said.

“I think we’re now at the very least a year, if not two years, from when this discussion began, and there have been no layoffs or firings,“ Almasy said.

University officials are now looking for another department or college willing to implement a pilot program in order to collect another round of data.

“We are in conversations with other departments who are exploring a move to Shared Services, but we are not in a position to announce anything yet,” Southerland said.

Radio-television-film senior lecturer Anne Lewis said the University’s small-scale attempts at using Shared Services have not succeeded.

“It [has been] a miserable failure,” Lewis said. “It just didn’t work well when they tried to merge so many functions — so many individual functions, that served provost or faculty, into one kind of automated system.”

Southerland said the Provost Portfolio experience with Shared Services was a positive one.

“Thus far, the Provost Portfolio has been pleased with the quality of service from both the [Central Business Office] and [Academic Technology Support],” Southerland said. “They estimate that the switch to Shared Services has saved more than $1 million annually, most of which has already been reinvested in academic programs across the campus.”

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.”

After receiving harsh criticism from some students, faculty and staff members during the 2013-2014 school year, Shared Services has made some changes.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, said the pilot programs in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the College of Education look vastly different than the original Shared Services Plan first introduced to the UT community almost a year ago. 

The original Shared Services Plan, presented by the Shared Services Committee in October 2013, called for the elimination of 500 jobs and the centralization of University services such as finance, human resources and information technology services.

“The initial concept that we presented to campus was, ‘Let’s build a center, and, eventually, it’s going to have 500 people to provide all those services, and it’s probably going to be off-campus,’” Hegarty said. “That’s no longer the vision.” 

The Shared Services Committee held open forums on campus after releasing its plan for faculty and students to discuss and ask questions about the implementation of the program.

Hegarty said after engaging in these discussions, the committee decided to study different versions of Shared Services already being implemented by the McCombs School of Business and the College of Liberal Arts. After reviewing the results of these two programs, Hegarty said two pilot programs were created in the provost’s office and the College of Education.

“The implementation team went in and studied the provost’s portfolio,” Hegarty said. “[They] studied the College of Education, and they divided the implementation of Shared Services — what units get brought into the Shared Services center. We call it the Central Business Office, the CBO.”

The CBO, now located in the UT Administration Building on Guadalupe Street, used to be made up of small groups of people located in various offices on campus. Previously, the CBO provided services to small units, including the Office of the Vice President for Legal Affairs and other organizations that could not afford to have large staffs. 

Hegarty said the CBO began offering its services to the College of Education and the provost’s office about six to eight weeks ago, after the smaller offices merged into one.

While the provost’s office has seen positive results, Hegarty said some departments in the College of Education have been disappointed with the services they have received from the CBO.

“We knew purchasing volume rises dramatically in August, and we knew that in the first 12 days of class, there are a lot of [human resources] transactions going on — appointments of faculty and appointments of staff, etc.,” Hegarty said. “While we tried to staff up ahead of that, we didn’t have enough staff. The service levels came down below quite honestly what CBO expected and certainly below what the college had expected.”

Hegarty said, since this occurrence, the College of Education asked his office to no longer expand the school’s services to the responsibilities of the CBO until quality of service levels are back up to speed. According to Hegarty, there have been no layoffs as a result of Shared Services. 

“Where a position has been displaced, we’ve been able to offer an opportunity in the CBO or elsewhere on campus to make sure that person lands on their feet,” Hegarty said. 

According to a report by the College of Education, male students of color have lower rates of academic success in community college than their white counterparts, even though the students of color have higher aspirations.

The Center for Community College Student Engagement released its findings from the two year study “Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges,” after surveying students from 900 different community colleges throughout the nation and holding a series of focus groups involving students and faculty.

Center Director Kay McClenney said students she spoke to said they wanted more out of their college. She said these students voiced concerns about feeling like they belonged, having faculty who believed in their potential and who are enthusiastic in the classroom. McClenney said they also wanted learning experiences more engaging than lectures, and wanted to be challenged with higher standards.

“Many of them honestly come saying that the expectation that people held for them in high school were somewhere between zero and low and that often they were given the message that they weren’t going to make it: They weren’t college material,” McClenney said. “They want people to hold high expectations of them and believe that they are capable of rising to those high expectations.”

According to the study, students of color engage in their college community more than their white counterparts, but a large portion of the inequalities in success come from college readiness. Because of this, McClenney said, more community colleges have begun to offer classes for study skills and time management.

While college readiness can be an issue, electrical engineering junior Walter Oji said he had an overall positive experience at Houston Community College and transitioning to UT, and was surprised with the findings in the report.

“It wasn’t too difficult, but I still learned a lot and basically; all the teachers were nice,” Oji said.

Oji said he experienced a wide gap in the level of difficulty between his classes during community college and those at UT.

“The classes that were really technical and science based didn’t really prepare me for UT at all,” Oji said.

McClenney said students of color also face stereotyping and racism, some of which is unintentional, and colleges need to address the problem on a larger scale than is currently being done.

“A big part of the problem is that every college, including The University of Texas, has special programs for students of color … mentoring programs or the like and there are very small numbers of students involved in those programs relative to the target population.”

According to professor Laura Rendon from the College of Education and Human Development at UTSA, financial problems and, in some cases, being the first in the family to go to college have a huge factor on the academic success males of color achieve.

“[They face] navigational problems, institutional problems, cultural problems and so these becoming exacerbated for men of color because oftentimes they have other competing demands,” Rendon said. “For example, they may be the man of the household when the father leaves, they have to help the family survive by taking on full-time jobs. These are very vulnerable first-time, low-income students and are vulnerable in the sense that there is so much they have to deal with that anything in college can set them back from moving forward and completing their degrees.”

