Follow-Up to the 2015 Smith County 2015 Education Report, by JD Meyer

The Smith County 2015 Education Report by Tyler Partnership for Education was held on Tuesday, October 20 at the Rose Garden–starting with an address by Mayor Martin Heines. This unprecedented collaboration between various groups–including all local school districts–has the goal to increase post-secondary education credentials in this part of East Texas. Unfortunately, poverty reduces chances for success and Tyler, the county seat, and Chapel Hill are doing the worst for childhood poverty in Smith County. As a former teacher, who taught in all grades at least as a substitute, a Developmental English instructor at the college level for ten years, and an ESOL teacher of all ages, I’m in a unique position to share my observations. Most of this article analyzes the dominant occupation clusters of Smith County/Tyler, such as the College/Hospital industry, in an effort to find pathways to build the middle-class.

A Proposal for Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) Strategy #1

My initial reaction was to recycle my publication about Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) at the University of Texas at Austin from 2010 as a solution to Tyler’s Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) Strategy #1: Increase money generated per college student. The IE program has special popularity with minorities and first-generation college students. Moreover, Tyler has a branch of the University of Texas and a global education program–GATE. As you’ll notice from the URL, my article found a home at the University of Toronto’s Creative Class website, directed by Dr. Richard and Rana Florida.

Apprenticeships: Not Just Degrees & Certifications

Post-secondary education isn’t limited to degrees or certifications; apprenticeships are a time-honored alternative. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed an executive order in 2013 for state agencies to consider contractors that participate in accredited apprenticeship programs or hire in high-unemployment areas.

Furthermore, I suspect most apprenticeships are more hands-on and shorter to complete than certifications and degrees, so teens from poverty may be more likely to complete them. Upon reading this article, Dr. Bich-May Nguyen, M.D. (and Harvard Master’s in Public Health Policy) messaged me through Twitter, “I think supporting apprenticeships can help some young adults into occupations that can’t be outsourced and without as much debt.”

The Education & Medicine (“Eds & Meds”) Economy: Colleges & Hospitals: Pros & Cons

Lately, I’ve been investigating the “Eds & Meds” (Education & Medicine) concept of economic development–the hallmark of Tyler, Texas. Sure enough, the results for this model are mixed, as it’s not a panacea, particularly in mid-sized cities without much research.

But let’s start on a positive note: the new physical therapy assistant program at Tyler Junior College. “Texas is the second largest employer of physical therapy assistants in the nation. There is a large utilization of physical therapy assistants in the area and definitely job opportunity,” Dr. Christine Melius, TJC department chair and program director, said.

In “Where Eds and Meds Could Become a Liability,” by Richard Florida, Dr. Florida notes the rise of the MOOC on-line college courses, as well as cost-efficient big hospitals in larger cities being a draw for Wal-Mart as a place to send its sick employees.

In an earlier article, “Why Eds and Meds Alone Can’t Revitalize Cities,” Richard Florida warns about the skyrocketing costs of health care and education. Furthermore, regions with larger population of the elderly have a greater demand for health care, so there are more health care occupations and less workforce in other productive activities. Isn’t Tyler a Senior Welcoming City? Dr. Florida cites Charlotta Mellander whose studies showed the fields associated with greater economic prosperity: (1) business and management, (2) science and technology, and (3) arts, design, media, and entertainment. Could this indicate that there are lots of CNA’s cleaning house for the elderly at minimum wage in some cities?

On the other hand, Dr. Florida points out big cities that can thrive with Eds & Meds: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston (biotech firms), and Houston–home of the world’s largest medical center. The shift to education and medicine was understandable with de-industrialization, suburbanization, and the aging American population.

Aaron M. Renn goes further on the downside in “The End of the Road for Eds and Meds” by pointing out that hospitals are typically non-profits that don’t contribute to a city’s tax base while he also notes that college prices are spiraling upward out-of-control.

