Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More than 500 Educators 'Storm the Hill' to Support Technology in Education

/PRNewswire/ -- More than 500 educators from 48 states and territories took part in a once in a lifetime event during the 30th Annual National Education and Computing Conference. On Tuesday, June 30, participants met with their US Congressional delegations - including 91 senators and 207 representatives - to discuss the importance of educational technology programs and funding.

These Hill visitors expressed great concern about the Obama Administration's proposal to reduce Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program funding in 2010 by as much as 63 percent. As classrooms are moving towards technology-rich learning environments, educators are working tirelessly to ensure program funding is adequately provided to meet these needs. EETT dollars have been used for improving student achievement in reading and math, engaging in data-driven decision making and launching online assessment programs.

"Funding for education technology is at risk in President Obama's FY10 budget," says ISTE's director of government affairs Hilary Goldmann. "We know our students will be negatively impacted if this cut is realized."

"It is so important for members of Congress to hear from their constituents about the vital role technology plays in educating our students and ultimately keeping our country competitive globally," said Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE. "The educators who participated in our event on Capitol Hill did an excellent job of carrying the message that education technology funding must be a priority so our students have the best opportunity for success."

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Clayton State School of Graduate Studies Holding Open House on July 14

The Clayton State University School of Graduate Studies will be holding its next monthly informational Open House on Tuesday, July 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Spivey Board Room (room 201) of the University’s Harry S. Downs Center on the main campus in Morrow.

The Open House will give prospective graduate students a chance to learn more about the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, Master of Arts in Teaching English, Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics, Master of Business Administration, Master of Health Administration, and Master of Science in Nursing. The Clayton State School of Graduate Studies regularly holds open houses on the second Tuesday evening of each month.

The mission of graduate education at Clayton State is to stimulate, encourage and support efforts that build national distinction and that are characterized by innovation and by increasing contribution to the social, cultural, economic, health and technological development needs of Georgia and the nation. The University is committed to excellence, innovation and collaboration in research and in the preparation of professionals for the highest levels of practice.

Graduate education prepares: scholars in the arts, humanities, and the sciences who maintain and advance our understanding of the human condition; scientists, engineers, and other professionals needed by industry, government, and universities to conduct the nation's research and development; and scholars in all disciplines who become the faculties of our colleges and universities.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Georgia Southern University’s Online Courses a Popular Option for Professionals Wanting to Advance Careers

Jamey Grover visited Georgia Southern numerous times while his son was a student at the University. Then, Grover decided to pursue his Masters in Education degree online.

“I’m 51 years old, work full-time and I’ve loved this program,” Grover said prior to receiving his degree last month. “My wife was teasing me after I took my last exam – I kept heading over to my computer and I felt a little lost without a class or a test to take.”

Grover was one of 72 graduates who received online degrees from the University during the spring commencement ceremony – a record number for Georgia Southern. The University offers online degrees in the fields of business, education, and healthcare. The online programs are especially popular with professionals juggling work and family.

“These online degree programs allow working adults and those who are outside of our campus area to complete their degrees. We offer flexibility and high-quality programs that meet the needs of adult learners wishing to further their careers,” said Gary Means, dean of continuing education and public services.

While Grover completed his online degree this spring, Debbie Bose is now starting on hers. As she works full-time in Macon, Bose is enrolled this summer in her first coursework toward a Master of Education with a major in Instructional Technology.

A 27-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, Bose said a master’s degree will benefit greatly in her current position as a training manager. Bose’s experience will come full-circle – after earning her online degree, she will be able to apply her knowledge toward creating curriculum and using technology to enhance online training for the Postal Service.

“I’m not interested in just theory. When I get this degree, I’ll know hands-on how to do what I want to do,” Bose said.

Not everyone may think of online programs as being “hands-on,” but Bose knows differently. “Some people think, when you do courses online, they will be easy, but anyone who goes through it knows that’s not the case. It’s very challenging,” she said. “It actually requires a greater degree of dedication because you have to get in and learn it yourself. You have to be disciplined.”

Bose said she researched online programs for about a year and chose Georgia Southern’s Instructional Technology program because of its credibility and affordability. She also praised the University’s customer service, saying that any question she had was answered promptly.

The application deadlines vary among the different programs, but students still have time to register for some fall semester online classes. For more information on the University’s online offerings, visit http://online.georgiasouthern.edu.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ga. Tech Places Eighth in World University Technology Rankings

The Georgia Institute of Technology has maintained its eighth place ranking as one of the world’s top universities in engineering and information technology.

The ranking was announced as part of the U.S. News & World Report’s World’s Best Colleges and Universities released on June 18, 2009. The rankings are based on data from the THE-QS World University Rankings that were produced in association with QS Quacquarelli Symonds, one of the world’s leading networks for careers and education.

Last August, Georgia Tech was rated seventh nationally among public universities for undergraduates in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. For the past decade, Georgia Tech has been among the top ten public universities for undergraduates. In addition, the College of Engineering was ranked No. 4 nationwide for the fifth consecutive year in the publication’s annual list of the best American graduate school programs.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

U.S. Army Increases Medical and Dental School Benefits

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Army Medical Department announced today that it is increasing the stipend associated with its Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) to $1,992 per month, effective July 1, 2009. Through this economic downturn, many medical and dental students are faced with anxiety about taking out student loans to finance their education, especially knowing that the average medical school student loan debt is $150,000 after graduation(i).

The United States Army Medical Department (AMEDD) through its F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) helps students to finance their graduate medical, dental or veterinary degrees, as well as select nursing degrees or certain degrees within the Medical Service Corps by providing students with the full cost of tuition; school related fees and books; as well as a stipend of $1,992 per month throughout the school year. In addition, HPSP recipients in the Medical Corps and Dental Corps are eligible for a one-time $20,000 (less tax) sign-on bonus.

"The call to serve as a health care professional is vital to the health of our nation and our Army, but we continue to face shortages of qualified medical professionals in both the civilian and military world," said Colonel Rafael Montagno, commander U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade. "Now more than ever, it's important that students know there is financial support available to help them achieve their dreams of a health care career."

For many students seeking a valuable career in health care, qualifying for loans and student loan debt is a serious issue preventing them from pursuing advanced degrees. According to a 2007 study by the American Association of Medical Colleges, physicians who are on a standard 10-year loan repayment plan would see half of their after-tax earnings go towards their loan payment.

Graduates of HPSP finish school debt-free and, as members of one of the largest health care organizations in the world, gain unparalleled practical experience beyond what is available to their civilian counterparts.

The scholarship is available in 1, 2, 3 and 4-year increments and provides benefits during school and after graduation for those who are currently enrolled in a graduate medical, dental or veterinary program, or those pursuing psychiatric nurse practitioner degrees or other medical service degrees such as optometry or clinical/counseling psychology. Upon graduation and entry into active duty, AMEDD Officers receive increases in salary and new opportunities for a broad range of residencies, fellowships and special pay incentives. Acceptance of the Critical Skills Accessions Bonus includes a four-year active duty and four-year Reserve service obligation, which can be fulfilled concurrent with service obligations related to HPSP upon completion of residency programs and becoming licensed to practice.

