Thursday, July 30, 2009

Heron Bay Academy to Submit Petition to Georgia Charter School Commission

New commission critical to state’s efforts to provide high quality schools

Heron Bay Academy will be among the first schools to submit a petition to the newly founded Georgia Charter School Commission. The charter application will be submitted on August 1, 2009, with an answer expected by December 2009. The Georgia Charter School Commission was created by House Bill 881 in May 2008 due the high number of charter school petitions that have been denied by local school boards.

The General Assembly found in House Bill 881 that charter schools were a critical component to the state of Georgia’s efforts to provide efficient and high-quality schools within the state’s uniform system of public education. The Assembly also found that charter schools in the state have contributed to enhanced student performance while empowering parents to best fit the individual needs of their children.

A recent analysis of the state's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) data indicated that charter schools in Georgia, particularly those that are started independently from school districts, are performing better than traditional public schools.

“Charter Public Schools provide students with quality options in public K-12 education so they many find the best setting to become productive members of our community,” said Andrew Lewis, chief programming officer with The Georgia Charter Schools Association.

Heron Bay Academy is to be built on the grounds of Heron Bay Golf and Country Club, a master-planned community in Locust Grove, Ga. The proposed school will offer in-depth education including rigorous core training in language arts, math, science, humanities, social studies and Spanish.

Heron Bay had submitted its charter petition to two different school boards for fall of 2010, however in a vote on June 30, the Griffin-Spalding School Board voted to deny the Charter petition for The Academy. The petition was also denied by the Henry Board of Education on July 13.

“In spite of their vote for denial, members of both boards commented on the strength of the charter petition and noted that the school’s educational program and structure was unique, solid and unquestioned,” said Marilyn Bowman, of Mosaica Education, one of the nation’s leading private operators of K-12 public schools who help bring the benefits of the competition and private sector efficiency to the public school system.

Minerva Properties, the developer of Heron Bay Golf & Country Club, and Mosaica Education have a unique vision to unite the community with a neighborhood charter school designed to promote educational excellence, parental partnerships and community stewardship. If you would like to partner with the school or join the Parent Advisory Committee, please contact Marilyn Bowman at mbowman@mosaicaeducation.com or Stacy Patton at spatton@minerva-usa.com. Interested individuals may also come to an Update Meeting on Heron Bay Academy at the Heron Bay Lodge on August 18, at 7:00 pm.

About Heron Bay Academy:
Heron Bay Academy is targeted to open in the fall of 2010 as a K-6 program for students residing in Spalding and Henry Counties. The school will be tuition-free and will expand one grade level per year up to the 8th grade. The academy is supported by parents, community leaders, and local businesses and organizations who believe passionately in the school’s mission and the importance of quality education and school choice in Locust Grove. Partnering with parents, Heron Bay Academy will create an ideal learning environment in which students strive for academic excellence, explore a diverse curriculum, become responsible stewards, and develop into lifelong learners. An important component of the educational program is Paragon - an interdisciplinary, hands-on social studies curriculum incorporating the arts and humanities
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Office Depot Honors Georgia Educators with Teacher Appreciation Breakfast and Benefits

Teachers Provided With A 10% Discount on Qualifying School Supplies, Complimentary Products, 50% Back in Rewards on Select Products* Purchased on Saturday, And A Free Networking Breakfast On August 1 In Celebration Of Back To School

Office Depot® (NYSE: ODP), a leading global provider of office products and services, is hosting a celebration for Atlanta-area teachers as they get ready to head back into the classroom. Taking place this Saturday, the special Teacher Appreciation Breakfast will be held at Office Depot retail stores in the following areas: Atlanta, Athens, Albany, Augusta, Columbus, Glynn, Gordon, Hall, Macon, Thomas, and Whitefield County.

Both new and existing members of the Office Depot Star Teacher Program are invited to enjoy 10% savings all this week on qualifying in-store purchases* and attend Saturday’s event, which will include a breakfast, bonus rewards and a complimentary tote bag and flash drive with discounts and offers to be used throughout the upcoming school year.

Educators attending the Teacher Appreciation Breakfast on Saturday will receive 50% back in Rewards* on products from the following event sponsors: Crayola®, Expo®, Five Star®, Mead, Paper Mate® and Sharpie.

The Office Depot Star Teacher Program provides members with special promotions, discounts and offers to help teachers stretch their classroom budgets in these challenging economic times. Pre-K through 12th grade classroom teachers are eligible to be a member of the Office Depot Star Teacher program. Enrollment in the program is free and can be done at any Office Depot store or online at www.mystarteacher.com. Ask a store associate for details or visit www.mystarteacher.com for more information.

