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Georgia Teacher Preparation Effort Will Stress High Teacher Quality

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Atlanta — January 8, 2014

Becoming a teacher in Georgia is getting a lot more rigorous and college programs that prepare teachers are being held to a much tougher and higher level of accountability, according to Georgia officials in charge of teacher preparation programs and teacher certification.

This is the theme of a statewide effort to provide more data-driven oversight to improve the quality of teacher preparation efforts. This effort complements those being made by the University System of Georgia to use data to track and strengthen the effectiveness of its teacher programs.

“This is a major shift for Georgia,” said USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby. “We are no longer focusing on inputs – the courses and other programs teachers must take – but looking at outputs – how effective is a teacher in actually teaching our students to an identified level of academic achievement.”

Kelly Henson, executive secretary of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission responsible for certifying all teachers before they can enter a classroom, also was frank: “No teacher will be certified to teach in a classroom in Georgia without passing tests and an ability to demonstrate understanding of both content knowledge and classroom teaching. And the bar will be set very high.”

Henson briefed the regents during the Board’s January meeting on the effort to strengthen teacher preparation through key changes, including changes in teacher certification, the introduction of a new Teacher and Leader Preparation Programs Effectiveness Measures (TPPEM), and changes in how the programs that prepare teachers are held accountable.

These new changes are the result of a four-year effort among the Professional Standards Commission, the USG and the Georgia Department of Education. Changes will go into effect in Feb. 2014.

Lynne Weisenbach, the University System’s vice chancellor for Educational Access and Success, who heads up teacher preparation reform efforts for the University System, said that the University System’s goal is “to prepare the best teachers in the nation for Georgia’s classrooms.”

Along with the changes come some consequences to programs that fail to meet the new standards. Henson said that if the new accountability measures are not met by a specific program, then after the first year, the program is rated as “at-risk of low performing” or “low performing.”

Such ranked programs will have three years to improve, with an increasing range of consequences for failure to do so, ranging from an improvement action plan, to probation, to ultimately program disproval. If after three years of unsatisfactory progress, such programs would be terminated.

Piggybacking on these new changes that will affect all teacher preparation programs in both public and private colleges and universities, the USG is rolling out a new, data-driven Teacher Preparation Accountability Report. The first of these reports is scheduled for May 2014.

Cindi Chance, dean of the College of Education at Georgia Regents University, said that having access to the data is critical to administrators to enact these important changes.

The annual report will assess each of the USG’s teacher preparation programs and look at factors that affect teacher quality such as accreditation status, quality indicators of the current graduating class, as well as employer and graduate satisfaction with the preparedness of teachers.

“Our goal in the University System is to be proactive in assuring that first we are producing the highest quality educators from our programs. We have moved from awareness to action and are committed to the imperative before us,” said Adrian Epps, associate dean, College of Science and Mathematics at Kennesaw State University.

The state’s teacher preparation efforts represent a national focus on teachers that is occurring in varying degrees of intensity in the 50 states. In Georgia, there is added impetus to reform teacher preparation as the state ramps up its efforts to increase students’ academic readiness for college and thus the pipeline of high school graduates prepared for college level work as part of the Complete College Georgia initiative.

In addition, the added urgency is the result of a projected wave of retirements in an aging teacher workforce and the need to ensure that new teachers are ready to teach in an environment of heightened public expectations and stricter government accountability for student success.

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