New TAMIU Literacy Center Expansion Made Possible by LBV Grant

New TAMIU Literacy Center Expansion
Made Possible by Lamar Bruni Vergara Grant

An expansion of a highly successful Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Literacy Enrichment Center  (LEC) program for elementary school students that strengthens reading and writing skills will happen thanks to a generous grant totaling  $300,000 from the Trustees of the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust.

Joe Martin III, Dr. Phil Roberson, James H. Pearl, Dr. Ray Keck, Melissa Shinn, Dr. Conchita Hickey, and Rosalba Martínez

New TAMIU Literacy Center Expansion Made Possible by
Lamar Bruni Vergara Grant

Trustees from the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust on Wednesday announced a generous grant totaling $300,000 that will enable the expansion of the Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Literacy Enrichment Center program. The LBV Grant will expand the existing program to three additional partner schools in both Laredo and United Independent School Districts aside from those already existing at Henry Cuéllar Elementary School and Honoré Ligarde Elementary School. The LEC strengthens reading and writing on elementary campuses by pairing elementary school students with TAMIU teacher candidates in a supervised one-on-one tutoring experience. Pictured left to right are: Joe Martin, III, Trustee, Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust; Dr. Phil Roberson, TAMIU College of Education clinical associate professor and coordinator of assessment and special projects; James H. Pearl, Trustee, Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust; Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president; Melissa Shinn, Henry Cuéllar Elementary School principal; Dr. Conchita Hickey, TAMIU University College dean; and Rosalba Martínez, Honoré Ligarde Elementary School principal.

Trustees Joe Martin, III and James H. Pearl, said the expanded funding is in keeping with the Trust’s mission and values.

“We are delighted to be able to make the expansion of this deserving program possible. It exemplifies one of our primary values: the importance of education in our community.  The program’s successes to date are impressive and we look forward to seeing this grow exponentially,” said Trustee Martin.

TAMIU program director Dr. Philip Roberson, a TAMIU College of Education clinical associate professor and coordinator of assessment and special projects, said the program was first piloted in 2011 at Henry Cuellar Elementary School. The Trust’s initial start up grant in January funded a second LEC at Ligarde Elementary School, serving 31 students this spring. To date, the Cuellar and Ligarde LECs have served over 320 students. 

“Initial results among students served in both Cuellar and Ligarde schools provide strong evidence of success. Teachers report that students typically show marked improvement in motivation, self-esteem, and reading level. The school-based LEC provides sustained intervention to the school’s most challenged readers, a one-on-one experience that simply cannot be provided during the school day by the classroom teacher,” Dr. Roberson explained.

He described LECs as public school-based reading clinics that use a literacy intervention model first piloted in Nashville, TN by Dr. Tammy Lipsey.  Nashville public schools now host 32 reading clinics. Research-based best practices in literacy instruction are utilized in the program, under the supervision of TAMIU College of Education faculty members.

Roberson said the Trust’s expansion of its Grant would allow the LEC program to impact more students at additional sites.

“The LBV Grant expansion will allow us to establish LECs in three additional partner schools this summer and fall. In addition to Cuellar and Ligarde LEC’s, Killam and Zaffirini Schools (United Independent School District) will host LEC’s beginning this summer, and Macdonell School (Laredo ISD) will host the second LISD LEC this fall.  Additional partner school LECs are anticipated in 2016 and 2017.  Expansion of the model to additional schools in coming months and years will require the recruitment and training of tutors beyond TAMIU, to include Laredo Community College students and others from the greater Laredo community,” Roberson explained.

He said the model program benefits future TAMIU educators as well as elementary students by giving them supervised one-on-one experience with a struggling reader.

“The model is a ‘win-win’ for future educators at TAMIU and the elementary students they tutor. Further, the tutors provide significantly positive role models for the students tutored. Teachers consistently report positive gains in student motivation as well as reading, writing, and overall academic gains.

Roberson said strong partnerships between the University and the campuses it serves are crucial.

“The partnership agreements between TAMIU and each school district have the overall goal of improving teaching and learning in Laredo. By strengthening reading and writing skills for Laredo’s most challenged schools and students, the partnership is committed to overall school improvement. To that end, in consultation with the TAMIU partnership director, each partner school district selects the schools to be added to the literacy partnership based on school demographics and the identified need for literacy intervention. Likewise, school principals and literacy interventionists select the students most in need of one-on-one intervention in the LEC. Most students served in Cuellar and Ligarde LECs thus far have been first, second, and third graders.“ Roberson explained.

He said the partnerships are augmented by direct support to the LEC’s by TAMIU College of Education faculty.

“The TAMIU literacy partnership director and other reading faculty members provide direct support to the school-based LECs. Selection, training, and supervision of tutors is provided by these program leaders. Additionally, the LBV Grant provides funding for fulltime professional staff positions, responsible for managing the partnership and providing direct support to the LECs and the literacy interventionists in the partner schools. Maintaining the fidelity of the intervention model is essential to the success of the partnership. Promoting best practices in classroom literacy instruction is a secondary goal,” he noted.

Dean of the TAMIU College of Education, Dr. Catheryn Weitman, said the future is indeed bright for students impacted by the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust-expanded literacy partnership program.

“We anticipate that long-term performance data on participating students will show that the support provided by TAMIU tutors consistently leads to overall academic success. We hope someday to see LECs in all Laredo and Webb County schools and would be truly excited to help guarantee that reality,” Dr. Weitman said.

The Lamar Bruni Vegara Trust was established in 1989. The legacy of its namesake continues through the enhancement of the Catholic Church, educational and health institutions, and numerous local social services organizations.

For additional information on the TAMIU Literacy Enrichment Center Program, please contact Dr. Roberson at 956.326. 3155, visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, Suite 417 or email philip.roberson@tamiu.edu

University information is also available online at tamiu.edu/coedu and on the University’s social media sites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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