Friday, October 2, 2009

Georgia State to receive $13.5 million U.S. Department of Education Grant

Georgia State University’s College of Education has been selected to receive a record $13.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement to increase the number of highly qualified teachers committed to high-need schools.

The five-year grant, the largest federal grant ever received by GSU’s College of Education, will fund the Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality Project (NET-Q), whose primary goals are to enhance teacher preparation programs, create a teacher residency program, impact teacher retention and student achievement.

“Teacher quality is still an issue for the state of Georgia and that’s apparent by the state’s ranking in terms of high school drop out rates and how our students rank on standardized tests,” said Gwendolyn Benson, College of Education associate dean for school and community partnerships and principal investigator of the NET-Q Project. “Research has indicated that high-need schools have difficulty attracting the best prepared teachers and so it’s our effort to support those high-need schools by preparing highly qualified teachers, who are effective with culturally diverse populations.”

Six school districts in metro Atlanta are partnering with Georgia State on the NET-Q Project, including Atlanta, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett County Public Schools. In addition to Georgia State, participating higher education institutions include Clark Atlanta University, Georgia Perimeter College, Albany State University and Columbus State University.

“This award recognizes the quality of Georgia State University faculty and their important ideas in improving teacher quality in our region,” said Risa Palm, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “It is a reflection of the progress of our university as a center for research, new ideas, high quality teaching and service to the metropolitan area and the state.”

Participating schools will focus on developing teachers’ knowledge and skills related to mathematics, science, special education, English Language Learners, technology and literacy. These fields represent Georgia’s greatest needs for highly qualified teachers. Special education constitutes the second largest shortage area of teachers in Georgia with, 43.2 percent of elementary special education instructors not fully certified, Benson said.

“Partnership is key,” Benson said. “We must continue to work collaboratively in a more intense way to impact teacher quality.”

A major focus of the project will be establishing paid teacher residency programs across the metro Atlanta area. Through the one-year residency positions, teachers will get real world experience while focusing on critical need fields, such as math, science and special education, Benson said. School districts will have up to five teacher residents each year and will alternate between content areas to ensure positions will be available for the teachers after they complete the residency program.

“There’s evidence that teachers who participate in a paid residency, a year before they take on the role of classroom teacher, stay in the profession longer,” Benson said.

Prospective teachers will focus on integrating a number of technological tools to enhance traditional curriculum in Pre-K through 12 classrooms, including social networking, Smartboards and online communication gaming tools, such as Second Life. Georgia State, in collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting, will also create a digital mentor training program, as well as air Georgia State classes, including state approved endorsement programs.

“Just as we have online classes it will be similar. Teachers will be able to register for a Georgia State class through Georgia Public Television from anywhere in the state, including many rural districts,” Benson said.

Through a partnership with the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, teaching residents, mentors, and university faculty will also be participants in a Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC) online community of support.

“The TLINC online communities will connect our teacher residents with other teacher residents across the country,” Benson said. “These communities build proficiency with learning technologies and establish the habit of participating in a collaborative teaching culture that teachers will carry with them throughout their teaching careers.”

For years, Georgia State has been working hard to address the shortage of teachers in Georgia, by expanding teacher preparation programs and building mentoring networks to keep teachers in Georgia’s schools.

Through the NET-Q Project Georgia State will be able to continue building relationships with many school districts it partnered with during a previous five-year Department of Education grant, which ended in September 2009. The Professional Development School Partnerships Deliver Success (PDS2) program, which is currently in 20 schools in the metro Atlanta area, placed Georgia State faculty members and pre-service teachers in high–need schools to help increase student achievement, meet strategic goals and recruit and retain high-quality teachers.

“I congratulate all of our faculty, school, and community partners on this recognition of their years of work to prepare teachers of unquestioned quality. This grant will allow our college to build on these accomplishments to produce effective models of teacher education that will have national and international impact,” said College of Education Dean Randy Kamphaus.

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