Star Teacher Program benefits include year-round offers, including10% back on ink, toner and paper purchases, an instant 15% off Design, Print, & Ship Depot services, PLUS an additional 1% back on almost everything else.* Membership in the Star Teacher Program is free.
To find your local Office Depot store, please visit www.officedepot.com/stores.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Internationally Recognized Leader in Homeschooling Launches New Dedicated Web Site

/PRNewswire/ -- Calvert Education Services launched its new website www.calvertschool.org on July 1. The site provides comprehensive information for families interested in homeschooling and improved navigational tools. The design, content and site enhancements mark a major improvement in the educational web site landscape.

"Our new website provides our families with improved navigation, comprehensive information on our programs and services, independent, quantitative results on the benefits of homeschooling, compelling design and access to an international network of students, families and teachers," said Mike Wilmeth, Director of Marketing.

The new website has received enthusiastic and favorable reviews from families since going live earlier this month. In recognition of this achievement, Calvert is offering discounts to homeschooling families enrolling through July 20th.

The Calvert School, an independent, non-sectarian private school in Baltimore has served students since its inception in 1897. Calvert's first headmaster, Virgil Hillyer, a Harvard trained educational visionary believed that all children regardless of geography or economics should have access to a world class education. He convinced a Baltimore bookstore owner to provide the Calvert curriculum and in effect, formalized home schooling in this country in 1906.

Calvert, the trusted leader in distance learning for over a century, serves Kindergarten through Eighth Grade students in all 50 states and over 60 countries.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NASA Seeks Undergrads to Defy Gravity for Science and Engineering

/PRNewswire/ -- NASA is offering undergraduate students an opportunity to test experiments in microgravity aboard NASA's "Weightless Wonder" aircraft.

The opportunity is part of NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, which gives aspiring explorers a chance to propose, design and fabricate a reduced gravity experiment. Selected teams will get to test and evaluate their experiment aboard NASA's reduced gravity airplane. The aircraft flies about 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips during experiment flights to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 g to 2 g.

"Today's students will be the ones going to the moon and beyond to live, explore and work," said Douglas Goforth, the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This project gives them a head start in preparing for those future ventures by allowing them to conduct hands-on research and engineering today in a truly reduced gravity laboratory."

Proposals are due to NASA by Oct. 28. Interested students also should submit a letter of intent by Sept. 16. This step is optional but serves as an introductory notice that a team plans to submit a proposal for the upcoming competition.

NASA will announce selected teams Dec. 9. They will fly in the summer of 2010. Once selected, teams also may invite a full-time, accredited journalist to fly with them and document the team's experiment and experiences. All applicants must be full-time students, U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old.

With this program, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. It is directly tied to the agency's education goal of strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce. Through this and other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to carry out its space exploration mission.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program or to submit a proposal, contact the program at jsc-reducedgravity@nasa.gov, or visit:
http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov/ .

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More than 79% of Schools Make AYP

Big gains in Elementary and Middle Grades
58 Schools Lose "Needs Improvement" Label

More than 79 percent of Georgia's public schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, according to initial results released today -- a 10 point jump over 2008.

Additionally, 58 schools across the state shook the "Needs Improvement" label by having made AYP for two consecutive years.

"The initial AYP results demonstrate that our students are continuing to make excellent progress even as we raise expectations," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "Clearly, our teachers and students are working harder than ever and we're seeing the results."

Superintendent Cox released the initial 2009 AYP Report this morning while speaking at the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) conference in Jekyll Island. The final AYP report will be released in the fall and will include summer retest scores and summer graduates.
Compared to initial AYP results last year, the 2009 report shows that:

- The percentage of schools making AYP jumped more than 10 points from 68.8% to 79.1%.
- The percentage of elementary schools making AYP jumped 13.4 points and the percentage of middle schools jumped 10.4 points.
- The percentage of Title 1 schools making AYP increased by more than 13 points, from 64.8% to 78.4% (Title 1 schools have a significant population of economically-disadvantaged students).
Superintendent Cox said the improvements that elementary and middle school students showed in mathematics are a big part of the AYP results. Pass rates on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in mathematics improved in all grades across the state (More information: http://www.gadoe.org/pea_communications.aspx?ViewMode=1&obj=1822).

"Mathematics achievement was a key to our improvement in AYP results this year," said Superintendent Cox. "We are asking our students to learn more rigorous mathematics and they are showing us that they can do it!"

The percentage of high schools making AYP continues to lag behind. In 2009, just over 47 percent of the state's high schools made AYP, a slight decrease from 2008's initial results.

