Detailed History

Sam Houston Normal Institute CornerstoneSam Houston Normal Institute or School was created by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1879 "to elevate the standard of education throughout the State, by giving thorough instruction and special training to as many as possible to our present and future teachers". The Act stated that "not less than two students from each senatorial district, and six from the State at large would be classified as 'normal students' and exempted from tuition, board, and lodging expenses". State scholarships to students in the junior and senior classes from each senatorial district supported 74 of the 110 students the first year. The number of State scholarships per district was soon increased from two to five and students were obligated to teach in the free public schools of Texas. The State ceased providing scholarships in 1909.


The approval or certification of teachers has been a major concern through the years. Oscar H. Cooper, a member of the first faculty of Houston Normal Institute, and later State Superintendent of Public Instruction, stated in 1888 that "more than nine-tenths of our schools are taught by teachers who have not enjoyed the benefit of normal school training". He stated that "summer normals" were inadequate. "Summer normals," lasting from one to six weeks, provided the training for most teachers in Texas prior to the creation of the normal schools. In 1881 there were six "summer normals" and by 1887 there were 82.

In this first Normal School in Texas, located in Huntsville, the school principal (called president first in 1911) was assisted by three faculty members in teaching the various subjects stressing "Matter and Methods." Faculty meetings were held each Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. A diploma equivalent to a first grade teaching certificate was issued which entitled recipients to teach anywhere in the State without further examination.

A Model School, composed of resident children of Huntsville, was organized in 1880 to provide students the opportunity to put into practice the theories learned in the lecture room. The Model School was discontinued in 1882 and from 1882 through 1912 students would practice teach before a class of their peers. Senior class students could observe, but not teach, in Huntsville Public School classrooms from 1909 to 1913.

The curriculum expanded to include courses in agriculture, manual training and domestic science in 1909. By 1910 there were 700 students with 23 faculty members at Sam Houston. The executive officer, whether known as the principal or president, had been a teacher and administrator in public schools and thus understood and strongly supported the training of teachers.

In 1912 a Practice or Training School for first and second grades with a critic teacher was housed in the Austin College Building. By 1914 the program was expanded to grades three through nine and in 1918 a kindergarten was added.

By 1918 uniform requirements for the Texas State Normal Schools were established. In the Normal Training School Division the training school consisted of the first nine grades of a standard school. In the Normal School Division there was two year of work, the first year and the second year of the normal school. The Diploma Division of the Normal College offered the first two years of college work. The Degree Division of the Normal School offered the third and fourth years of college curricula. That same year, 1918, Sam Houston Normal Institute extended the curriculum to include four years of college work with a bachelor's degree.

In 1919 the Demonstration School was established as the professional laboratory of the College. It provided prospective teachers the opportunity to observe the application of approved methods of instruction to typical school situations and actual experience in teaching their subject matter under expert supervision. Classes were taught by teachers holding at least the master's degree and enrollment was limited to thirty students in every grade from kindergarten to high school. Some of the Directors of the Demonstration School were Jessie Newell, R. L. Bunting, and R. M. Hawkins.

Austin Hall on the SHSU Campus in Huntsville, TXIn 1919 a rural life conference to which educators from across the South and Southwest was hosted at what had become Sam Houston Normal College. In 1922 the Federal Vocational Board gave final approval to Sam Houston Normal College as a teacher training institution in vocational agriculture, giving it the distinction of being the first normal school in the nation to be so authorized. The first off-campus class was taught in Conroe in 1922 which was followed by a class taught in Houston the following year.

Sam Houston Normal College became a member of the American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1922. In 1923 the curriculum to prepare teachers for elementary schools was expanded to prepare teachers at all levels in the public schools and became Sam Houston State Teachers College. That same year, correspondence courses were offered. By 1937 there were 293 students enrolled in correspondence courses and 489 students enrolled in extension classes.

A Master's Degree in Education was first offered in 1936. By 1937 students were able to observe and work with students in both the Demonstration School on campus as well as students in Huntsville Public Schools. By 1950 other public schools were used for observation and supervised teaching.

In 1938 the Sam Houston Catalog was altered to reflect a broader horizon and an expanding concept of its educational mission. Courses contributing to the preparation of those students who wished to enter the professions such as dentistry, medicine and law were offered as pre-professional courses.

Conditions in the public schools and in teacher training did not change dramatically during the depression years or during World War II. But following World War II there was an increase in enrollment and major concern again about the status of public education in Texas. On June 2, 1949, the Foundation School Program Act (Gilmer-Aikin Bill) was enacted. This led to significant changes in the certification of public school personnel. A Commissioner of Education was appointed and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) was established in March, 1950. A study of all certification programs was ordered and the changes were to go into effect by September, 1954.