I saved the best “Eds and Meds” efforts for last! The Cleveland Foundation is an initiative that helps local residents “become owners of new businesses that serve a cluster of hospitals, universities, and cultural institutions on the city’s struggling East Side, including the famed Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.” The Cleveland Foundation collaborates with Ted Howard of Democracy Collaboration at the University of Maryland to create the Evergreen Cooperatives: (1) Cooperative Laundry (environmentally friendly), (2) Green City Grower Cooperatives (giant greenhouse for vegetables/fruit), and (3) Evergreen Energy Solutions (photo-voltaic panels and weathering improvements). I should recycle an article of mine on Urban Gardens (relevant to Cleveland #2), and it has lots of links Plus, I’m sentimental about this article because it began with my interview of a middle school teacher who was visiting a sick relative, also in intensive care like me. I had an extra bad COPD exacerbation before my Medicare/Medicaid era.

Furthermore, the University of Maryland Democracy Collaborative has developed the Anchor Dashboard It identifies twelve areas where anchor institutions can help low-income areas. Hospitals and universities spend more than $1 trillion/year and employ 8% of the population, but risk leading to “gentrification and subsequent displacement.”

Oil & Gas Production

However, let’s not oversimplify the Smith County economy as just “Eds & Meds,” for oil and gas production is a significant employer too, according to “Counties with Highest Concentration of Employment in Oil and Gas Extraction.” Only 21 states have counties with twice the location quotient (over 1), an industry’s share of employment in the oil/gas industry. Five of the ten biggest counties are in Texas. Washington County, Oklahoma is in first place with 139.8 while Upton County, Texas at 126.9 is in second place. Both Smith County, Texas and neighboring Gregg County (Longview–county seat) have a 5.1 quotient–solid if not spectacular.

Hospitality Industry (Restaurants & Hotels)

The hospitality industry–restaurants and hotels–is really strong in Tyler too. Restaurants seem to follow an “Eds & Meds” economy. Moreover, restaurants are getting more popular as a national trend. Fewer people know how to cook, and home economics courses have been discontinued, observes a chef at The Cork. Tom Mullins, Director of Tyler Economic Development Council, notes that restaurants do especially well in Tyler. Nationwide in the past year, restaurant sales have increased 8.5% while grocery sales have gone up only 2.8%.

When Tyler finally went damp in December 2012, the beer and wine sales helped the economy and many local businesses, while bringing and estimated $440,000/year in sales tax revenues.  Moreover, DWI charges plummeted 46% in two years with fewer people driving to Winona, Kilgore, and Coffee City. Tom Mullins observed that the new southermost shopping center–The Villages at Cumberland Park–probably wouldn’t have been built because the World Market is its anchor, a beer/wine seller. It was tougher to attract businesses and entrpreneurs to a dry city. Attracting conventions and conferences is also easier because special permits for a hospitality room are no longer required.

Few Tyler businesses, if any, hit the jackpot like Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q. Already highly regarded for its food, alcohol sales with live bands in a much larger building led to an increase in sales of 145% in 2013 over the previous year–a total of $2.5 million. Owner Nick Pencis was named the Small Business Association (SBA) Dallas-Fort Worth District Small Business Person of the Year in 2014

Home Construction

Tyler and Smith County is enjoying a home construction boom, despite the national dip, ever since 2008 when the economic recession ended, according to Tom Mullins—Director of Economic Development. Texas overall is issuing thousands more building permits than California and Florida. It’s a situation that brings in high-skill jobs. Prices for land and homes are less expensive as well. Nevertheless, there’s less development in local rural areas. .

“Demand is on the rise—especially for high-end homes ($300K +)–but housing inventory is dwindling, creating a tremendous opportunity for builders in East Texas.” The average new house in Tyler sells for $238K. The median days for a new house on the market is only 42 days, the lowest in 20 years and under half the ten-year median average of 90 days. Thanks go to Wes Hart for alerting me to the home construction boom.

Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary (BALAV): Improving in English through Cognates Awareness

On a more controversial note, I sent a summary of my research on Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary to some civic leaders. Spanish subtitles for Limited English Proficiency (LEP), aka. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) children after elementary school is normally considered a damnable heresy in education–even though most secondary textbooks contain Spanish and English glossaries. Simply, the major roots of English are as follows: Informal-German, Technical-Latin, and Formal-French. The latter two are in the Romance languages with Spanish, so we could do a search for cognates with our students! This link branches into three, including the outline at my WordPress site. If the newcomers have just learned how to ask where the cafeteria is located or lament, “Mr. Meyer is complaining again,” then they need cognate awareness for science and social studies. Just imagine, “inundacion” is the Spanish word for “flood,” and “inundated” is a really advanced English word! The booklet from the 2015 Smith County Education Report (pg. 13) observes that the Hispanic child population is larger than the total Hispanic population here (29% vs. 19%) while the Caucasian percentage is declining (60% vs. 48%) and African-Americans are remaining constant (18% vs. 19%).

College Student Retention

College readiness, retention, and completion are the thrust of the Smith County 2015 Report on Education. Catch the Next was one of three winners in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Academic Advising Challenge (2013). It’s “a non-profit organization focusing on college readiness and completion.” Catch the Next is based on the Puente Project of University of California at Berkeley–an interdisciplinary program–focusing on Language Arts, Counseling, Mentoring, and Professional Development. CTN has several partners in Texas–including four colleges and the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, a group affiliated with their Intellectual Entrepreneurship program! A staggering 83% of developmental education students complete their remedial classes with help from CTN.


Well, I’ve written enough for now. We’ve examined the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program at University of Texas at Austin, some pros and cons about the “Eds and Meds” economy model, other Smith County industries (oil/gas, restaurants/hotels, home construction)and Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary (BALAV), and the CTN retention program. By the way, I bet a major reason for Developmental English/Writing courses in community colleges and open-admissions colleges is the over-emphasis on literature in high school. Let’s end for now with my review for the Developmental English/Writing exit exam. It’s based on the actual THEA Practice Exam.  Stay tuned.

References for Follow-Up to 2015 Smith County Education Report

1. Tyler Area Partnership 4 Education “Did you know that the single greatest indicator of economic prosperity and quality of life is the percentage of the population with a post-secondary credential or degree?”

2. “Intellectual Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas: An Answer to Industry Growth Initiative Strategy #1: Higher Education Consortium,” by J.D. Meyer. Originally in The Daily You. June 15, 2010.

3. “Maryland Procurement Gets More In Line With Stable, In-State Employment,” by Bill Bradley. Sept. 24, 2013.

4. “TJC Offers New Physical Therapy Assistant Courses,” by Betty Waters. Oct. 27, 2015.

5. “Where Reliance on ‘Eds and Meds’ Can Become a Liability,” by Dr. Richard Florida. Nov. 26, 2013.

6. “Why Eds and Meds Alone Can’t Revitalize Cities,” by Dr. Richard Florida. Sept. 18, 2012.

7. “The End of the Road for Eds and Meds,” by Aaron Penn. Sept. 9, 2012.

8. “Jay Walljasper: How to Revive Low-Income Neighborhoods,” by Jay Walljasper. April 9, 2014.

9. “Urban Gardens: Interview with Ray Cook–Middle School Science Teacher for Athens (TX)
ISD.,” by J.D. Meyer 14 Links. (Once at KLTV in your community).

10. “The Anchor Dashboard: Aligning Institutional Practice to Meet Low Income Community Needs,” by Steve Dubb, Sarah McKinley, & Ted Howard August 2013. 52-page PDF from the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland.

11. “A Guide for Your Local Eds and Meds to Become Better Neighbors,” by Bill Bradley. Sept. 25, 2013.

12. Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Counties with the Highest Concentration of Employment in Oil and Gas.” Jan. 9, 2015.

13. “Tyler Texas Jobs in the Hospitality Employment Sector.”

14. “Report shows Americans spending more at restaurants than on groceries,” by Kim Leoffer. Oct. 21, 2015.

15. “Beer, Wine Sales Boon to Tyler, Bust to Outlying Areas,” by Ron Maynard. June 15, 2015.