"We know there is a lot of hard work going on in our high schools," Superintendent Cox said. "We need to continue to study the data and work together to make sure our high schools are not only meeting AYP goals but are preparing students for the 21st century."

AYP is the formula used to determine if schools are meeting expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It consists of three parts -- test participation, academic achievement and another statistic, called a "second indicator." The academic goals continue to rise every few years toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014. This year, all of the academic goals remained the same as 2008, although the graduation rate bar went up.

All students at a school, as well as any qualifying subgroup of students, must meet goals in all three categories in order to "make AYP." Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject are placed in "Needs Improvement" status and face escalating consequences. For more information on AYP, go to http://tinyurl.com/AYPFAQ2009.

58 Schools No Longer in “Needs Improvement”

Initial results show that 58 schools came out of "Needs Improvement" -- or NI -- status by making AYP for the second consecutive year. Twelve of those schools had been in NI status for five or more years and were facing the highest level of sanctions.

"Getting out of NI status isn't easy," Superintendent Cox said. "These 58 schools should be very proud of their accomplishments, but need to remain focused in order to keep improving."

There are 334 schools in NI status for the coming school year. These schools must offer parents options, such as public school choice or federally-funded tutoring. Depending on how long these schools have been in NI, some may have to make structural or organizational changes to improve student achievement.

In 2008, there were 340 NI schools after the initial results were released. That number dropped to 308 after retests, summer graduates and appeals were worked into the formula.

"I believe we will see the number of NI schools drop again when we do our final AYP determinations in the fall," Superintendent Cox said.

Graduation Rate

The state's initial 2009 graduation rate is 77.8 percent. That is up from the initial 2008 graduation rate of 74.4 percent and the final 2008 graduation rate of 75.4 percent, which included summer graduates.

"Improving the graduation rate continues to be a top priority in the state of Georgia," Superintendent Cox said. "I am proud of the progress we are making, but there is certainly a lot of work left to be done."

Graduation Rate must be used as a "second indicator" for all high schools and the bar was raised this year.

In order to make AYP a high school had to have a graduation rate of 75 percent or higher, up from 70 percent last year. If a school did not make that goal, they could use a "second look" which means:

- Having a graduation rate that averaged 75 percent or higher over the past three years OR
- Having a graduation rate of at least 55 percent the previous year (2008) and showing a 10 percent improvement in the rate this year.

MORE INFORMATION

- AYP Website (spreadsheets with school-level and system-level information): http://www.gadoe.org/ayp2009.aspx
- Guide to using the AYP report website: http://tinyurl.com/2009AYPGuide
- AYP "By the Numbers": http://tinyurl.com/2009AYPNumbers

SCHOOL and DISTRICT HIGHLIGHTS

SCHOOLS THAT CAME OUT OF "NEEDS IMPROVEMENT" STATUS

School Name, School District

Kennedy Middle School , Atlanta Public Schools
Long Middle School, Atlanta Public Schools
South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science, Atlanta Public Schools
Grady High School, Atlanta Public Schools
Oak Hill Middle School, Baldwin County
Rutland Middle School, Bibb County
Bryan County Middle School, Bryan County
Langston Chapel Middle School, Bulloch County
Henderson Middle School, Butts County
Calhoun Middle School, Calhoun City
Temple Middle School, Carroll County
Spencer Elementary School, Chatham County
Forest Park Middle School, Clayton County
M. D. Roberts Middle School, Clayton County
Floyd Middle School, Cobb County
Commerce Middle School, Commerce City
Crawford County Middle School, Crawford County
Dalton Middle School, Dalton City
Cedar Grove Middle School, DeKalb County
Stephenson Middle School, DeKalb County
Montgomery Elementary School, DeKalb County
Merry Acres Middle School, Dougherty County
Dublin Middle School, Dublin City
Franklin County Middle School, Franklin County
Sandtown Middle School, Fulton County
Ridgeview Charter School, Fulton County
Oakland Meadow School, Gwinnett County
Sweetwater Middle School, Gwinnett County
Louise Radloff Middle School, Gwinnett County
South Habersham Middle School, Habersham County
East Hall Middle School, Hall County
North Hall Middle School, Hall County
White Sulphur Elementary School, Hall County
East Hall High School, Hall County
Hancock Central High School, Hancock County
Stockbridge Middle School, Henry County
Jeff Davis Middle School, Jeff Davis County
Lanier County Middle School, Lanier County
West Laurens Middle School, Laurens County
Midway Middle School, Liberty County
Madison County Middle School, Madison County
McIntosh County Academy, McIntosh County
Mitchell County Middle School, Mitchell County
Walker-Inman Elementary School, Mitchell County
Richards Middle School, Muscogee County
Fort Middle School, Muscogee County
Porterdale Elementary School, Newton County
East Paulding Middle School, Paulding County
Irma C. Austin Middle School, Paulding County
Pelham City Middle School, Pelham City
Hephzibah Middle School, Richmond County
Tutt Middle School, Richmond County
Carver Road Middle School, Spalding County
Taylor Street Middle School, Spalding County
Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools
MacIntyre Park Middle School, Thomasville City
Valdosta Middle School, Valdosta City
Wayne County High School, Wayne County

