March 17, 2014

Texas Joins New National Educational Initiative, With Texas A&M A Key Partner

Texas A&M University had a key role in Texas becoming the 10th and newest state partner in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ “Liberal Education and America’s Promise” (LEAP) program and is projected to help provide leadership in its implementation.

More than 60 public and private colleges and universities have signed on to “LEAP Texas” as a means of providing a structure through which they can communicate, organize and develop plans and policy recommendations that address their common interests of student success and the improvement of higher education in the state.

Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies Ann Kenimer will serve as Texas A&M’s institutional LEAP representative.

“LEAP Texas provides Texas A&M an excellent platform for collaborating with higher education institutions across the state to share best practices and innovative processes that foster deep and meaningful student learning,” Kenimer said. “These collaborations will also strengthen our ability to assess student attainment and document the success of our educational programs.”

Association of American Colleges and Universities officials consider LEAP their signature national initiative.

“AAC&U is pleased to welcome LEAP Texas,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.

“AAC&U and Texas educators are aligned in our commitment to help all students achieve both broad learning about the world they inherit − through studies in science, humanities, the arts and the social sciences −and also the critical skills they need to help create solutions for our future.

“Given these shared commitments, we are delighted to work with LEAP Texas to ensure that Texas college students receive the best possible preparation for work, citizenship and flourishing lives.”

The LEAP Texas coalition has a common purpose and is committed to the fundamental principles of the LEAP initiative, state officials note.  They say Texas institutions are in a challenging context that includes multiple institutional structures and systems, an increasingly diverse and growing student population, increasing demands for accountability, the state’s new core curriculum for higher education, and a period of rapidly changing technology and globalization.

“Students at Texas higher education institutions must attain certain critical skills for future success in the workplace and throughout life,” said Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Strong communication, the ability to work well within a team, critical thinking skills, as well as other competences have been identified in the new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education as being crucial to success. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and LEAP Texas are aligned in our efforts to identify higher education learning outcomes that not only improve completion and productivity rates within higher education and the workforce, but also enhance and inspire the quality of students’ learning.”

Loraine Phillips, newly elected chair of LEAP Texas, said, “I am excited about the state’s new emphasis on delivering essential learning outcomes through the new core curriculum, and I look forward to working with faculty and others across the state in carefully considering the quality of student learning and attainment for higher education in Texas.”

Administratively, LEAP Texas is currently housed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Future administrative oversight will be guided by the elected leadership.

As with many states, the establishment of learning outcomes and their assessment are said to be critical expectations of Texas institutions, university systems and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education, developed by Texas faculty and administrators, updates the state-mandated academic core to ensure students receive the essential knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, in a career, and in life. With it expected to be in place by the fall of 2014, assessment of the core’s learning outcomes will be essential. As a result, LEAP Texas officials have discussed adopting authentic assessment of the new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education as its first large-scale collaborative project and establishing LEAP Texas as the leader for these assessment efforts.

LEAP Texas is committed to:

•Upholding the commitment of faculty across our various institutions to provide a strong educational foundation for an increasingly diverse student body — one that prepares them for work and citizenship in the 21st century, well aligned with stated goals of employers;

•Adhering to the required Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education, facilitating rigor and transferability, within a context of innovation;

•Responding to the increasing national focus on student learning outcomes; and

•Applying the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Moving forward, the LEAP Texas initiative will initially focus on three key areas:

1. Leveraging the newly redesigned Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education (largely informed by the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes) for the overall improvement in undergraduate education.

2. Creating a capacity for large-scale, inter-institutional collaboration in robust and authentic assessment.

3. Embedding high-impact practices in the undergraduate curriculum.

About LEAP

Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) is a national advocacy, campus action, and research initiative that champions the importance of a 21st century liberal education — for individuals and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality. LEAP responds to the changing demands of the 21st century — demands for more college-educated workers and more engaged and informed citizens. Today, and in the years to come, college graduates need higher levels of learning and knowledge as well as strong intellectual and practical skills to navigate this more demanding environment successfully and responsibly. Launched in 2005, LEAP challenges the traditional practice of providing liberal education to some students and narrow training to others. Through LEAP, hundreds of campuses and several state systems are making far-reaching educational changes to help all their students — whatever their chosen major field of study — achieve a set of Essential Learning Outcomes fostered through a liberal education.

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Media Contact:  Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4662

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