For 10-and-a-half months of each school year, a monthly stipend of $1,992 will be paid to each scholarship recipient. This amount is adjusted each year to allow for cost of living increases, but amounts to more than $20,000 annually in addition to the cost of tuition and other school related fees. The remaining six weeks of the year are dedicated to hands-on training during which HPSP participants receive Officer's pay as a second lieutenant.

Graduates of the HPSP program receive all the benefits of active duty Officers including:

-- Paid continuing education courses, seminars and conferences
-- No-cost or low-cost medical and dental care for you and your family
-- A comfortable home on-post or a generous housing allowance if you live
off-post
-- Opportunities to travel throughout the world
-- Attractive retirement benefits with 20 years of qualifying service
-- A flexible, portable retirement savings and investment plan similar to
a 401k
-- 30 days of vacation earned each year
-- Rank and privileges of an Army Officer
-- Low-cost life insurance

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gunnell Memorial Scholarship Established

In 1964, the city hospital in Villa Rica was a modest clinic that served the local area. But that year, it would benefit from the arrival of Ila Mae Gunnell, who would devote 32 years to helping build what is now Tanner Medical Center/ Villa Rica into a highly respected health care facility.

Now, to honor her memory, Mrs. Gunnell’s family and friends have established an endowed scholarship in the amount of $10,000 at the University of West Georgia’s School of Nursing.
Mrs. Gunnell, a mother of five, had no formal medical training, but always wanted to be a nurse and cared deeply about providing quality health care. She served in many capacities at the medical center, including in an instrumental role in helping form the respiratory therapy department, which was one of the first units of its kind in the area outside of the major Atlanta hospitals. That unit is now among the most highly regarded in the region.

Mrs. Gunnell, who passed away last month at the age of 85, forged a remarkable career out of her desire to work in the medical field.

“Mother always wanted to be a nurse, but she was never able to. But when she had the opportunity to work in a hospital, it was right up her alley,” said daughter Judy McTyre.
Mrs. Gunnell’s children thought establishing a scholarship for students pursuing a career in nursing presented an ideal opportunity to pay tribute to their mother’s work.

“We felt like this was a wonderful way to honor her legacy – to help others achieve something she valued so much,” said daughter Carol Maynard.

Another of Mrs. Gunnell’s daughters, Gail Beard, said assisting students in reaching their goals carried on her mother’s spirit of caring.

“What can we do for you? That’s what nursing is about. That’s what made her so special.”
Mrs. Gunnell’s work inspired others, daughter Becky King said.

“She touched many lives, and this scholarship will help maintain her influence,” she said.
The scholarship, which is available to employees or children of employees of Tanner Medical Center/ Villa Rica or Paulding WellStar Hospital, will also serve as a reminder to people connected with those institutions of the work of Mrs. Gunnell, her son said.

“This is something to make life a little easier for the folks who work at those hospitals or their children,” Terry Gunnell said. “What we were interested in was helping in her name and her honor people who might need an assist in reaching their goals.”

Mrs. Gunnell’s contribution to nursing in the West Georgia region was substantial, and the scholarship will help commemorate that, said Dr. Kathryn Grams, dean of the UWG School of Nursing.

“We are exceptionally grateful for the family’s generosity in establishing this scholarship. It will enable students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue their education in this important field,” Grams said.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

GSU receives $900K grant to recruit, train science teachers

Georgia State University was recently awarded a nearly $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of science teachers in metro Atlanta schools.
The grant, titled “Impacting Metro-Atlanta Science Teaching,” or I-MAST, will be used to recruit, prepare and support 36 high quality science educators over the next five years.

The program will offer scholarships to undergraduate majors studying content in the STEM fields, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Scholarships will also be available for graduates who hold a degree in the STEM areas and are interested in going into secondary science teaching careers.

Students will study in Georgia State’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in the College of Education, Department of Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology.
“Especially in Georgia, there is a tremendous need for science teachers,” said Anton Puvirajah, assistant professor of science education at GSU, who is directing the project with several colleagues. “Through this program, we hope to increase the number of highly trained science teachers.”

I-MAST is a collaboration between GSU’s College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Georgia Institute of Technology and four public school districts in the Metro Atlanta area.

The first scholarship recipients are expected to enroll at GSU in fall 2010. Applicants will have at least a junior level status at their undergraduate study either at Georgia State’s College of Arts and Sciences or Georgia Tech, or have a minimum bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.

Undergraduate students who commit to pursue a secondary science teacher certification at Georgia State will receive a two-year scholarship totaling $24,000 to be used in their senior year of undergraduate studies and in their year of teacher certification studies. STEM graduates will receive a one-year scholarship of $12,000 to complete their teacher certification studies.

Scholarship recipients will be obligated to teach two years in a Metro Atlanta high need school district for every year of funding received.

A report by the University System of Georgia warns that by 2010 Georgia will need to produce 2,060 middle school and high school teachers of life sciences, chemistry, earth sciences and physics. However in the 2008 academic year, only 90 science teachers were prepared in Georgia, according to the Board of Regents statistics.

“The partnership between GSU and Georgia Tech is a great way to bring bright young scientists into the classroom,” said Jennifer Leavey, director of Undergraduate Academic Services in the Georgia Tech School of Biology. “Tech is a nationally-ranked leader in undergraduate science education, but has no route for certifying K-12 teachers. GSU has an excellent College of Education and is only a few blocks away.”

Scholarship applicants must have an overall GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, appropriate academic backgrounds in science content, three letters of recommendation and a 350 -500 word narrative statement about their desire to become a secondary science teacher in a high-need school.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Charter Schools Authorized by New State Charter Commission

Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology and Ivy Preparatory Academy
had originally been denied by their local districts


Two charter schools that originally were denied a charter by their local school districts were authorized by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission Thursday, making them immediately eligible to be funded at the same level as the traditional public schools in their respective districts.

Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology (CCAT), a middle and high school in Statesboro (Bulloch County), was granted a two-year charter by the Commission. Ivy Preparatory Academy, a middle school for girls in Norcross (Gwinnett County), was granted a five-year charter. Scholars Academy Charter School, an elementary school in Riverdale (Clayton County), was denied a charter by the Commission.

CCAT and Ivy Prep to be funded at the same level as traditional public schoolsAll three schools have been operating as State Chartered Special Schools, meaning they were originally denied a charter by their local districts but were approved by the State Board of Education. State Chartered Special Schools are not funded at the same level as traditional public schools and charter schools approved by a local district. Scholars Academy will continue to operate as a State Chartered Special School with the option of again seeking Commission approval after one year.