DISTRICTS WHERE ALL SCHOOLS MADE AYP

Banks County
Bleckley County
Buford City
Butts County
Calhoun City
Camden County
Chickamauga City
Clay County
Commerce City
Dalton City
Dawson County
Early County
Echols County
Fayette County
Floyd county
Forsyth County
Gilmer County
Harris County
Heard County
Houston County
Jeff Davis County
Jefferson City
Lee County
Long County
Lumpkin County
Marion County
McIntosh County
Monroe County
Montgomery County
Oconee County
Pickens County
Pierce County
Pike County
Rabun County
Rockdale County
Rome City
Schley County
Social Circle City
Stephens County
Taliaferro County
Telfair County
Towns County
Trion City
Union County
White County
Wilkes County

SCHOOLS THAT HAVE MADE AYP FOR 11 CONSECUTIVE YEARS

School, School District

D. H. Stanton Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools
Fain Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools
Bacon County Primary School, Bacon County
Berrien Primary School, Berrien County
Bleckley County Primary School, Bleckley County
Waynesboro Primary School, Burke County
Bethune Elementary School, Charlton County
Blackshear Trail Elementary School, Crisp County
J. S. Pate Elementary School, Crisp County
Roan Elementary School, Dalton City
Hightower Elementary School, DeKalb County
Saxon Heights Elementary School, Dublin City
Susie Dasher Elementary School, Dublin City
Swainsboro Primary School, Emanuel County
North Fayette Elementary School, Fayette County
Robert J. Burch Elementary School, Fayette County
Randolph Elementary School, Fulton County
Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Gainesville City
Jasper County Primary School, Jasper County
Maxwell Elementary School, McDuffie County
Thomson Elementary School, McDuffie County
Mitchell County Primary School, Mitchell County
Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary School, Monroe County
T.G. Scott Elementary School, Monroe County
Oconee County Primary School, Oconee County
Cooper Primary School, Terrell County
Crawford Primary School, Washington County
Elder Primary School, Washington County
Jack P Nix Primary, White County
Washington-Wilkes Primary School, Wilkes County
Worth County Primary School, Worth County

SCHOOLS THAT HAVE MADE AYP FOR 10 CONSECUTIVE YEARS

School, School District
Appling County Primary School, Appling County
Banks County Primary School, Banks County
Ben Hill County Primary School, Ben Hill County
Lanier Primary School, Bryan County
Mill Creek Elementary School, Bulloch County
Cook Elementary School, Cook County
Cook Primary School, Cook County
Idlewood Elementary School, DeKalb County
Oakcliff Elementary School, DeKalb County
Lamar Reese School of the Arts, Dougherty County
Lindsey Elementary School, Houston County
Perry Primary School, Houston County
Louisville Academy, Jefferson County
Morgan County Primary School, Morgan County
Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy, Muscogee County
Pelham Elementary School, Pelham City
Sumter County Primary School, Sumter County
Collins Elementary School, Tattnall County
Unity Elementary School, Troup County
Bacon Elementary School, Wayne County
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

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.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Governor Perdue Re: State Board of Education Accepting the Recommendations of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement

Governor Sonny Perdue issued the following statement today regarding the State Board of Education accepting the recommendations of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement:

“A thorough investigation by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement offers clear and convincing evidence of cheating, which was confirmed by the Georgia Center for Assessment’s independent erasure analysis. The GCA found that all 4 schools had significantly more erasures and changes to right answers than the comparison group. This spring’s CRCT scores offer further proof of wrongdoing, the pass rate at the schools whose students’ tests were altered went from 83 percent or higher in 2008 to 42 percent or lower in 2009.

I appreciate the strong reactions by school officials in DeKalb County and Glynn County who have shown they will not condone this behavior. However, it is outrageous that Atlanta Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall has simply ignored all of the evidence that Superintendent Cox, the State Board, the other systems, and I found so compelling. While Superintendent Hall attributes the gains to a ‘rigorous program’, there were flat gains from students of the 4 other schools that attended the same summer school as the students who had their tests altered.

