Education Notes: TCC to roll out Weekend College program

TCC to roll out Weekend College program First-time-in-college students can earn an associate of arts degree in 18 months by taking courses only on the weekend through Tarrant County College’s new accelerated Weekend College cohort program. Weekend College, which TCC believes is the first program of its type in Texas, will be offered at its Trinity River Campus in downtown Fort Worth this summer. It will combine face-to-face and online courses to help students complete their associate degrees so they can get jobs quickly or transfer to a four-year institution. The program is designed for nontraditional students who work full time, are single parents or are dual-language. Beginning in the fall, a dual-language immersion cohort will be available for students who are bilingual but may be more comfortable with Spanish. Registration for summer classes, including Weekend College, runs from April 15 to May 20. The standardized course schedule will include all core classes as well as humanities, arts and sciences that make up the remaining requirements for an associate of arts degree. Students would only have to participate in regular registration for two pre-determined courses. A new cohort of 24 students will be launched every eight weeks.

EXXONMOBIL DONATES $9.7M TO HIGHER ED IN TEXAS Irving-based ExxonMobil and its employees are donating $9.7 million to 74 colleges and universities across Texas as part of the ExxonMobil Foundation’s 2013 Educational Matching Gift Program. The contributions mark an increase of 4 percent from a year ago. In 2013, ExxonMobil employees, retirees, directors and surviving spouses contributed $2.8 million, which was matched with $6.9 million in unrestricted grants from the foundation. Recipient schools are encouraged to designate a portion of the funding to math and science programs. Nationwide, close to 900 institutions received $44 million through the 2013 matching gift program, a 10 percent increase over the prior year.

TCU TRUSTEES APPROVE $547 MILLION BUDGET Texas Christian University’s Board of Trustees approved a $547 million budget at its April 11 meeting. The budget will provide a salary merit pool of 3 percent for faculty and staff, new faculty and staff positions, $1 million for faculty retention and creation of critical new faculty positions, $500,000 to implement academic initiatives and an increase in institutional financial aid. Trustees were informed that TCU completed the requirements set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for reaccreditation. SACS reaffirmed TCU’s accreditation for 10 years with no monitoring required. Trustees approved an exterior renovation of the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts. As part of the Academy of Tomorrow, the proposed modifications will change the façade of the building to be more consistent with the classical appearance of other campus buildings. Renovation is planned to begin in July and be completed in December. The estimated project cost is $2.5 million. The board also approved improvement to a data center in Sid. W. Richardson Hall. Under the plan, the backup data center, currently in the basement of Soloman and Etta Brachman Hall, will be relocated prior to the construction of the Greek Village. Construction on this phase will begin in June with completion planned for February 2015. The estimated cost for this phase is $8 million. The board passed a resolution to move J. Roger King and William E. Steele III to emeritus trustee status. The trustees also passed a resolution to move the following to emeritus status: Robert W. Boatler, emeritus associate professor of finance; Judith Groulx, emeritus associate professor of education; Charles B. Lockhart, emeritus professor of political science; Debra A. McLachlan, emeritus associate professor of nursing; Australia Tarver, emeritus associate professor of English; David L. Vanderwerken, emeritus professor of English; and James Woodson, emeritus professor of art.