Historic day in Georgia public educationThursday’s vote was the first official action taken by the seven-member Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an alternative authorizing group created by the passage of House Bill 881 during the 2008 Legislative Session. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), the Georgia House Majority Whip. The seven members of the Commission were appointed by the State Board of Education on the recommendation of the Governor (3), Lieutenant Governor (2) and House Speaker (2).

“The Georgia Charter Schools Commission approved its first two schools in its meeting today, an historic event in the state of Georgia,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Roberts. “We have always said that approval of a charter school by the Commission would be hard – perhaps even more demanding than approval by local school districts. By its actions today, the Commission demonstrated that it has a high standard for approval based on student achievement and our Association supports their commitment to high student achievement."

Added Andrew Broy, Associate Superintendent for Policy, External Affairs and Charter Schools: “The Commission today demonstrated a level of review and deliberation that is consistent with the highest quality authorizing standards. As the Georgia charter school sector continues to grow, we need to ensure that all authorization decisions continue to be made after a thorough and searching review."

MORE INFORMATION

CCAT was chartered by the State Board of Education in 2002. It serves 125 students, grades six through 12, who learn in multi-grade, student-centered classrooms. The school utilizes an innovative curriculum that stresses constructivist and multiple intelligence theory.

Ivy Prep was chartered by the State Board of Education in 2008 as the state’s only all-girls charter middle school. The 150 rising seventh graders will be joined in the fall by a new class of 120 sixth graders. An eighth grade class will be added in the fall of 2010.Scholars Academy was chartered by the State Board of Education in 2008. The school stresses hands-on learning experiences for its nearly 100 students in grades one through five.
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Sallie Mae Launches New Income-Based Repayment Plan

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sallie Mae, the nation’s leading saving-, planning- and paying-for-education company, today announced a new repayment plan to help eligible federal student loan customers substantially lower their monthly payments.

The new “income-based repayment” option, or IBR, which was authorized by federal law to begin on July 1, will enable federal student loan customers experiencing financial difficulty to cap their monthly bill at 15 percent of their discretionary income. IBR also allows eligible customers making qualifying payments to extend from the standard 10-year term to up to 25 years, after which any remaining balance will be forgiven.

For example, a new college graduate with an entry-level job at $31,000 and $31,000 in federal Stafford loans would pay approximately $170 less per month compared to the payment due under the standard plan.

“Sallie Mae is committed to providing students not only with the resources needed to invest in higher education, but also with the tools to help them succeed afterward,” said Albert L. Lord, CEO. “We are pleased that our value-added IBR seminars have assisted students on all types of college campuses, including Direct Lending schools. This is another example of how competition leads directly to enhanced services for students and schools.”

With today’s launch, Sallie Mae offers a new student loan repayment calculator, available at www.SallieMae.com/repaymentcalculator, to help customers assess whether they qualify for the new plan, compare it to alternatives, simulate IBR results under different income assumptions, assess the likely time to pay in full and evaluate the total cost of each option. An eligibility worksheet, an in-depth repayment options presentation and materials geared for students who are likely to qualify, as well as information on loan forgiveness for public service professions, are also available from Sallie Mae at www.SallieMae.com/ibr.

These new resources build on other outreach efforts Sallie Mae has undertaken to build awareness about IBR and assist students on customer and non-customer (Direct Lending) campuses. In January, Sallie Mae began holding workshops and in-person visits to educate financial aid professionals and their students about the program. In March, Sallie Mae identified students likely to benefit from the new repayment plan and started educating those individuals about it with targeted counseling.

“Income-based repayment is an important new tool to help our graduates stay on track to financial success,” said Tara Olsen, director of financial aid, Tufts University School of Medicine. “Sallie Mae’s repayment strategies sessions did an excellent job of translating complex details into practical tips, and as a result our graduating students have a much better understanding of their options. As we transition to a Direct Lending school this year, we are grateful that Sallie Mae has continued to provide assistance with the education of our students.”

Under federal law, student loan customers are eligible for income-based repayment if they demonstrate financial need as defined by the Department of Education based on a formula that considers the individual’s income, federal student loan balance and household size. The monthly payment is capped at 15 percent of discretionary income and is reset each year.

The IBR option provides an alternative payment schedule for individuals with high federal student loan payments relative to their income. It may be particularly helpful to new college graduates who are unable to find employment at the levels they had expected—or for those with advanced degrees, such as law school graduates or medical residents, who have accumulated higher-than-average federal loan balances through their undergraduate and graduate programs. IBR, however, may not be the best option for all eligible customers as they may end up paying more in interest charges over the life of the loan since the option extends the repayment term.

Additionally, July 1 will bring other changes to help college-bound students make the investment in higher education. The maximum Pell Grant award will rise to $5,350, an increase of $619, and more families will be eligible to claim an expanded tax credit of up to $2,500 for higher education. In addition, account owners of tax-advantaged 529 college savings plans will be able to count the purchase of a computer for a beneficiary college student as a qualified education expense in 2009.

Finally, for the second year in a row, interest rates on need-based subsidized federal Stafford undergraduate loans will decline: the interest rate for newly disbursed loans will be 5.6 percent, down from 6.0 percent last school year. In accordance with current law, undergraduates with unsubsidized Stafford loans and graduate students will continue to pay fixed interest of 6.8 percent. In addition, the origination fee the government charges for each new Stafford loan will change to 0.5 percent, down from 1 percent.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

College Access Grant Targets Low-Income Families, Returning Adult Students

A College Access Challenge Grant is enabling the University System of Georgia (USG) and its partners to target the two-thirds of adult Georgians who do not hold a college degree. The goal is to galvanize these individuals to change their situation, thereby boosting the state’s economic growth. In an update delivered to members of the Board of Regents today, those responsible for implementing the grant outlined the strategies being used that focus specifically on low-income families as well as people who started but failed to complete work on their college degrees.

“Young people from low-income families are much less likely to graduate from high school, attend college or earn a bachelor’s degree,” said Lynne Weisenbach, a USG vice chancellor. “We know that we can significantly impact key social and economic indicators in Georgia such as median income, life expectancy and even reduce the size of the state’s prison population by boosting the number of residents who hold college degrees, so we are using this funding to target low-income K-12 students and adults with some college but no degree.”

The U.S. Department of Education grant — $2 million per year for up to two years — places the University System in a partnership with the Governor’s Office, community and business groups across the state, as well as the Alliance of Education Agency Heads (AEAH), which collaborates on policies and programs to ensure that all Georgia students receive an excellent education, from pre-K to Ph.D.

Principal Investigator Patricia Paterson described for the regents an effort that includes:

updating, enhancing and expanding access to GAcollege411, a free online resource provided by the state that helps students plan for, apply and pay for college;
promoting an understanding of the benefits and opportunities of postsecondary education to students from low-income families;
staging an annual event, Georgia Apply to College Week, at high schools serving large numbers of students from low-income families;
conducting outreach activities and enhancing programs for adults returning to college;
working to engage chambers of commerce, civic groups, PTAs, graduation coaches, after-school caregivers and others around the state in setting high expectations for and nurturing the aspirations of low-income students; and
boosting participation by low-income students in dual-enrollment courses which allow them to earn college credit while still in high school by providing funds for books and mandatory student fees.