In addition to the statistical improbability of their gains, the evidence that GOSA shared with Atlanta Public Schools showed: that the erasures were on average 3 times higher than the state average with at least one student having erasures 12 times higher than the state average, that the interviews with APS officials supported OSA’s conclusion, and that the students’ passage rate dropped from 88 percent on last summer’s retest to 42 percent on this year’s test.

I want to thank State Board of Education for accepting OSA’s recommendations to invalidate the summer retest results and ensure that the affected students get the help they need. They sent a clear message that cheating will not be tolerated in Georgia. The evidence is overwhelming and any reasonable person can see that cheating occurred and children were harmed.”
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State Board Accepts Audit Findings; 4 GA Elementary School Results Invalid

Summer retest scores from 2008 invalidated at four schools

The State Board of Education today accepted the findings of an external audit that the 2008 summer retest results at four Georgia elementary schools were changed and, therefore, are invalid.

The State Board’s unanimous vote directs the Georgia Department of Education to invalidate the 5th Grade summer retest results on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) for the following schools: Deerwood Academy, Atlanta Public Schools; Atherton Elementary, DeKalb County Schools; Parklane Elementary, Fulton County Schools; Burroughs-Molette Elementary, Glynn County.

The action was taken after an audit by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) found that student answer sheets on the fifth-grade mathematics CRCT were changed after the tests were completed but before the forms were sent in for grading. (For more information on the investigation, go to http://www.gaosa.org/news.aspx?mode=LIST)

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said the action of the Board shows how seriously the state takes the integrity of Georgia’s standardized testing process.

“The Board and I want to send a clear message that cheating will not be tolerated and we will take action, if necessary,” Superintendent Cox said. “Ultimately, the ones who are hurt by cheating are the students.”

However, Superintendent Cox emphasized that the overwhelming majority of schools administer state tests honestly and in full compliance with state and federal law.

“The vast majority of educators are highly ethical and deeply concerned with following the rules,” she said. “While any cheating is cause for concern, I am confident it is not a widespread issue and that we have a valid, trustworthy testing program in Georgia.”

By accepting the findings of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s audit, the State Board empowered the GaDOE to take the following actions:

1. Invalidate the 2008 CRCT 5th Grade retest scores at the four schools;
2. Since the four schools involved only made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) due to these retest results, the 2008 AYP determinations for these schools will be changed to “did not meet;”
3. Begin the process of recovering any money these schools received as rewards for academic achievement under the Title I Distinguished Schools program;
4. Require the school systems to notify parents of students whose test scores were altered
5. Request that the middle schools these students now attend implement an individualized support plan for affected students who continue to struggle with mathematics. The GOSA audit found that less than half of the affected students passed the math CRCT this past year in sixth grade.

The Georgia Department of Education has a process for addressing concerns about test security and allegations of cheating and will continue to work closely with the GOSA on the identification and investigation of statistical “outliers.” The GaDOE will also continue to train educators and administrators on the proper way to administer state tests.

Additionally, the Georgia Department of Education will look at ways, within existing budget resources, to broaden its process for flagging schools that show statistically improbable gains.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sallie Mae Supports Community’s Student Loan Reform Proposal

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sallie Mae, the nation’s leading saving, planning and paying for education company, today announced its support for the Student Loan Community Proposal to reform the student loan program. Put forward by a diverse coalition that includes non-profit, for-profit, and state-based service providers and guaranty agencies, the alternative proposal enhances the Administration’s plan to better serve students, families, schools, and taxpayers.

The student loan community’s plan achieves the two key objectives: it generates the same or greater budget savings as the President’s plan; and the community’s plan avoids the significant transition risks posed by switching loan origination systems on more than $50 billion of private-sector-originated loans at some 5,000 schools.

The proposal offered by the student loan community also assures the choice and competition in the marketplace, which has spurred innovation, superior customer service, and low defaults. It would allow regional and national service providers to continue delivering loans without interruption to the millions of students and families who rely on those loans to achieve their dreams of a higher education.

As this proposal moves forward, Sallie Mae pledges to continue to work constructively with the Administration and Congress to implement the best possible student loan program for students, schools, and taxpayers.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

State of Georgia Helps 1,400 Students Pass Grad Test‏

Nearly 1,400 students are a big step closer to graduation thanks to an innovative partnership between the state and local school districts.