T. S. Montgomery, who had been Head or Director of the Department of Education since 1924, retired in 1957. Suler Ryan was named Director of the Education Department and began the revision of all certificate programs. By 1960, 80 percent of the graduates of the College were certified to teach and 87 percent of graduate degrees were in Education. The American College Test was administered to prospective teachers in 1960 and selective admission and screening for prospective teachers were underway in 1961.

During the 1960's there were many changes in teacher preparation as well as the other programs of the institution. From 1879 until 1965 the stated purpose of Sam Houston State Teachers College was to prepare individuals for positions in the public schools of Texas. In 1965 the word "Teachers" was dropped from the name of the institution with statements to the effect that the College was now multi-purpose, and in 1969 the institution became Sam Houston State University.

In 1962 the name of the Department was expanded to Education and Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology was approved. With this exception, the basic objective was to prepare individuals for positions in the public schools of Texas. The programs changed as certificate requirements were changed by the State and as local college committees made studies and recommendations for improving the various programs.

A Teacher Education Admissions Board consisting of the Chairman of the Education Department, five members representing other departments, and the Dean of Admissions was appointed to implement the policies adopted by the Steering Committee. Students applied for admission to teacher training during their first education course in their junior year. Applications were routed from the major department to the Education Department to the Teacher Education Admissions Board. The procedure for admitting students to teacher training as well as admission standards were reviewed periodically. A Certificate Clerk for the College was employed and the office was housed in the Education Building.

The Education Department assumed full responsibility for overseeing student teaching and most of the methods courses for secondary teachers were taught by faculty members in the Education Department. Two notable exceptions were Earline Dolive who taught methods to English majors and Dan Reeves who taught methods to mathematics majors. A Student Teaching Handbook and brochures for special certificates to include administration, supervision, counseling, special education, and kindergarten were developed.

A 1964-65 follow-up study of graduates who were teaching found that 16 percent rated the program as excellent, 61 percent as good, 19 percent as adequate, and four percent stated the program was too idealistic and needed more emphasis on discipline, reading, and how to motivate the disinterested. The1960's involved studies of programs as well as presentations to accrediting agencies including the Texas Education Agency, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

In 1964 the departments of the institution were grouped in colleges and Suler Ryan was named Dean of the College of Education. A School of Teacher Education within the College was headed by Jack Staggs. Initially the School consisted of three departments: Elementary Education, Secondary and Higher Education, and Special Programs and Services. In 1972 Speech Pathology/Audiology was transferred from the Speech Department to Education and became part of the fourth department of Clinical Education. In 1980 Speech Pathology/Audiology was discontinued at Sam Houston. In 1972 Harry Ward was named Certification Officer for the University.

Just as the Minimum Foundation Program Act affected teacher training in the 1950's, the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1966 affected the preparation of teachers in the 1960's. Future teachers were screened for admission, completed a more rigorous program and were required to complete the National Teachers Examination and comprehensive examinations.

Federal money became available for workshops, equipment, curriculum development, student loans and grants. Title I and Title III programs and special summer institutes were part of the offering of the decade. Between 1963 and 1967 there were 14 summer institutes for teachers, seven of which were conducted by professors in the Education Department. A junior college internship program, a reading center, a science center and an on-campus kindergarten were added.

The Department of Education had twelve faculty members in 1960 and had increased to 44 members by 1969. The expanded department now included specialists not only in elementary education but subject-matter areas in the secondary school. Students visited classes prior to the student teaching experience. A member of the faculty, either the teacher of methods courses in a subject-matter department or a teacher in the Education Department, made weekly or bi-weekly visits to the interning student. Conferences were held with the cooperating teacher after these visits to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the student teacher.

Five faculty members of the Education Department were involved in research projects and the faculty continued some of the federally funded programs. The faculty held memberships in 27 national and international professional organizations and sixteen state organizations in 1971. A chapter of Phi Delta Kappa was chartered in 1970 which permitted faculty and graduate students to become members. A contractual agreement with Huntsville Independent School District was made in 1972 which enabled students to observe and work with students at all grade levels.

The grouping of programs changed during the 1970's and 1980's with increased emphasis on reading, special education, school administration, and counseling. The Division of Teacher Education now consisted of the programs of Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Reading and Special Education, and School Administration and Counseling. Leadership was provided by the Chair of the Division and program coordinators for each of the four program areas.