One of the ways in which the University System of Georgia is serving low-income students is through its Early College Initiative, which enables students underserved by higher education to earn up to two years of college credit from USG institutions while completing high school. Just two weeks ago, the charter participants in this initiative, from Atlanta’s Carver Early College, celebrated a 100 percent graduation rate and 100 percent of them have been accepted to at least one college.

Paterson also used the presentation to the regents to announce the creation of an Adult Learning Consortium comprising five USG institutions — Atlanta Metropolitan College, Bainbridge College, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Southwestern State University and Valdosta State University (which will serve as the lead institution). The five campuses have each received $25,000 of the College Access Challenge Grant funds to work together to improve services for adult students returning to college, expand programs that focus on strategic regional workforce needs, test the awarding of credit for learning acquired through life experience and pass on their best practices to the entire University System.

“The Adult Learning Consortium is an exciting new project that focuses on bringing adults back to college,” Paterson told the regents. “There are nearly 1 million Georgians — 22 percent of the workforce — who have earned some college credit, but have no degree to show for it. We have developed strategies that can transform the way we as a University System work with these students, who have complex needs and concerns different from those of our traditional-age students.”

Valdosta State University (VSU) piloted an adult-learning initiative this past year and has successfully experimented with a prior-learning assessment program (PLA). Paterson introduced a VSU freshman, Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Smith, who recently returned to college after a 25-year career in the military and was able to earn credit for what he learned during those years away from the classroom.

“It has always been a goal of mine to go back to college, but while I was working, it was difficult to fit it into my schedule,” Smith said. “Now that I’m free to go back to school, the PLA program has really helped me to expedite my goal of obtaining a degree in psychology. It allows me, as a non-traditional student, to use my training and work experience as it relates to specific courses at VSU, and the counseling I’ve received as part of the assessment process has really benefitted me.”

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Georgia HB 251 Provides Public School Choices Within Local Systems

Excerpts from the Georgia Department of Education on the framework of HB 251:

Under a new law signed by Governor Perdue, parents of K-12 public school students in Georgia now have the option to enroll their child in any school within the local school district in which they now reside. The new law requires, among other things, that each school district establish a universal, streamlined process to manage such transfers by July 1, 2009.

This framework and the attached documents are provided to districts to help implement this process and to assist districts in determining whether current permissive school choice policies may satisfy the statutory requirements.

A. House Bill 251
The law itself has three distinct features:
-A parent/guardian can elect to send a child to another public school in the same school district as long as there is classroom space available at the school after its assigned students have been enrolled;
-If a parent elects to exercise this choice option, the parent assumes all costs associated with transporting the child to and from the selected school; and
-A student who transfers to another school pursuant to this law may, at his or her election, continue to attend such school until the student completes all grades of the school.
Note:
• Local school districts should create a prioritized list for student transfers consistent with Federal and State laws.

Students eligible for transfer under the unsafe school choice option (USCO) and students in Needs Improvement (NI) schools that must offer public school choice under No Child Left Behind, must get first priority for available seats at those schools in the district that are not in needs improvement.

If a parent requests a transfer to a school that does not have the services required by the current
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP), nothing in this framework requires the school to develop those services as long as they are available within the local school district.

Existing Georgia law already creates certain enrollment preferences. For instance, twins are given a statutory right to be enrolled in schools with their siblings, consistent with local policies. HB 251 should be construed in light of this and other existing law. As a result, districts may determine enrollment priorities, provided they do so in accordance with the provision of the HB 251.

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At the zoo, teachers learn ways to improve science education

The crowd assembled at Zoo Atlanta’s Wildlife Theatre, just like many others before them. They watched as a trainer induced a macaw to speak, and as a crow used its beak to paint a colorful, Jackson Pollock-like piece of abstract art.

But unlike the typical tourist, the crowd was a group of Georgia middle and high school teachers, getting a lesson in animal behavior as part of a teacher professional development program to improve neuroscience literacy, held June 8-12 and sponsored by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, headquartered at Georgia State University.

The Center for Behavioral Neuroscience is a collaboration between Georgia State and other Atlanta-area universities, devoted to expanding knowledge in the basic neurobiology of social behaviors.

“It’s really very interesting, and it has allowed me to be able to answer the ‘why’ questions in my labs," said Rebecca Durham, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Heritage School in Coweta County. “It allows me to address what mechanisms in our brains cause certain behaviors.”

Laura Carruth, assistant professor of neuroscience and coordinator of the workshops, said that the program is aimed at helping teachers teach science using current information, as well as to foster better experiences for students.

“The goal of the program is to encourage their students to develop a love of science, and to think scientifically, as well as to develop an appreciation for animals, animal classes and animal behavior,” said Carruth.

Teachers spent the week in workshops devoted to neuroscience and teaching, and also received up-close opportunities to learn more about animal behaviors. They will receive professional development unit credits as part of the workshops, and will also return in November to learn more about amphibians and reptiles, and to follow up on what they’ve learned through the presentation of lesson plans.

Carruth said the teachers will be able to apply what they’ve learned on multiple levels in the classroom.

“Depending upon what teachers’ needs are, educators teaching older students can bring in science at multiple levels, ranging from anatomy and structures of the brain, all the way to functions and behaviors,” she said. “Younger teachers can focus on topics such as behaviors, classification and diversity.”

Improving teacher education is critical to producing students who are better able to take on critical positions in the sciences in an economy that is more dependent on science and math knowledge, according to a report released June 10 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, entitled “The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy.”

The report urges teachers to work with scientists, as well as other professionals in technical fields to show students the relevance and application of science in their lives -- something which the June CBN workshop helped to do.

Another summertime CBN program includes the Institute on Neuroscience, from June 8 to July 31, where high schoolers are gaining an opportunity to learn more about neuroscience, through hands-on activities and discussions directed by faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, and undergraduate and graduate students from CBN member institutions, followed by five weeks of mentored laboratory research.

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MCG and UGA move ahead with August 2010 opening of Athens campus

The Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia have received confirmation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for the country's medical schools, that their resource development is on track to matriculate 40 medical students at the Athens campus in August 2010.

A letter from the LCME reaffirmed MCG School of Medicine’s accreditation through the 2015-16 cycle when the LCME is scheduled to make its next accreditation visit. The letter also confirmed that resources for the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership are adequate in some areas and, as expected, requested updates in others as progress continues, school officials say.

Areas of LCME interest include sustained financial support for the expansion as well as faculty recruitment, facilities planning and academic advisement for students. School officials will provide the LCME with another update in August 2009.