The Exam Preparation for Science and Social Studies (ExPreSS) program was a state-funded effort aimed at students who had not passed the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) in Science or Social Studies. More than 2,000 students received two weeks of intensive instruction June 8-18 and then had the opportunity to retest on June 19.

The overall pass rate on this retest was 68 percent; more than double last year's pass rate on GHSGT retests in science and social studies.

"We knew that with just a little bit of focus and intensity many of these students would pass the test and be a step closer to getting their diploma," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "I'm very pleased with the results and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of many great educators across the state."

Public high school students take GHSGTs in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies and must pass all the exams, as well as the Georgia High School Writing Test, in order to graduate. Science and social studies are the two GHSGTs that Georgia students have struggled with the most.

Superintendent Cox heard from many school systems that, due to financial constraints, they were not able to offer extra help to high school students this summer.

"I felt that the ExPreSS program was a way that the state could directly help our students and provide our school systems with a little relief," she said.

There were 2,043 students from over 100 school districts that attended the ExPreSS program – 1,072 for social studies and 971 for science. The instruction took place at 29 sites around the state. The classes were led by 180 educators: 89 science teachers and 91 social studies teachers.

In social studies, 73 percent of the ExPreSS participants passed the retest. By comparison, the 2008 summer retest pass rate on the Social Studies GHSGT was 27 percent.

In science, 63 percent of the ExPreSS participants passed the retest. By comparison, the 2008 summer retest pass rate on the Science GHSGT was 29 percent.

"It took a lot of collaboration, teamwork and flexibility to make the ExPreSS program happen and to get these kind of results," said Superintendent Cox. "We are in the process of reviewing what went well and what we need to improve and, if the budget allows, we look forward to serving even more students next year."

In May, the State Board of Education approved up to $1.5 million in state funds to pay for all aspects of the ExPreSS program. About $900,000 of that money was to pay for teachers who received $4,000 each and may receive a $500 bonus if 80 percent or more of their students passed the retest. It is not known how many teachers will receive the bonus yet. Aside from salaries, the funding went toward supplies, transportation costs and other expenses.

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Foundations, Higher-Education Leaders Explore Models to Increase Access

/PRNewswire/ -- On this historic campus that is the original nineteenth-century home of Emory University, twenty invitees representing some of higher education's most respected institutions have come together to discuss an issue with important implications for U.S. education in the twenty-first century: how to make higher education available more broadly and equitably to current underrepresented groups while also maintaining academic excellence and addressing financial and policy concerns. The conference, "Transformative Models in Higher Education," was organized by the University of Michigan's Center for Advancing Research & Solutions for Society (CARSS), hosted by Emory University and funded by the Ford Foundation.

Groups participating in the conference, held June 18-19, were education researchers, higher-education administrators and foundations with a strong focus on education. Researchers came from the University of Michigan's CARSS, School of Education, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching; the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education; Indiana University's National Survey of Student Engagement; and Wabash College's Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts. MDRC, a nonprofit education and social-policy research organization, was also represented. Higher-education administrators and foundations represented included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Educational Testing Service, Lumina Foundation, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good. Also participating in the conference was Derek Bok, president emeritus of Harvard University, who gave the keynote address.

The focus of consideration was organizational and programmatic models that have fostered high levels of participation and academic success for students from underrepresented minority populations with the goal of identifying "active ingredients" in the programs' success. These were being examined in part because, following the 2003 Supreme Court decision in a case involving the University of Michigan, criteria used to promote minority participation in the past will not be as applicable in the future. The models presented included Lone Star College-CyFair Campus (Texas), the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's C-STEP Program, the Posse Foundation and Oxford College.

Special attention was given to Emory's Oxford College. Located 38 miles east of Emory University's Atlanta campus, Oxford is one of Emory's nine academic divisions. One-fifth of the students in each Emory freshman class choose to begin their baccalaureate studies with Oxford's liberal-arts-intensive program, which spans their freshman and sophomore years. As juniors, they continue their studies on Emory's Atlanta campus. At Oxford, students have a smaller student body (approximately 750 students total), lower average class sizes (approximately 19) and faculty who, in the absence of academic majors and graduate programs, have the luxury of focusing primarily on classroom teaching. Forty-seven percent of students at Oxford come from minority populations, and many are the first in their family to attend college. These students enjoy high levels of academic success and degree completion at Emory. Oxford places great importance on teaching methods that produce active, engaged learning and, as a two-year course of study, offers unusual leadership opportunities for freshmen and sophomores.

"We were honored to assemble such a stellar group," said Earl Lewis, Emory University provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, who convened the conference. "Their discussion of the Oxford College program gave us invaluable feedback and analysis, and their enthusiasm helps fuel our efforts to make this now-unique model better known."

