First WT Students Completing Pilot Program Aimed to Improve Reading Education

Chip Chandler Jan 11, 2024
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First WT Students Completing Pilot Program Aimed to Improve Reading Education

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — Eleven future teachers will celebrate a milestone Jan. 12 as they complete classwork for a West Texas A&M University pilot program aimed at improving reading across the state.

The WT students, all senior education majors, officially will finish their coursework for the Texas Reading Academy and will be recognized during a Jan. 12 luncheon in Old Main on WT’s Canyon campus.

In 2019, Texas House Bill 3 established new requirements for Texas Reading Academies with the goal to increase teacher knowledge and implementation of evidence-based practices to positively impact student literacy achievement, said Dr. Judy Williams, associate professor of education in WT’s Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences.

The bill required all principals and kindergarten through third-grade teachers, including special education teachers, to attend a reading academy by the 2022-23 school year.

WT’s education preparation program was one of 10 programs across the state selected to participate in the pilot by TEA.

“We were honored to be selected to be a part of the first cohort of universities across the state to implement the Texas Reading Academies with preservice teachers,” said Dr. Betty Coneway, head of WT’s Department of Education and the Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education. “Being a part of the pilot provided WT the opportunity to provide the TEA with input about how to best implement the Texas Reading Academies within the university environment.”

Through the program, teacher candidates can complete 60 hours of professional development before graduating from college.

“By completing their TRA requirements before entering the classroom on their first day as a teacher, these 11 WT students will be in great demand in the job market,” Williams said.

WT partnered with Region 16 Education Service Center to develop the pilot program, working closely with Brenda Foster, assistant director of curriculum and instruction, and Brooke Barnes, education specialist.

“Brooke is a seasoned classroom teacher, and our students have benefited from watching her technique,” Williams said. “In addition to the 60 hours of class time, each of our 10 students are receiving four personal coaching sessions with Brooke, and having witnessed several of the sessions, I can attest to their value for a beginning teacher.”

The pilot program has offered both coaching and classroom observations, Barnes said.

“This is a great opportunity that allows districts to have teachers who are highly trained in the science of teaching reading which promotes critical thinking, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills that are so important to a student’s learning,” Barnes said.

House Bill 3 was enacted after the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress report card showed Texas ranking 46th in fourth grade reading proficiency. In 2019, NAEP showed that 64 percent of fourth and eighth grade students in Texas were below proficient in reading.

“We’ve seen great progress already since House Bill 3 went into effect,” Williams said. “In the 2022 NAEP report card, Texas had risen to 33rd in fourth grade reading proficiency. By preparing our future teachers through programs like this, that progress will only continue.”

To be selected for the pilot program, the WT students must have completed four education reading courses or be enrolled concurrently in the fourth course and the reading academy. Students must also be entering clinical teaching in the spring 2024 semester or enrolled in required courses taken the semester before clinical teaching.

The 11 students completing the reading academy include planned May 2024 graduates Makenna Anderson from Amarillo; Dakota Becker from Dimmitt; Yvette Garcia from Moreno Valley, California; Rileigh Gilley from Amarillo; Hanna Longbine from Amarillo; Ariana Nevarez from Amarillo; and Sydney Williams from Amarillo

Those planning to graduate in December 2024 include Catherine Finley from Trenton; Kinley Gilbert from Perryton; D'Ana Carreon Murguia from Amarillo; and Elaina Robinson from Amarillo.

WT opened in 1910 as West Texas State Normal College, a school that trained teachers. Today, about 75 percent of all teachers and administrators throughout the Panhandle region have at least one degree or certificate from WT.

Training educators is still a vital mission of the University, as laid out in its long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised more than $150 million.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.


Photo: Eleven West Texas A&M University senior education majors are finishing their coursework for the Texas Reading Academy, a pilot program aimed at better preparing future teachers in reading education. Pictured are, front from left, Makenna Anderson, Hanna Longbine, Yvette Garcia, D'Ana Carreon Murguia, Ariana Nevarez and Catherine Finley; and, back from left, Region 16 education specialist Brooke Barnes, Rileigh Gilley, Sydney Williams, Elaina Robinson, Kinley Gilbert and Dakota Becker.