The LCME’s letter follows a limited site visit to Athens and Augusta in April and the accrediting body’s June 2-4 meeting in Washington, D.C

“This confirmation by the LCME is the result we have been working so diligently these past months to obtain, and it is a testament to all involved that just 18 months after the Board of Regents approved a plan to expand medical education in Georgia, we have received this positive news,” says University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. “This strategic plan to increase the number of physicians in Georgia is of critical importance to our state and its citizens. We could not be at this point if not for the critical and strong support we have received from Governor Sonny Perdue and the members of the General Assembly. This support, expressed through funding in both Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2010, has been and continues to be essential, and we are appreciative of this support.”

“We are pleased with the report and look forward to updating the LCME about the continued progress of this exciting initiative that will have a lasting impact on the health of Georgians,” says Dr. Dan Rahn, MCG president and senior vice chancellor for health and medical programs for the University System of Georgia. “Countless hours, talent and support—particularly from Governor Perdue and our legislators—have gotten us to this point, but the work has just begun. Now we move forward with recruiting more students and educating more physicians for Georgia.”

“This action affirms the work currently underway to build the faculty, prepare the facilities, and shape the academic program for future medical students,” says UGA President Michael F. Adams. “We will be providing appropriate updates to the LCME as we move forward in our preparations. The MCG/UGA Medical Partnership builds on the strengths of two great Georgia institutions to address the critical need for more physicians in our state, and it positions both institutions to better do the kind of research that should lead to a healthier and more prosperous Georgia. We greatly appreciate the support of the Governor and Legislature which led us to this point.”

Later this month, the MCG School of Medicine will begin accepting applications for the first class of 40 students at the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership for the 2010 fall semester. The additional students will boost the medical school's class size to 230 students. UGA’s renovation of the Interim Medical Partnership Building, which sits on the banks of the North Oconee River in Athens, is scheduled to be completed this month.

The Athens campus, slated to grow to 60 students per class, is part of an overall plan to increase the MCG School of Medicine’s class size from 190 to 300 students by 2020 to help meet Georgia’s need for physicians. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation in both population and population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 44th in the number of physicians per capita, according to the American Medical Association.

The statewide plan also includes increasing the medical school class size in Augusta to 240, growth that will require larger facilities as the school’s home base. Simultaneous growth also is occurring at two clinical campuses for third- and fourth-year students: the Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany and the Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus based at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System in Savannah.

Dr. Barbara Schuster, dean for the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership, said about 30 new faculty members are being recruited and about a dozen have been hired to date for the Athens campus. The majority of the initial hires will have a primary appointment at MCG and an adjunct appointment at UGA; faculty members with a primary appointment at UGA will have an adjunct appointment at MCG. Existing faculty at both institutions will help with teaching as well, Dr. Schuster says. Educators will be fine tuning the curriculum for the Athens campus during the next year.

The MCG School of Medicine Admissions Committee has increased from 18 to 25 members in the past two years to accommodate a larger class size and include representation from Athens, Savannah and Albany, says Dr. Geoffrey Young, associate dean for admissions. School officials anticipate applicant numbers will increase as well; applicants to the MCG School of Medicine have already increased steadily during the last few years, from 1,612 for the 180 slots available in fall 2004, to 2,102 for 190 slots in fall 2008.

Interviewed applicants will be asked their preference for the Augusta or Athens campus. Once applicants are accepted, a subcommittee of the Admissions Committee will make campus assignments with an eye toward a heterogeneous student body at both campuses, Dr. Young says.

The Medical College of Georgia is the state’s health sciences university and includes the Schools of Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Studies, Medicine and Nursing. MCG is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution. http://www.mcg.edu/

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Regents Approve Allocation of Funds for Major Repair and Renovations on USG Campuses

The University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents last week approved 236 projects on the System’s 35 campuses slated for repair and renovation. Funds totaling $57,493,596 were allocated for projects ranging from replacing aging roofs and upgrading fire safety systems to energy efficiency improvements such as window replacement and the installation of occupancy sensors for classroom lighting.

Each institution annually submits a request to the regents for, in USG terminology, Major Repair and Renovation (MRR) projects. For the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, campus officials submitted 530 projects for MRR funding. All submitted projects are reviewed and evaluated by Board of Regents staff with selected projects being recommended to the board for consideration for approval in one large package each year.

“Every homeowner knows that roofs don't last forever and that you have to replace your air conditioner every 20 years or so,” said Linda Daniels, USG vice chancellor for facilities. “Imagine multiplying those types of needs by 35 institutions and hundreds of buildings, and you begin to grasp the length and complexity of the list of repairs and renovations submitted to the Board of Regents every year.” The requests for MRR needs from USG institutions for fiscal year 2010 approached $136 million, against the $60 million received in state funding, more than double the current funding level. Daniels said the final list of projects recommended to the board by USG staff is not intended to serve as a comprehensive view of total system-wide MRR needs. It is a list of projects that can be undertaken with the funding allocated for that fiscal year. Some examples from this year’s list of approved projects include:

$265,000 to replace academic building windows at Georgia Perimeter College’s Decatur Campus.
$789,000 to replace or repair multiple roofs at Macon State College.
$86,000 to replace water meters in seven buildings at Albany State University.
$100,000 to replace fire alarm systems in two buildings at Georgia Southern University.
$300,00 for the sanitary sewer replacement program at UGA.

Repair and renovation of facilities is a significant undertaking and an ongoing process. The Board of Regents owns 3,224 buildings and facilities, currently valued at more than $6.2 billion. This represents more than 25 per cent of all state of Georgia property holdings.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Board of Regents Approves Clayton State’s Archival Studies Masters Program

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has approved another landmark in the development of Clayton State University… a program literally 10 years in development.

The USG board gave its approval on Wednesday, June 10, to the establishment of a Master’s in Archival Studies for Clayton State, extending the University’s long-standing relationship with both the Georgia Archives and the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Southeast Region, a relationship that extends across not only a decade, but two presidents and two interim presidents at Clayton State.

The archival studies program, which will begin in August 2009, is the university's seventh graduate-level program and the only program of its kind in the State of Georgia… a fitting circumstance, since the Georgia and NARA facilities, which will so greatly benefit Clayton State’s future master’s students, are also unique – the only co-located state and federal archives facilities in the United States. Both the Georgia and NARA archives already employ Clayton State undergraduate students to help with research and archiving of materials.The 45-semester-hour program will focus on archival studies theory and methodology, as well as practice in the administrative, legal, economic, historical, managerial and information studies areas, and will be housed in the University’s College of Information and Mathematical Sciences. Administration of the program will be by Clayton State’s School of Graduate Studies. Course topics will include traditional and digital preservation, introduction to electronic records, archives and technology, and materials arrangement and description of archival documents. It is projected that 20 to 25 students per year will enroll in the program.