Conferees concluded that the Oxford model could be applied or adapted at a large number of research institutions. Organizers from CARSS are distilling the conclusions from the conference with the intention of identifying the possibilities for applying existing models and developing new ones.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Civil Service Internships Bring Benefits to the Federal Government

/PRNewswire/ -- As the nation's college students search for career opportunities in today's increasingly competitive job market, many are shifting their interest from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. A recent survey conducted by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) found 69 percent of students are more inclined to choose a career in public service.

This drastic increase creates a number of benefits for Federal Government agencies.

"With baby boomers getting ready to retire from government service, agencies can utilize internships to eliminate 'brain drain' and fill vacant positions with qualified, trained personnel," said Jennifer Clinton, Chief Operating Officer of TWC. "Plus, interns bring new ideas, technological skills, and many can be hired for full-time positions directly through the Student Career Employment Program."

As one of the largest internship and education organizations in the United States, TWC placed more than 800 interns at hundreds of companies, non-profits and government agencies in the DC area this summer. As the unemployment rate rises, so does interest in internships with TWC, climbing more than 20 percent with the greatest rise at Federal agencies.

"It is very encouraging that this generation wants to work in government to help solve our country's tough economic challenges", said Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

"In essence, they want to get involved because they can make a difference," added Mineta. "And, there has never been a better time for the government to show this generation all that it has to offer."

TWC offers students and agencies an exceptional experience by providing the infrastructure necessary for a successful internship. Not only does TWC provide housing, academic classes, and a series of career seminars, it educates the students on what will be required of them at their current position.

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GA Tech President Makes Visits Across State

Georgia Institute of Technology President G.P. “Bud” Peterson is kicking off a tour across the state today in Columbus visiting with alumni and friends of Georgia Tech. He will follow with stops in Macon, Savannah and Brunswick.

Peterson became the 11th president of the Georgia Institute of Technology on April 1 and has been meeting with key stakeholders throughout the state to gather input and direction as the Institute begins a strategic planning process.

"Georgia Tech is one of the truly outstanding research universities in the country and benefits the state of Georgia well beyond the city of Atlanta,” said Peterson. “As we begin to formulate our strategic vision for the future, we are reaching out to our alumni and to the community and state leaders all across Georgia.”

Georgia Tech played a significant role in one of Georgia’s recent economic development successes - the move of Fortune 500 corporation NCR to Georgia. The company will be looking to Georgia Tech as a source of engineering talent and as a partner in development of future technology and innovations.

According to NCR’s leadership, the opportunity to partner with top-tier academic institutions such as Georgia Tech was one reason among many that the company made the decision to relocate to Georgia.

Georgia Tech not only assists with attracting new industry to the state, the Institute also impacts the economy through research and economic development. For example, for the first time ever, Tech’s research activity exceeded the $500 million mark, reaching a record $524.9 million in fiscal year 2008. This represents a 10 percent increase over 2007 and an increase of 99 percent over the past decade, helping the Institute consistently rank among the top ten in research programs among universities without medical schools.

To help meet the state’s demand for math and science teachers, this funding also helps support the newly established Tech to Teaching program designed to create pathways for students pursuing K-12 or college teaching careers. Likewise, the Foundations for the Future initiative helps Georgia Educators incorporate technology into the classroom.

Georgia Tech is also leading the effort to create need-based aid for Georgia students who cannot afford the tuition and associated costs with attending a research university.

Launched in 2007, the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise program is designed to help Georgia students whose families have an annual income of less than $33,300 (150 percent of the federal poverty level) earn their college degree debt-free. The program is the first of its kind offered by any public university in Georgia.

"The gift of education is the most valuable gift you can give. It not only helps the individual who receives it, but also the family and the larger community,” said a student receiving Tech promise who is majoring in electrical engineering. “It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. During these financial times, it’s something we can’t afford to cut out because it’s so beneficial to society. It’s really a life-changing gift.”

"The Tech Promise program assures that eligible Georgia students from all economic backgrounds have the opportunity to attend Georgia Tech without placing a financial burden on their families,” said Peterson. “We don’t want a family’s financial status to stand in the way of a qualified student pursuing a Georgia Tech degree.”

This year, Tech Promise made access to a college education a reality for 198 students from 53 counties across Georgia - from Appling to Wilkes. There were 139 students who entered the program as freshmen, along with 59 transfer students. In addition, 23 Tech Promise scholars graduated this spring.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Emory Receives Support to Launch Degree Program in Sustainable Development

Emory University has been selected by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, globally headquartered in Chicago, as one of 10 universities worldwide to receive significant support in the amount of $900,000 to create a new master’s degree program in development practice.

