We talk about the Hispanic community in Texas as a minority, but that is not accurate when it comes to students. Hispanic students now make up 52% of the public school population in Texas, and 20% of those are identified as English Language Learners (ELLs). Based on recent trends, the state's population is expected to closely mirror that statistic in 2022, according to state demographer Lloyd Potter. The need for bilingual teachers is clear, and many teachers are required to get bilingual certification in order to retain their teaching positions in predominantly Hispanic communities. In many Texas communities, vacancies for bilingual teachers remain unfilled.
Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) has been preparing teachers for teacher and leadership programs since 1970. The TAMIU Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Bilingual Education program, introduced in 2009, was one of the first bilingual master's programs for teachers. This master's program is for educators who want to challenge the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (BTLPT).
Impact, Innovation and Internationalization
"If you want to learn how to be effective teaching in a Hispanic community, being prepared in a bilingual environment is the way to do it," according to Dr. James O'Meara, Dean of the College of Education at TAMIU. When teachers look like their students, "we call it demographic match … and this results in a higher level of student achievement."
The TAMIU teacher preparation program has an undeniable impact on student achievement in their 100-mile Zone of Impact (ZOI), preparing 100% of traditionally trained teachers. Dr. O'Meara reports that 80% of those teachers are still working in the TAMIU ZOI ten years after graduation.
TAMIU's teacher preparation program received a national Trailblazer Award for using data to inform every step of the student experience. Innovation is the driver behind the program, and has resulted in graduates of the College of Education exceeding state benchmarks for principal satisfaction ratings, employment within one year of graduation, and retention after five years.
In order to improve student outcomes in Hispanic-serving schools, TAMIU internationalizes educator preparation. The university is committed to preparing teachers who look like their students. The immersion experience of becoming bilingual educators who are taught in a Hispanic learning environment by Hispanic educators helps TAMIU graduates achieve success in the BTLPT without having to leave Texas.
Principals Give High Ratings to TAMIU Graduates
The latest Texas Education Agency (TEA) survey gauging school principals' satisfaction level with teacher preparedness gave high marks to graduates of Texas A&M International University's College of Education.
When appraising first-year teachers, 57 participating principals gave an 81% rating to graduates from TAMIU's College of Education. This is well above the state benchmark of 70% and the state average of 73%.
Dr. O'Meara attributes this success to the College of Education going beyond the state requirements in three key areas: partnerships, placements and preparation. In particular, he says the Educator Preparation program at TAMIU is distinctive because it prepares educators to achieve quality learning outcomes in Hispanic-serving school districts with some of the highest levels of economically disadvantaged, at-risk ELLs in the state.
"We've got a reputation for being very successful in preparing teachers for the BTLPT," says Dr. O'Meara. "We work exclusively with educators to achieve their goal with coursework, support, and exam prep."
Telephone Interview with Dr. James O'Meara, Dean, College of Education – Texas A&M International UniversityTexas Educator Certification Examination Program: Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (BTLPT)
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