04:52 AM

UHD’s Department of Urban Education Makes the Grade for Teacher Preparation

Department Earns ‘A’ on NCTQ Report Card


By Mike Emery

The importance of elementary school teachers can’t be overstated. These educators are critical to the intellectual development of young students and serve as role models during their formative years.

Throughout the region, many PK-12 teachers are successfully helping students navigate new and dynamic curriculum in the classroom … and more recently, online ... as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Credit the University of Houston-Downtown’s Department of Urban Education (based in the College of Public Service) for effectively preparing these teachers for a changing educational landscape in the city’s schools.

Students and parents have certainly taken note of the quality of educators emerging from UHD, and so has the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The research and policy organization recently issued its latest report cards and UHD received an “A” for preparing its students in the area of classroom management.

UHD made the grade according to NCTQ’s “2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management,” a recent report acknowledging the success of teacher preparation programs across the nation. The report indicated significant progress in teacher preparation programs’ adoption of evidence-based classroom management strategies. According to NCTQ, UHD’s undergraduate program is among only 14 percent of elementary education programs that earned an “A,” and serves as a model of excellence for others.

“The Department of Urban Education is pleased to receive recognition for our work in preparing our teacher candidates in the area of classroom management,” said Urban Education Chair and Associate Professor Dr. Christal Burnett Sánchez. “The faculty within our program recognizes that classroom management is not just a set of rules and consequences, but rather an opportunity to increase equity in education. This belief is woven throughout our program and teacher candidates develop their approach to classroom management both in theory and in practice.”

Based in UHD’s College of Public Service, the Urban Education Department has long prepared its classroom-ready educators through its undergraduate and graduate programs. As of this fall, UHD became one of the first institutions in the state to reintroduce the Bachelor of Arts in Education as a degree offering.

“We appreciate the rating of ‘A’ in classroom management,” said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of the College of Public Service. “At the Department of Urban Education, we strongly value instruction as classroom management as a way to address racial bias in the classroom and combat the school to prison pipeline. In addition, our excellent faculty utilize a positive psychology approach to classroom management focusing on students co-creating classroom rules and emphasizing positive behavior versus breaking rules.”

The proof of UHD’s excellence in teacher preparation can be found in area school districts, including Channelview Independent School District, where alumna Alejandra Villareal recently earned the “Rising Star” award as a first-year teacher. UHD’s Urban Education Department, she said, helped prepare her for online, interactive teaching. Likewise, off-campus experiences working with children at the Wesley Community Center was invaluable to her development as an educator. She also cited courses such as Early Childhood Classroom, Early Childhood Learning Environment, and Aesthetic and Physical Development of Children as being particularly helpful in helping her develop classroom management skills.

“I absolutely use what I learned at UHD in the classroom here in Channelview, especially during the pandemic,” she said. “There are so many ways to make teaching interactive using technology. All of the practices I learned from the Department of Urban Education faculty have played a significant role in my first year as a teacher.”

The top-performing programs in NCTQ’s “2020 Teacher Prep Review” are recognized for requiring future teachers to demonstrate the following five classroom strategies during student teaching, residency or equivalent clinical practice:

  • 1. Establishing rules and routines that set expectations for behavior
  • 2. Maximizing learning time by managing time, class materials, and the physical setup of the classroom, and by promoting student engagement
  • 3. Reinforcing positive behavior by using specific, meaningful praise and other forms of positive reinforcement
  • 4. Redirecting off-task behavior through unobtrusive means that do not interrupt instruction and that prevent and manage such behavior
  • 5. Addressing serious misbehavior with consistent, respectful, and appropriate

“As any teacher can attest, engaging classes alone are seldom enough. We are heartened by the growing acknowledgment of the many benefits of building new teachers’ skills in these key strategies,” observed NCTQ President Kate Walsh.

Receiving an “A” is certainly a compliment for the department and its faculty, but the real reward is receiving kudos from partner school districts and alumni such as Villareal, who also is earning high marks from her peers and her students.

“UHD’s Department of Urban Education is very unique,” she said. “It offers so many opportunities to work directly with students even before you begin student-teaching. One of the things I learned is that building relationships with students is the most important thing we can do so they feel comfortable and want to come to school every day. UHD did an amazing job at teaching us diverse ways for us to connect with our students.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

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.