CAMP FIRE SAYS REPORT SHOWS PROGRAMS BOOST SCHOOL READINESS The School Readiness program at Camp Fire First Texas is showing promising results, according to a “report card” the organization recently released. The program consists of 37 early education programs in 30 child care centers and seven child care homes across Fort Worth that are taking part in Camp Fire’s professional training, mentoring and curriculum development. The goal is to help children be better prepared to succeed when they enter kindergarten in the Fort Worth Independent School District. Camp Fire started the pilot School Readiness program in 2005 to improve classroom quality in early education and care facilities in targeted low-income Fort Worth neighborhoods. The program targets five areas of development: social/emotional, language, cognitive, physical and technological, and motivation to learn. In 2011 the program was deemed no longer a pilot program. The current evaluation report focuses on the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, during which time Camp Fire expanded the program to serve more children. Report card findings show that 100 percent of the family child care homes in the program maintained the quality standard. In all of the early education programs mentored by Camp Fire, the percent of infant/toddler and early childhood classrooms providing quality care more than doubled. When compared with kindergarten children who had not participated in the program, Camp Fire students scored 6.7 points higher in reading. In pre-K, more Camp Fire children met the “developed” criteria in physical development than did their counterparts. Also in kindergarten, more Camp Fire students met the “developed” criteria in general knowledge and in language and early literacy than did the comparison groups. Joseph A. Monteleone, executive director of The Morris Foundation, said the report card gives confidence that the program is working to improve children’s quality of education. “In addition, it makes economic sense to help minimize the number of students repeating a grade,” he said. “For example, 1,161 kindergarten through third grade children repeated a grade in one year. At roughly $7,400 per child, this costs taxpayers roughly $8.5 million, which could be put to better use.” Cheryl Mixon, Camp Fire program director, said the report card shows promising improvements in early childhood education in Fort Worth, “but we are far from done.” “The great news is that any ‘daycare,’ through proper training, mentoring and dedication, can transform themselves to be an early education center that excels in preparing children for kindergarten,” she said.

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DUAL-CREDIT ENROLLMENT SOARS AT CROWLEY ISD The partnership between the Crowley Independent School District and Tarrant County College to offer dual-credit classes to high school students is setting records. Dual-credit enrollment has increased 490 percent over the past four years with students enrolled in a combined 372 courses this school year through TCC’s Crowley South Campus Center. The TCC dual-credit classes are housed in Crowley ISD’s Bill R. Johnson Career & Technology Education Center. Students from Crowley High School and North Crowley High School can take dual-credit courses during the school day without having to leave the district. In addition to dual-credit courses, the TCC Crowley center offers workforce development, developmental education and continuing education opportunities.

BRITISH TUTORING COMPANY EXPANDS TO NORTH TARRANT AREA Explore Horizons, a British tutoring and enrichment company, has opened the first of two Dallas-Fort Worth locations in its planned expansion to the United States. A tutoring center opened in Colleyville on March 14 and a second is expected at Alliance Town Center in North Fort Worth later this summer. According to Alastair Dawe, head of U.S. operations, Explore expects to open one or two more centers in Texas by the end of 2014. The company’s ambitious rollout calls for 50 tutoring centers over the next five years, Dawe said. Founded in 2001 by a Cambridge University mathematics graduate, Explore Horizons provides tutoring and enrichment in math, reading and writing for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students. The centers are open after school, on weekends and during school breaks. Courses designed for Texas meet state-required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards. “We see Texas as a great place to start this concept,” Dawe said in a telephone interview. “We felt that the D-FW area was the perfect fit. Fort Worth is very vibrant. Fort Worth seems to be on the cusp of development and expansive growth. Many families are moving here. The economy is good, very strong.” Dawe said the wealth of universities and colleges in the area is a source for job recruitment and is a driving force for Explore’s growth.

BOYS & GIRLS CLUB/SAMSUNG OPEN TECH CENTER FOR KIDS The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth have partnered with Richardson-based Samsung Telecommunications America LLC (Samsung Mobile) to open a new Tween Tech Center at the North Fort Worth Branch, 2000 Ellis Ave. in Fort Worth. Designed by celebrity designer Carter Oosterhouse, the new center is stocked with the latest mobile devices for learning. The goal is to spark club members’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In addition to the center, Boys & Girls Clubs Fort Worth and 20 other clubs across the nation received custom STEM curriculum and ebooks on Samsung tablets to help kids meet education and literacy goals.

FORT WORTH ISD PRAISED FOR MUSIC EDUCATION The Fort Worth Independent School District received the NAMM Foundation’s Best Communities for Music Education designation. The district is one of 376 districts nationwide to receive the award. The award honors school districts that have demonstrated exceptional efforts toward maintaining music education as part of the schools’ core curriculum. “Our district and community have a rich tradition of nurturing musical talent,” said Superintendent Walter Dansby. “This award is validation on which to build as we begin planning for the Fine Arts Academy approved by voters last fall.”