16. “SBA Announces 2014 Small Business Award Winners,” by Ahmad Goree. April 20, 2014. {Nick Pencis, Owner of Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q: SBA Buisness Person of the Year for DFW District}.

17. “Home construction booming in E.Texas,”by Alex Osiadaez. March 16, 2015.

18. “Tyler Prepares for a Building Boom,” by Wendy Wilkerson. May 19, 2015.

19. “Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary (BALAV),” by J.D. Meyer ( link goes to 3 articles. WordPress outline article April 19, 2014).

20. “Texas college success program a winner in Gates Foundation Competition for Educational Innovation,” by Maria Chavez. Sept. 25, 2013.

21. “Study Guide for the Developmental English/Writing Exit Exam,” by JD Meyer )In copyrighted textbook 2008).

Bilingual Academic All-Level Vocabulary (BALAV) with Attention to Cognates & Influence from Robert Marzano

Introduction: Academic vocabulary is more difficult to learn than conversational language. In fact, low intermediate English speakers with some conversational English ability are assumed by the general public to know far more English than they really do. My folksy way of summarizing my thesis for Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary  (BALAV) is the following, “If the newcomer just learned how to say, ‘Mr. Meyer is complaining again.’ then the newcomer better have the chance to read about the recession, tectonics, hyperbole and the quadratic formula in Spanish.” To quote Jane Spalding–a French/German professor: “To understand the culture, you need to understand the language.” This applies to content language too. Dr. Spalding made this remark during her address at the kickoff event for the University of Texas at Tyler’s Global Awareness through Education (GATE) program on September 25, 2011.

One particular situation really bothers me in secondary education for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students. Beginners often copy material from the textbook, and they have no idea what the book or the teacher is talking about when they are not in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The study guide for ESOL certification declares that the “linguistic challenge of content should determine the method of instruction; it’s the first consideration of planning.” Fortunately, most secondary Texas textbooks have Spanish glossaries; strangely, English is the major exception. I like the glossaries that do not separate the English Glossary from the Spanish Glossary but instead repeat the same term in English then in Spanish. That way, it’s easier for the student to notice the cognates between the two languages.

I. The National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE) calls for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students the chance to use their first language to achieve competence in English and develop an understanding of content in the curriculum. “IRA/NCTE 12 Standards for the Teaching of the English Language.” Standard #10 pertains to allowing English language learners to make use of their first language. Cognates study forms a bridge from Spanish to English, and cognates can be grouped by prefixes and suffixes. According to Dr. Jill Mora “Of the twenty thousand most commonly used words in English, four thousand–or 20 percent–have prefixes. Fifteen prefixes make up 82 percent of the total usage of all prefixes.” Here’s a chart with 2000 roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

II. Technical and formal English have roots in Latin and French—the main ancestors and a relative of Spanish—a Romance language. Thus, cognate study is more important for technical and formal English than informal English, which is German in origin. Furthermore, cognates seem to be far more common in essential vocabulary for English and Social Studies than in overall English a difference of roughly 85% to 62% in a preliminary survey. So this program is a type of transitional bilingual education that is never all Spanish. It’s not a dual immersion program.

III Bilingual education is not confined to the U.S. Edmonton, Canada is the leader in bilingual education in North America with several bilingual programs, not just French, but eleven languages at the Institute for Innovation in Second Language Education (IISLE). India is another country with extensive bilingual education programs. Some feel that bilingual education is a case of Americans being too nice and not a legitimate program. Becoming fully bilingual improves mental flexibility.

IV. Bilingual assistance for secondary age children could lower the dropout rate. Concern for the dropout rate is a component of national urban planning together with education. Lessening gaps in achievement between the various ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels seems to be a universal goal for all school districts.

V. Immersion (English only) does not provide comprehensible language. Comprehensible input lowers the affective filter. Success in one’s first language is the best predictor of success in the second language. Once you can read, you can read, according to Dr. Stephen Krashen. This is the transfer of literacy. Go to this article by James Crawford, “Does Bilingual Education Really Work?”