Statue of Sam Houston in front of Austin Hall on the SHSU campus.During the early 1980's, the state developed a competency-based program for the certification of Texas educators. The Division of Teacher Education developed new certification programs and they were approved by the State Board of Examiners for Teacher Education. Some of the changes included the increase of student teaching time from 8 weeks to 12 weeks and the requirement that elementary student teaching be done on two levels and secondary student teaching in two fields. Upon the retirement of Suler Ryan, Carl Harris was named Dean of the College of Education and Jimmy Merchant was named Chair of the Division of Teacher Education. George Hobbs replaced Ward as Certification Officer.

In the late 80's, the Texas legislature mandated that the total number of pedagogical hours required for certification be capped at 24. This required the revision of all certificate programs and the changing of program and department names to be in compliance with the legislation. Elementary Education could no longer be a major but instead became a General Studies Major. Physical Education, both the major and name of the department, was changed to Kinesiology. Other changes included the movement of reading courses from the elementary education program to the new Language, Literacy and Special Populations Department and the requirement that all students have a course in special learners.

Although SHSU had established an advisory council many years before, the State required that programs be approved by a local Teacher Center. The Sam Houston State University Teacher Center was created with members from departments in the education programs and arts and sciences programs, about twenty area school districts and representatives from Region IV and Region VI Education Service Centers. This group developed guidelines for field experiences and approved all changes in certification programs. In addition, the group received several grants for the training of teachers, promotion of teaching as a profession, and establishing technology requirements for new teachers.

In an effort to improve teacher education and eliminate the 24 hour cap on preparation programs, the State funded efforts to develop Professional Development Centers during the 1990's. The Sam Houston State University Teacher Education Center received a competitive three-year grant of $1.5 million. Most of these funds went to strengthen technological capabilities both on campus and in area schools, train teachers and future teachers in technology, diversity, and special learners, and establish Professional Development School sites in Huntsville, Coldspring, Conroe, and Aldine school districts. Faculty members traveled to these sites to teach many of the methods courses in collaboration with school-based personnel. A collaborative technological teacher induction program with Region VI Education Service Center and Texas A & M University was also funded during this time which provided mentors from the service center, local schools, and university faculty for beginning teachers.

During the 1990's the State developed a center in the Woodlands where higher education institutions would provide upper level courses for students in specific fields. Undergraduate and graduate programs in education at SHSU were selected as programs of study at this center. Consequently some of the undergraduate courses in education and most of the graduate programs are now offered at this center. This contributed to an already increased demand for graduate programs in education, especially the master's degrees in educational leadership and counseling. Kenneth Craycraft replaced Merchant as Chair of the Division of Teacher Education in 1987.

In 1992 the Division of Teacher Education became three separate departments within the College of Education: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership and Counseling and Language, Literacy, and Special Populations. In addition, the position of Assistant Dean of the College was created, with primary responsibility for coordinating the educator preparation programs. Craycraft was named to the new position and the chairs of the respective departments were John Huber, Genevieve Brown, and Eren Johnson. Johnson was subsequently named Assistant Dean and Hollis Lowery-Moore became Chair of the Department of Language, Literacy and Special Populations.

A doctoral program in educational leadership was submitted in 1990 and received approval by an external review team, but was placed on hold by the Coordinating Board. Following funding approval by the legislature in 1995, the program was revised using a cohort model, again approved by an outside review team and received final approval in January of 1997. Jimmy Merchant was named the Director of the Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership in the fall of 1996. The first students were admitted to the program in April of 1997 and began studies that June. The first four graduates of the program received their EdD degrees in August, 2000. Following Merchant's retirement, Beverly Irby and Ted Creighton served as Director. A PhD program in Counselor Education was subsequently approved in the spring of 2002 and the first students began in June of 2003. Rick Bruhn was named the Director of the Doctoral Program in Counselor Education.

Genevieve Brown was named Dean of the College of Education in 2002 and Hollis Lowery-Moore became Associate Dean. The chairs of the departments in 2003 are Charlene Crocker for Curriculum and Instruction, Beverly Irby for Educational Leadership and Counseling, and Mary Robbins for Language, Literacy and Special Populations.

Since 1957, the certification programs in educator preparation at Sam Houston State University have maintained national accreditation with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Full approval was received at the accreditation visit in 2003 with exemplary programs noted in educational leadership and special education.

The College of Education at SHSU strives to elevate the standard of education throughout the State and the Nation achieving national accreditation as an NCATE accredited institution since 1954.

Sources of Information:
Mary Estill's book
Catalogs from 1879 on
Jack Humphrie's unfinished book
Departmental Agendas
College Yearbooks
Memories of Carl Harris, Jimmy Merchant, and Jack Staggs