Clayton State’s first contact with NARA dates back to the administration of the University’s second president, Dr. Richard A. Skinner, who, in effect, invited John Carlin, archivist of the United States, to relocate the Southeast Regional Archives from its outdated East Point facility to the intersection of Jonesboro Road and Clayton State Boulevard, a quarter mile west of the Clayton State main campus in Morrow. After Skinner left to direct the USG’s Georgia GLOBE initiative in 1999, Interim President Michael Vollmer kept the momentum going as then-Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox pondered the idea of a new home for the Georgia Archives. Both archives eventually built their new facilities on adjoining land during the administration of Clayton State’s third president, Dr. Thomas K. Harden. Finally, approval for the new graduate program came less than a month after Dr. Thomas J. Hynes took office as Clayton State interim president, following Harden’s appointment as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Another key player in the development of the archival studies program is Clayton State Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Dr. Sharon Hoffman, who wrote, applied for, and received, almost $600,000 in two federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education to start the program. A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Three Charter Schools Allowed to Seek State Charter Commission Authorization

Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology, Ivy Preparatory Academy and
Scholars Academy Charter School originally had been denied by their local districts


Three charter schools that originally were denied a charter by their local school districts were authorized by the State Board of Education to seek approval from the new Georgia Charter Schools Commission, during the Board’s monthly meeting Thursday.

The schools are Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology (CCAT), a middle and high school in Statesboro (Bulloch County), Ivy Preparatory Academy, a middle school for girls in Norcross (Gwinnett County), and Scholars Academy Charter School, an elementary school in Riverdale (Clayton County). All three have been operating as State Chartered Special Schools, meaning they were denied a charter by their local districts but were approved by the State Board of Education. State Chartered Special Schools are not funded at the same level as traditional public schools and charter schools approved by a local district.

However, Thursday’s action by the State Board gives the schools permission to seek approval of their charters by the seven-member Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an alternative authorizing group created by the passage of House Bill 881 during the 2008 Legislative Session. Charter schools authorized by the Commission – whose members were appointed by the Governor (3), Lieutenant Governor (2) and House Speaker (2) – are eligible for full funding.

This would allow these schools to have fair and equitable funding in order to enhance programs and services for students, according to Georgia Charter Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Tony Roberts.

The Commission is expected to vote on the three schools at its monthly meeting on June 18.
“The students served by these schools desperately need this increase in funding, and as public schools it is funding they rightfully deserve,” said Roberts. “The students at these schools are Georgia public school kids. Their parents are Georgia tax payers. They deserve access to a quality public education funded at levels equal to other public schools.

“We appreciate the decision of the State Board of Education to originally grant charters for these schools, and its decision to allow them to seek authorization from the Commission,” Roberts said. “We are confident that the Commission will be fair and objective about its decisions.”
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

West Georgia School of Nursing a Winner

The University of West Georgia and the School of Nursing will celebrate its one-year anniversary in the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year.

Established in 1974, the Nursing Department excelled as a department in the College of Arts and Sciences. Now, it is one of the university’s most prestigious programs with classes on the Carrollton campus and at the Newnan Center.

Dr. Kathryn Grams, dean of the nursing program, said nursing made the leap from department to school because of the distinct characteristics that separate it from other programs in the College of Arts and Sciences.

It is the only traditional health discipline at UWG, one with an extremely complex curriculum.

“This change increases the visibility of our program within the university and the community,” she said. “It also enhances the status of nursing for our students and faculty, and it makes UWG comparable to other nursing units in Georgia’s robust tier of doctoral comprehensive universities.”

The change also allows the school to recruit future students more effectively.

“Nursing students are in high demand right now, with the best and brightest of those looking for a high quality facility,” Grams said. “They want an institution that holds nursing in high regard.”
Because the state is facing a shortage of nursing students and faculty, the discipline is a high priority in the university system. Grams said the change at UWG puts nursing in the public eye and helps people see how crucial it is.

The School of Nursing experienced a successful and exciting 2008. Not only did it receive a new designation, its BSN and MSN programs were also reaccredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education for the next 10 years. Plans are underway for the school to have its own building on UWG’s main campus within the next few years, also.

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Georgia Tech Holds Information Sessions About NSF Funding For Graduate Students

The National Science Foundation is increasing its funding opportunities for young researchers. Georgia Tech has three NSF Graduate Research Fellowship information sessions scheduled to assist students as they plan for their November applications. Session will include information from an NSF reviewer as well as from Dr. Karen Adams from the Fellowship Program.

The three NSF Graduate Research Fellowship information sessions planned are as follows:

• June 16, 11:00, Piedmont Room, Student Center
• September 1, 11:00, Piedmont Room, Student Center
• September 29, 11:00, Crescent Room, Student Center

Undergraduates are encouraged to attend the sessions to learn what they need to do to prepare when they are eligible to apply.

Students eligible to apply in November are seniors, first-year graduate students, and second-year graduate students who have not completed MORE than 12 months of graduate work. (August to August is 12 months. When students apply in November, they have not completed MORE than 12 months.)

Awards are $30,000 a year for three years of graduate study plus $10,500 each year to the university to go toward tuition, and $1000 for travel to an international conference. NSF awards can be deferred up to two years.

Students are encouraged to work on their three NSF essays this summer and can contact Dr. Karen Adams in the Fellowship Office for information (Karen.adams@provost.gatech.edu).

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Monday, June 8, 2009

New Engineering Master’s Degrees Aimed at Emerging Environmental Challenges

Mercer University’s School of Engineering is launching two new degree programs this fall to help meet the nation’s mounting environmental challenges. In August, the School will welcome its first classes for the Master of Science in Engineering in environmental engineering – for students with engineering degrees – and the Master of Science in environmental systems – aimed at practicing professionals with degrees in other science disciplines.

The degrees are timely, according to their designers, because the curricula not only provide training in sustainability, green engineering and ecology, but also address the nation’s most pressing environmental challenges: emerging contaminants and aging environmental infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its most recent report card, gave an overall grade of D for the infrastructure in the United States, and the country’s drinking water, wastewater, energy and hazardous waste systems all received either a D or D minus.

“These new environmental graduate programs will train environmental engineers and scientists to replace the aging infrastructure with sustainable designs and develop innovative approaches to treat emerging contaminants associated with personal care products, endocrine-disrupting compounds and pharmaceutical drugs, as well as conventional pollutants,” said Dr. Richard O. Mines, professor of environmental engineering and director of the School of Engineering’s graduate programs.

Both programs are designed for working professionals, with most courses offered once a week in the evenings. The programs have four major areas of study, where students will study the most advanced techniques and models in biotechnology and remediation, water quality, solid and hazardous waste and air quality issues. A number of the courses include an emphasis on green engineering and sustainable design. The programs also emphasize management, adding skills in leadership and project management while also upgrading each student’s scientific and engineering skills.

The Master of Science in Engineering in environmental engineering is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in any area of engineering. Earning an environmental engineering degree will allow the graduate to be eligible for registration as a professional engineer after passing the fundamentals of engineering examination. In addition, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying has approved new rules that will eventually require applicants for the professional engineer certification to obtain a master’s degree or equivalent to be eligible for the exam

The Master of Science in environmental systems offers practicing professionals with backgrounds in biology, chemistry and environmental science the opportunity to take advanced courses related to environmental engineering and science, which will extend their knowledge and enable them to effectively work on multidisciplinary teams to solve challenging environmental problems. The degree is available to students with an undergraduate degree in any area of science. Earning the Master of Science in environmental systems also makes the graduate eligible for registration on the National Registry of Environmental Professionals.