The Tennessee Academic Vocabulary Project by Connie Mayo and Deborah Boyd, is based on the research of Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering, the recognized leaders in vocabulary instruction. Marzano and Pickering wrote a book with even more vocabulary terms that has over 7900 words.

VII. Let’s group vocabulary according to essential as well as unit, chapter, and section. Testing students over essential vocabulary in their native language in past grades would be an important way of assessing their education in their homeland. The LUCHA program at the University of Texas at Austin examines the transcripts of Mexican students, and it offers Spanish courses on-line to help with the transition from Spanish-only to fully bilingual. Furthermore, if a student arrived in this country after the start of the school year, missed essential vocabulary for this year’s subjects could be given to the student.

VIII. Vocabulary instruction compensates for socioeconomic gaps in vocabulary knowledge, according to Marzano and Pickering. Children from poorer socioeconomic levels don’t hear as many as words as those from wealthier backgrounds.

IX. A school-wide vocabulary program could include Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary as a component. Native English speakers would participate in an all-English program. Check out “Using English for Academic Purposes.”

X. At times, we should use the phonetic alphabet since there are more sounds than letters in English. For example, there is a voiced and unvoiced version of the “th” sound. “This” and “that” are voiced while “thick” and “thin” are unvoiced. Also, the “oo” sound when it’s long sounds like the Spanish “u,” such as the “u” in “impromptu” while the “oo” sound when it’s short is like the “u” in “put.”


Suggesting a cognates-oriented bilingual approach for academic vocabulary after fifth grade doesn’t have to be viewed as heresy. Standard #10 of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) proclaims, “Allow English language learners to make use of their first language.” Finding ways to reduce achievement gaps between English learners and native speakers should be a priority—not to mention reducing dropout rates.

Most importantly for the administrator who wants to lessen the ensuing attacks, one could bury the cognates instruction for ESOL students within an overall Direct Vocabulary Instruction program (Marzano and Pickering) for the entire school or even school district. Vocabulary instruction reduces achievement gaps between socioeconomic groups and was a key component of the state of Tennessee winning the first round of Race to the Top—a National Department of Education contest.

The formal and technical roots of English are in French and Latin while informal English is descended from German. Spanish is a Romance language like French, and both are descended from Latin. Thus, academic language naturally lends itself to cognates study.

Make tables of essential vocabulary available for all core courses. I use four columns, starting with the English word and Spanish translation. Then I give a check as to whether the words are cognates or not, something that isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, especially when two-word terms are present. The last column is for comments, usually left blank, but can mention fine points of difference in grammar between the two languages. Essential vocabulary lists can really help when a student enters the school at a time other than the start of the school year or semester—a bigger possibility for ESOL students. Furthermore, you could quiz the newcomer on the previous year’s vocabulary for your state’s school. I noticed quite a bit of difference in essential vocabulary between Texas and Tennessee.

Refer to the phonetic alphabet. Spanish and English don’t share all the same sounds; some sounds in English don’t even have letters of their own, such as strong and soft “th”, as shown in “Like this and like that, we go through thick and thin.” Many sounds in English can be spelled a variety of ways, such as short “e.”

In short, if the newcomer has just learned to say “Mr. Meyer is writing again,” don’t expect them to understand academic terms, such as stimulus plan, photosynthesis, analogies, and y-intercept without some English-Spanish cognates and direct vocabulary instruction.

BALAV Revisited: When Spanish Instruction Sites Use Cognates Instruction.
My journey on Twitter has led me to Real Fast Spanish @rfspanish, by Andrew Barr. One of their articles is “Words You Already Know: 1001 Cognates.” Since teaching Spanish with cognates instruction is acceptable, then teaching Spanish-speakers cognates isn’t heretical either. I also met Juliana Suarez, founder of Kinder Bilingue @KBilingue and @Bilingualedchat. One of her articles was a bilingual guide for LEP parents to ask questions to their children’s teachers.