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and science courses than before. They also spend three full
semesters working in about 30 schools that are part of the El
Paso Collaborative.
Federal funding will allow the college to offer a master’s
degree in educational technology to about 120 students over a
four-year period.
However, the work of preparing teachers is not confined
to the education faculty. Many faculty members from other
colleges, especially the College of Science and the College
of Liberal Arts, not only teach courses in the College of
Education but also help create and evaluate curriculum
materials and assist Collaborative schools in other ways.
Political scientist Kathy Staudt teaches a course titled
“Schools and Communities” in the College of Education.
“Fifteen years ago, no one from this department would have
done this but now it’s accepted, and I feel respected for what I
do,” said Staudt, who has taught at Texas-El Paso for 20 years.
“Many of our faculty—not all—have made a commitment
to help with the training of teachers for the local public
schools,” saidThomas Brady, dean of the College of Science,
who came to Texas-El Paso from the National Science
Foundation a year ago. “You don’t hear many saying, ‘That
isn’t what I was trained to do—let the ed school do it.’”
But some faculty members say exactly that. Some were
recruited by Texas-El Paso when enthusiasts were claiming it
would someday become “Harvard on the border.”They want
to teach and do research in their academic specialties; they do
not want to train teachers.
Another faculty complaint is that the El Paso
Collaborative brings in outside experts to work on local
school problems, ignoring local talent.
“In some parts of the campus, ‘Collaborative’ is almost a
dirty word,” said a mathematics professor who asked not to
be identified. “The attitude of the Collaborative people seems
once put it, “We believe all students can learn at higher levels, given the
opportunity.”
The Collaborative now works with about 50 schools, expanding
from the original three urban school districts (El Paso, Ysleta and
Socorro) to include nine smaller rural districts, Navarro said. The
emphasis has shifted from elementary to middle schools.
A $30 million grant from the National Science Foundation has
enabled the Collaborative
to train “coaches” who work
with individual schools to
improve math and science
instruction. Over the years,
additional financial support
has come from the Pew
Charitable Trusts, the Texas
Education Agency and the
Texas Higher Education
Coordinating Board.
A decade ago the
Collaborative faced
opposition from some UTEP
faculty members who argued
that helping local public
schools was not part of the university’s mission. UTEP officials now say
most of that opposition has melted away.
The faculty “is quite positive about what we have been able to
achieve,” President Natalicio said. “Even the skeptics are convinced
that this is the way to go in a university that draws so heavily on local
students.”
“Some junior faculty were apprehensive at first,” Pacheco observed,
“but feel they are more valued now, especially since some of them have
gotten tenure.”
“Working on K–12 problems is not a tenure requirement but it is
highly valued, not buried away in the ‘service’ unit,” said UTEP Provost
Richard Jarvis.
The Collaborative’s work with El Paso Community College “has
gone in a little different direction” in recent years, according to Dennis
Brown, vice president for instruction at the two-year college.
Disturbed by the large numbers of students who still required
remedial courses, especially in mathematics, when they arrived on
campus, the community college, along with UTEP and the three largest
school districts, introduced a placement test in the second semester
of the junior year in high school. Students who do well on the test are
placed in college-level classes as high school seniors. Other students
receive tutoring or other “interventions,” Brown said. As a result, the
number of students in remedial classes has dropped sharply.
El Paso Community College also has started two “early college” high
schools, where students take college-level courses. Some earn 20 to 30
credits toward a bachelor’s degree before enrolling at UTEP.
“All of this has happened because of the Collaborative,” Provost
Jarvis said. “The structure is simple—five or six people from the
university, the community college and the three large school districts
meet regularly” to plan and evaluate. “All this takes a lot of time,” he
added. “Collaborative relationships are extremely high maintenance.”
—WilliamTrombley
Every youngster at the H.D. Hilley Elementary School, a member of the El Paso
Collaborative, has an e-mail account, and all classrooms are connected to the
Internet.
The close cooperation
between leaders of
the two postsecondary
institutions and the
local school districts
appears to be one
reason for the success
of the Collaborative.