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NASA Grant Targets STEM Teachers

Georgia teachers will have the opportunity to hone their instructional skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a result of a $3 million NASA grant awarded to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Electronic Professional Development Network Grant is designed to help Georgia Tech, in tandem with Orbit Education, Inc., prepare, produce, deliver and evaluate NASA-related online courses, workshops and experiences for the benefit of STEM educators in Georgia and across the nation. Courses and workshops will emphasize best practices, incorporating inquiry learning, case-based scenarios and data analysis actively into the programs. Georgia Tech’s Distance Learning and Professional Education (DLPE) and Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) will be the lead units on the project.

“This project will allow Georgia Tech to reach a community of educators, enabling them to better prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists while enhancing their own careers”, says Dr. Nelson Baker, vice provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education (DLPE).

The five-year project will utilize existing NASA products and data. CEISMC, Georgia Tech’s K-12 educational outreach center, regularly conducts teacher professional development workshops face-to-face with Georgia teachers.

“We are eager to translate these professional learning experiences into an electronic format”, says Dr. Marion Usselman, CEISMC senior research scientist. “This will enable us to reach teachers who otherwise don’t have access to STEM professional development and to help move towards a more environmentally sustainable model where teacher and staff developers aren’t required to drive long distances to effectively get together.”

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Secretary Sebelius Makes Recovery Act Funding Available to Bolster Health Care in Needy Communities, Relieve Providers' Student Debt

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday announced the availability of nearly $200 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support student loan repayments for primary care medical, dental and mental health clinicians who want to work at National Health Service Corps (NHSC) sites.

In exchange for the loan repayments, clinicians serve for two years with the Corps. The new funds are expected to double the number of Corps clinicians and make 3,300 awards to
clinicians that serve in health centers, rural health clinics and other health care facilities that care for uninsured and underserved people.

Secretary Sebelius made the announcement prior to touring the Tufts Floating Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., where she was joined by members of the National Health Service Corps. Following the tour, Sebelius held a discussion with health care experts and Massachusetts
Governor Deval Patrick on the importance of health reform.

The funds announced today were made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has made a down payment on the critical health reforms our country needs and protected health care and vital services for Americans across the country.

"The Recovery Act has laid the foundation for health reform and is supporting our effort to give more people access to the quality, affordable care they need," Secretary Sebelius said. "National Health Service Corps has helped protect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Now, we are doubling the Corps and putting doctors and clinicians in the communities where they are desperately needed."

"As we await a national health care reform plan, a careful look at Massachusetts' historic efforts to obtain near-universal health insurance coverage offers valuable insights into what we can achieve as a nation," Governor Patrick said. "We thank President Obama and Secretary Sebelius for their strong commitment to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable care. Recovery Act funding for student loan repayments will further support our reform efforts by helping to deliver care to the communities where it's needed most."

"The health care professionals who heed this call to serve will join thousands of dedicated NHSC primary care clinicians already in the field," said Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration which oversees the NHSC at HHS. "These funds will double both the number of Corps clinicians and the number of patients they care for, and spark economic growth in communities hit hard by the economic downturn."

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the NHSC has provided scholarships and loan repayments for more than 30,000 doctors, dentists and other health professionals who provide health care in the most geographically isolated and economically distressed regions of the
country.

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CRCT Scores Increase in All Areas‏

Test scores for Georgia’s elementary and middle school students improved in all areas this year, but most dramatically in the crucial subjects of mathematics and science.

Students posted gains on all 14 of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in mathematics and science, all of which are aligned to Georgia’s more rigorous curriculum.

“The 2009 CRCT results are very encouraging and show that our students are learning more advanced concepts and are able to apply that knowledge properly,” said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. “Our elementary and middle school teachers should feel very proud today – they are getting the job done!”

The biggest one-year gain on any of the CRCTs was in eighth-grade math: The pass rate was 70 percent, an increase of eight percentage points.

“Our new grade 8 math curriculum is very rigorous, but our teachers and students are embracing the rigor and are making tremendous progress,” Superintendent Cox said. “Even more encouraging is the rise in the number of students who are scoring at higher levels on the exam.” The percentage of grade 8 students scoring in the “exceeds” category also jumped eight points to 23 percent.

The CRCTs are curriculum-based tests given to students in grades 1-8 in the subjects of reading, English language arts, mathematics and – in grades 3-8 – science and social studies. As Georgia has rolled out its new curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards, more rigorous tests have been created and administered. This year, for the first time, all the CRCTs are aligned to the new curriculum. The statewide results are reported in three categories – the percentage of students that did not meet standards, met standards or exceeded standards.

Other highlights from the 2009 CRCT report include:

* A five (5) percentage point jump in the pass rate for science in grades 3 and 5. In third grade, 80 percent of the students met or exceeded standards on the science CRCT and in fifth grade 76 percent.
* Reading and English language arts performance remained high and improved in almost every grade, with 89 percent of seventh-graders meeting standards on both tests. In sixth-grade, the pass rate was 90 percent in reading and 91 percent in English.
* This is the first year students in grades 3-5 took the social studies CRCT aligned to the new curriculum. The pass rate was over 70 percent for each grade.

Closing the Gap

When the results of the 2009 CRCT are broken down, it’s clear that students in Georgia’s largest subgroups continue to make tremendous progress.

“Scores are rising for all students,” said Superintendent Cox, “but our English Language Learner, African-American and Hispanic students are improving faster than the rest of the state and are closing the achievement gap. There is still work to be done, but the progress is undeniable.”

Among the highlights of the 2009 CRCT report:

* English Language Learners (ELL) made dramatic gains in mathematics. The pass rate for ELLs jumped 11 points in one year on the third- and fifth-grade math CRCT and eight points in grade 8 mathematics.
* Since the roll out of the state’s new curriculum, African-American students have closed the achievement gap on almost every test when compared to the performance of Caucasian students. For example, in just three years, the gap has closed nine points in fifth-grade science and eight points in seventh-grade mathematics.
* Hispanic students are closing the achievement gap faster than any other group when compared to the performance of Caucasian students. In just three years, Hispanic students have closed the gap 12 percentage points in third-grade science and over the past four years have closed the gap 12 points in grade 5 English language arts.

Promotion/Retention

Scores went up in all grades and content areas where students must pass to automatically be promoted to the next grade level.

State law requires that students in third, fifth and eighth grade meet or exceed expectations on the CRCT in reading in order to be promoted. Fifth and eighth grade students must also meet or exceed expectations on the CRCT in mathematics.

