Secretary of Ed's Report Gives High Rank to A&M International Teacher Prep Program

The Initial Report of the Secretary of Education on the quality of teacher preparation ranks Texas A&M International University's program 14th among 89 Texas colleges and universities having teacher preparation programs.

The ranking is the highest of all 9 of The Texas A&M University System's campuses and places A&M International above institutions like the University of Texas at San Antonio, Southwest Texas State University, the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University.

The Initial Report has been prepared for Congress as part of the Secretary of Education's focus on improving teacher preparation as re-authorized by the Higher Education Act in 1998.

In Texas, teacher certification and licensure is based on passage of the ExCET examination. At A&M International, 97% of candidates passed the ExCet, providing the state-wide ranking of 14. The Department of Education based its rankings on test results taken from the most recent academic year reported, 1997-98.

Dr. Charles Jennett, A&M International president, said news of the ranking is a powerful testament to the dedication of the University's College of Education program faculty and the University's overall commitment to its students.

"We consider teacher preparation a sacred charge here at A&M International. Futures and lives are shaped and molded in pre-K-12 classrooms. Teachers who lead these changes must do so at the highest level of professionalism. We are very proud of our commitment to our students and these ranking results clearly speak volumes for our faculty and our students," he explained.

Dr. Rosa Maria Vida, Dean of the College of Education, attributed the high ranking to a dedicated program of pre-qualification and rigorous review.

"We work closely with our students to qualify their mastery of areas. When deficiencies are identified, we have an array of review sessions and specialized coursework that can address those deficiencies. By the time the ExCET test is offered, they have mastered those deficiencies and are able to perform admirably on the test," she explained.

Jaime Ramirez, a senior originally from Del Rio who is completing his internship at United South Middle School, said he found his preparation by the University was right on-target. He'll graduate in May and has already signed his teaching contract with the United Independent School District.

"The professors work with you on a one-to-one basis. They've helped me tremendously. The quality of the professors is top-notch and they have a great deal of dedication. They set you up to succeed," he said.

Ramirez, who has a brother and sister who are also teachers, is planning to seek a graduate degree and eventually become a principal.

Patricia R. Perez, a senior completing her student teaching at Dr. Henry Cuellar Elementary School, concurred with Ramirez' appraisal.

"I've been very impressed by all my faculty here. If anyone is thinking of entering education, you will find the faculty here have an expertise and a passion for their field that inspires you to greatness. Ms. Teresa Hein, one of my instructors, has really inspired me. Her passion for teaching has rubbed off on me. I'm looking forward to the day when one of my students comes back to me and says 'you're the reason I became a doctor, you're the reason I became an astronaut...you made me believe in education,' " Perez said.

Perez, whose mother, aunts, husband and sister are educators, is also planning to pursue a graduate degree.

Dr. Vida said that although the Secretary's Report is initial, it clearly highlights the inherent complexity of teacher preparation, and the pressing need for national study of the issue and appropriate local response.

"Although the Report is initial, it underscores the complexity of the issue of teacher preparation, certification and licensure. Each State has different standards. There is no national standard and little national data is available for comparative studies.

"That said, it's clear that the issue of teacher preparation is of paramount national importance: we face the need to prepare a record number of teachers in the coming years. Here in Laredo alone, the need for qualified and certified teachers is a major concern with the opening of a record number of schools to accommodate our population growth," Vida said.

Vida said she hopes the Report also serves to bring about needed local, regional and national discussion about teacher preparation.

"This is an issue that we all need to be involved in. I'm hoping that the attention this Report brings will help to highlight the importance of teacher preparation and help encourage policymakers to seek a national commitment to improving all teacher preparation and certification," she added.

For additional information on teacher preparation programs at Texas A&M International University, please contact the College of Education at 326.2420.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu