UHD Bilingual Education: Quality and Quantity, Guaranteed!
By Hayden Bergman
Quality over quantity, the aphorism goes, intimating the unfortunate necessity to choose one or the other. Not so for UHD’s Bilingual Education program, as it is one of the largest producers of bilingual teachers in the Houston area while also far exceeding the state’s certification standards for Bilingual Education (the passing rate for such standards in 2021-22 was 53%, while UHD students achieved a rate of 83.1%). So, how does the University achieve both quantity and quality? Dr. Elizabeth Stackhouse, Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education in the Department of Urban Education (housed within the College of Public Service [CPS]) says it’s partly due to the fact that all UHD Bilingual Education students (and future teachers) “encounter active learning in every lecture.” Stackhouse said she wants students to not just receive knowledge, but to “demonstrate their understanding of content” by doing what are called “performance-based assessments,” tasks that require students to apply content knowledge to problem solving and analytical tasks.
UHD Bilingual Education students must also understand what their future students will experience—the difficulties and complexities of learning a new language, that is. To achieve this, Stackhouse’s students “work collaboratively to design a new language” that includes linguistic conventions found across languages and linguistic productions. This is complex, Stackhouse said, but worthwhile, as it gives her students the intellectual and emotional tools required for successful teaching, as they reflect on the cultural implications of their lessons while they craft instructional plans. Another benefit of active learning (and perhaps the most practical) is that all the activities UHD students are asked to do in class have the potential of being replicated or repurposed in their own classrooms once they graduate and enter the workforce. For example, active learning increases student interaction, an important factor for “developing oracy in a new language,” Stackhouse said. UHD students can in turn increase student interaction in their own classrooms, allowing their future students to improve not just their reading and writing ability, but their proficiency in speaking and comprehension as well.
So, the active learning emphasis accounts for the quality of teachers UHD produces—what about the quantity? Stackhouse attributes UHD’s leading status in teacher production to things like the immersive professional experiences students get in the field (in the classroom, that is), as well as the wraparound services that every prospective bilingual teacher receives. These services—weekly mentoring from UHD faculty, tutoring, and financial support for basic needs—combine to allow students to concentrate on becoming highly proficient teachers and, in turn, make UHD a university of choice for Houstonians looking to succeed in the teaching profession.
To support the Bilingual Education program, Stackhouse and Dr. Ron Beebe, Professor & Chair of Urban Education, Department of Urban Education, pursued a U.S. Department of Education Title V Grant for $2,588,121 over five years to help produce educators in key and underserved areas in the Houston area.
In short, UHD students leave the Bilingual Education program ready to make a difference, and just in time, too, since, according to the Texas Education Agency, 92% of students in Texas are Spanish-speaking, a number that could grow as the number of Hispanics in the state increases. For Stackhouse, “Being a good teacher is not good enough.” In Bilingual Education, there are a number of linguistic and cultural factors that must be simultaneously addressed, and so the teachers UHD produces must be excellent. Thanks to the emphasis on wraparound service and active learning, Gator graduates are just that.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.