Latino graduation rates and college engagement will be a new focus of the College of Education after The Kresge Foundation and the Greater Texas Foundation awarded the program two grants totaling $437,000. 

The research will aim to develop an action plan to address the low transfer-rate of Latino students from community colleges to four-year universities and the challenges Latino students face when they transfer. The research will be conducted by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Administration and will analyze data from CCCSE surveys and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

Kay McClenney, the director of the CCCSE, said all students face challenges when they transfer from community colleges to four-year universities but those challenges are “exacerbated with subgroups of students who are more likely to be first-generation college students, more likely to have graduated from high schools with inadequate counseling support, [and] more likely to rely on financial aid.”

McClenney also said Latinos face additional problems when they transfer to universities that are less ethnically diverse than their community colleges.
“Attention needs to be paid to matters involving cultural heritage and identity, so that students can quickly come to feel that they are socially, as well as educationally, connected with their college,” McClenney said. 

While the CCCSE and the NSSE have been providing universities and community colleges with data for years on these issues, this latest project increases the emphasis on pairs of universities and community colleges between which many students transfer.
Angela Valenzuela, a professor in the College of Education and the director of the Texas Center for Education Policy, said it is important to identify the achievement gap as an “opportunity gap” rooted in underpriviledged circumstances. Valenzuela and McClenney both identified financial circumstances and poor schools earlier in Latino students’ lives as causes for this gap. 

Biology senior Daniel McFarlane, Transfer Student Association president, said the transition to the University is a “complete culture shock” for transfer students.

“It’s like going from 13th grade to an entirely different world,” McFarlane said. 

McClenney emphasized the importance of the research saying that the issue needed serious attention. 

“In Texas, our future — in terms of both fiscal prosperity and societal health — truly depends on our commitment to ensure that much larger numbers of Latino students progress successfully through the public school system, through the community colleges and on to completion of a baccalaureate degree,” McClenney said. 

“Alien Rescue,” a game set in a science-fiction world designed by a UT professor for sixth graders, is working to educate students on space science. 

“Alien Rescue” is created by Min Liu, a professor in College of Education with support from the McDonald Observatory. According to Prof. Liu, “Alien Rescue” is an immersive multimedia-enhanced problem-based learning (PBL) environment for space science. It is designed for sixth graders to learn science by providing educational video games.

Liu said “Alien Rescue” serves a part of the science curriculum and may play a crucial role in sixth graders' science performance.

“Numerous research studies […] have shown sixth graders’ science knowledge scores increased after using it and they are highly motivated in using it,” Liu said 

Mary Kay Hemenway, a researcher at McDonald Observatory, said the goal of “Alien Rescue” is to help students learn basic science in many areas.

“Science affects their lives in so many ways, and as citizens, they will be asked to make decisions based on logic, reason and their scientific knowledge,” Hemenway said. “Science can be an awarding subject just for its own sake.”

Graduate students in the College of Education’s Learning Technology program are also using “Alien Rescue” for research.

Lucas Horton, a doctoral student working for the center, said through this project, students explore theories related to teaching and learning.

“It allows students to get a first-hand view of how instructional innovations can be designed and used, […] and understand how to best design learning environments,” Horton said. “It allows us to explore the relationship between theory and practice in ways that are very tangible.”

Horton said the work on “Alien Rescue” encourages people to use it.

“I expect that Alien Rescue will continue to be a useful tool for teaching space science. At the same time, we will continue to learn from our experiences in sixth grade classrooms to refine and expand the program to make it an even more robust and useful tool for learning,” he said.

Follow Gefei Liu on Twitter @gefeiliu. 

UT’s College of Education has maintained the top spot among public institutions according to the 2013 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings.

The annual report ranked the graduate program at the College of Education number one nationally among public schools and third overall. UT is one of the three public schools in the top 10 nationally, with UCLA coming in at number six and the University of Oregon coming in at eighth. This is the second year that the College has been ranked number one.

Marilyn C. Kameen, senior associate dean of the College of Education, said the high ranking is due to the College’s strength in several important areas.

“The dramatic increase in research expenditures from research grants, high quality doctoral programs that have high admission standards and our national reputation of our academic programs, as evaluated by deans of education across the country, have contributed to the rise in rankings,” Kameen said.

The College of Education’s research funding program was also ranked number one for the fifth year in a row. The college received around $64 million for research this last year. Two departments within the college, Administration/Supervision and Special Education, were ranked in the top 10 overall.

“These rankings showcase the work of our faculty and the fact that they have been found to be of high quality,” said Herbert Rieth, chair of the special education department. “It also shows that our students are highly motivated and are hard workers.”

Since the start of the U.S. News & World Report rankings the College of Education has always been in the top 20 public rankings for its graduate program, rising from 18th to first among public universities and from 27th to third overall.

UT is ahead of nationally respected private and public schools such as Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley and University of Michigan.

“It feels great to be a part of a school that is so highly ranked in the nation and it is a definitely something that motivates me to succeed,” said exercise science freshman Rachel Gonzalez.

Printed on Monday, March 26, 2012 as: College of Education ranks high among top US schools

Vice President of Student Affairs Juan González announced that he will no longer serve in an administrative capacity so he can focus on teaching in the College of Education.

According to his email announcement, González held the position for six years and served in the same role at four other universities.

“I plan to take that experience into the classroom to help prepare our next generation of university leaders,” he wrote in the announcement.

González said his favorite part of serving as vice president for Student Affairs has been to witness the four-year process students go through.

“You get to know them well enough to see the transformation. Their energy, their ideas have been just phenomenal,” González said

González said he’s looking forward to being in the classroom because he would like to “help new professionals prepare for their careers.”

For the past five years, González has taught classes for the Higher Education Administration Program in the College of Education.

“I’ve been at the forefront of many, many changes in the field and I’d like to write about those,” González said.