Results from the 2009 CRCT report:

* Third-grade scores increased one (1) percentage point from last year to 88% in reading.
* Fifth-grade scores increased one (1) percentage point from last year to 88% in reading, and seven (7) percentage points to 79% in mathematics.
* Eighth-grade scores increased two (2) percentage points from last year to 93% in reading, and eight (8) percentage points to 70% in mathematics.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

UWG to Host Summer Research Program

The University of West Georgia and the Department of Mathematics will host an exciting National Science Foundation program this summer. Students participating in “Research Experience for Undergraduates” are chosen from a national pool of math majors and will live on the UWG campus for eight weeks.

Dr. Bruce Landman, chair of the math department, and Dr. Abdollah Khodkar, associate professor of mathematics, will offer students first-hand experience in conducting research in the mathematical areas of number and graph theory and combinatorics. The NSF sponsored program, which is in its third year, pays for residential living and meals on campus, a stipend and living and traveling expenses.

This year’s participants attend Georgia Tech, UWG, California State University at Northridge, Florida State University, the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, McDaniel College, the University of Michigan and the University of Nebraska.

The research program will focus on individual and team research work under a faculty mentor. The syllabi will feature lectures by visiting speakers, weekly seminars where students give oral presentations on their work and writing a mathematics research paper. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a prestigious mathematics conference. It is an inspiring program for students who love math, said Landman.

“Our 2007 and 2008 REU programs appear to have been successful,” said Landman. “At least four student-authored articles have been accepted in research journals, two presentations have been made at a national conference, numerous academic awards have been received and most of the students have decided to pursue doctorate degrees.”

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Sallie Mae CEO Emphasizes Company’s Full Support of Generating Historic Savings for Pell Grants

(BUSINESS WIRE)--At yesterday’s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods 2009 Diversified Financials Conference, Sallie Mae Vice Chairman & CEO Albert L. (Al) Lord emphasized Sallie Mae’s support of President Obama’s objectives of generating an historic level of federal budget savings by reforming the federal student loan programs and increasing Pell Grants for students.

Discussing suggested enhancements to the Administration’s proposal, Mr. Lord highlighted:

* ensuring competition among numerous originators and servicers, including smaller, regional, state and non-profit providers,
* requiring servicers to share in the risk of loan default, and
* eliminating the transition risk for colleges and universities at a time of severe budget constraints.

Mr. Lord emphasized Sallie Mae’s efforts to work constructively with the Administration and Congress and re-iterated the company’s support of the key components of the Administration’s plan: leveraging federal funding for student loans to create savings, increasing Pell Grants with the proceeds of those savings, and utilizing private sector competition to produce high-quality loan services.

With regard to the importance of broad competition in loan delivery to students and schools, Mr. Lord stated, “We don't see any need to limit the number of players who originate and service loans, so long as they compete, provide quality service and deliver the savings.”

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

GSU research focuses on improving teacher retention

Nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Georgia State University researchers and their public school partners have been investigating how to reduce this troubling trend.

Barbara Meyers, chair of the Department of Early Childhood Education and Assistant Professor Susan Swars, along with doctoral student Brian Lack and recent doctoral graduate Lydia Mays, spent more than two years studying teacher retention and mobility at a high needs school in the metro Atlanta area.

Using surveys, interviews and open-ended questionnaires, the research team collected 134 teachers’ perceptions of why teachers choose to remain at or leave their school. The researchers found the teachers stay in the classroom if they have positive relationships with other educators and administrators, a diverse student population and an environment that emphasizes academic student achievement.

But, educators may leave when they disagree about teaching philosophies and school policies, the researchers found. Teachers are also more likely to exit the profession if they fear they cannot express concerns or have a lack power.

Based on their findings, the research team developed a two-dimensional model that may help educators determine what school environments are best for them.

“Our model can help teachers be more informed job hunters,” Meyers said. “If they identify shared educational beliefs when they interview, they may be more likely to stay at that school.”
Further, the model could also be used to help administrators screen and hire educators that will work well in their schools and perhaps promote retention.

An analysis by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission indicates the cost to the state of Georgia to replace teachers lost to attrition was almost $400 million in 2005, an increase of nearly $60 million from 2001.

“When universities and schools engage in collaborative inquiries about critical issues facing the teaching profession, authentic, constructive, and pragmatic solutions may be found,” Associate Professor Swars said.

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UGA graduate program expands to prepare teachers to work with secondary students with autism

An innovative University of Georgia graduate program in special education that has prepared scores of Georgia teachers to work with elementary-age students with autism over the last several years has received a new 4-year, $793,000 federal grant to train teachers to work with similarly challenged secondary-age students.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that is part of a group known as autism spectrum disorders. Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s a need for specialized training on how to structure the classroom, how to respond to these kids when they behave inappropriately and how to design instruction that will facilitate the learning of new skills,” said David Gast, a professor of special education, who co-founded the Collaborative Personnel Preparation in Autism program at UGA in 2003.

Gast will co-direct the new program called the Collaborative Adolescent Autism Teacher Training project, with Kevin Ayres, an assistant professor of special education. It will use much of the U.S. Department of Education grant to fund fellowships for up to a dozen graduate students a year to learn how to work with secondary-age students with ASD.

CAATT will work largely with teachers in three diverse school districts in rural, urban and suburban areas of Northeast Georgia.

“Our primary efforts will be in Gwinnett, Clarke and Madison counties as those are our partner districts. But if we were to get an applicant from Cobb (County) who may be a current teacher wanting to complete their M.Ed., they would be eligible,” said Ayres. “We are really recruiting statewide as well as out-of-state people. We feel we will be best able to supply Gwinnett, Clarke, and Madison with new teachers when we recruit folks fresh out of their undergrad programs who are not currently teaching anywhere. These are the folks then that we can work with to get into the partner systems.”

Gast and Deanna Luscre, who coordinated the ASD program for Gwinnett County Public Schools from 1996-2003, developed the COPPA program with a grant of $894,000 from the U.S. Department of the Education in 2003. The program received a second grant of $793,000 in 2007 for four more years.

The second grant allowed UGA to offer additional training in ASD to interested teachers in Clarke, Cobb and Forsyth county schools. Teachers from other school districts have also participated in one or more of the courses being offered.

“Comprehensive public school programs for students with autism must provide high quality, evidence-based intervention from birth to age 21 and to achieve this goal, schools need highly qualified teachers,” said Ayres.

“Preparation and specialization in teaching secondary-age students is distinct from that of elementary-age students and this expansion is significant because it provides for the development of three new courses and two new practica addressing the unique needs of adolescents related to transition planning, community-based instruction and academic content,” he said.

The new program will help put more qualified teachers into Georgia schools, which like other schools across the nation face increasing numbers of students with ASD. One Georgia school system reported eight classrooms for students with autism in 1994, today they have 180 classrooms serving those students, said Ayres.

ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. It is defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests.

The number of children diagnosed with autism has grown about 17 percent a year across the country, and could reach 4 million in the next 10 years, according to Department of Education reports.

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