The MacArthur Foundation has awarded $7.6 million to seed the creation of master’s of development practice (MDP) degree programs that will provide rigorous post-graduate training for a new generation of development experts over the next three years.

“It’s a privilege to receive this grant and to continue to expand Emory’s engagement with sustainable development around the world,” said Lisa A. Tedesco, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. “This program will build on Emory’s abiding commitment to scholarship and teaching that contributes to the public good, and to collaboration with partners outside the academic world. We are proud to help train a new generation of development professionals who will address some of the greatest problems facing the world.”

"This is a very exciting moment for Emory," said David Nugent, director of Emory's MDP program. "We are deeply honored to have been selected by the MacArthur Foundation to help train the innovative development practitioners who will define the future of sustainable development practice."

The MDP programs are designed to provide graduate students with training beyond the typical focus on classroom study of economics and management found in most development studies. The program’s core curriculum bridges the natural sciences, health sciences, social sciences and management. It combines classroom study with field experiences in a range of disciplines, including agriculture, policy, health, engineering, management, environmental science, education and nutrition.

“Through our work around the globe, we at MacArthur understand that poverty, population, health, conservation, and human rights are all interconnected, requiring sustained and comprehensive interventions,” said Foundation President Jonathan Fanton. “These new programs are a model for training the next generation of these critically needed professionals."

Through financial and other support, Emory's program will emphasize the health and governance-related aspects of sustainable development through its work with partners that include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CARE and The Carter Center.

Other universities that will receive funding to establish MDP programs are: Columbia University (New York, N.Y.), The Energy Resources Institute University (New Delhi, India), James Cook University (Cairns and Townsville, Australia), Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland), Tsinghua University (Beijing, China), University of Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar, Senegal), University of Botswana (Gaborone, Botswana), University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.), and the University of Ibadan (Ibadan, Nigeria).

Columbia will serve as secretariat in helping to manage the MDP network of universities, and will develop an open-source repository for the MDP curriculum and other teaching materials. Ultimately, materials will be shared with other universities as part of an open-source resource on sustainable development for students worldwide, including an online global classroom.

The universities are expected to produce 250 graduates with a master’s degree in development practice by 2012, with a total of 750 students enrolled. Universities were selected based on numerous criteria, including support from top university leadership, excellent infrastructure and academic programs, the ability to serve as a regional hub, geographic representation among students, exceptional faculty, and a timeline and business plan for financial sustainability when funding ends in three years.

There was widespread global interest in establishing the programs, and the quality and diversity of the proposals indicate strong interest in expanding inter-disciplinary development studies around the world. More than 70 universities in North America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America submitted proposals.


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Sallie Mae Helps 1.4 Million Customers Avoid Student Loan Default in 2008-2009 Academic Year, Another 400,000 Succeed by Repaying Loans in Full

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Despite the challenging economy and rapidly rising national unemployment, Sallie Mae and its guaranty agency partners helped a record 1.4 million customers resolve their past-due account status and avoid default on $22.8 billion of federal student loans last year. Another 400,000 Sallie Mae customers successfully managed their student loan investments by repaying their loans in full in the year ended June 30, 2009.

Effective loan default prevention benefits students who preserve their good credit; taxpayers who save billions of dollars; and higher education institutions who retain eligibility for federal financial aid for students.

The severe and lasting impacts of loan default include damage to the customer’s credit, the prospect of wage garnishment, the seizure of income tax refunds and federal benefit payments, the loss of eligibility for additional federal student aid, the denial or loss of professional licenses, the possibility of civil litigation and the possibility of being denied other forms of consumer credit for years to come.

Mary Gilbert was one of Sallie Mae’s customers who successfully paid in full last year, making her final student loan payment in January 2009. A 2005 graduate of Mississippi’s Meridian Community College with a degree in nursing, Ms. Gilbert experienced a series of personal and financial setbacks during her repayment period, including job loss and family medical issues, and avoided default by setting up a temporary payment relief plan.

“They were wonderful. They worked with me to set up a payment arrangement so that I was able to get back on track, which is what I wanted all along,” said Ms. Gilbert about Sallie Mae’s default prevention specialists. “People don’t realize that defaulting on a student loan is something that follows you for a long time.” Today, Ms. Gilbert is employed by a large hospital in Houston and uses her student loan repayment experience as valuable learning lesson for her three young daughters.

Beginning today, Sallie Mae has a new default prevention tool to assist federal student loan customers experiencing financial difficulty. The new income-based repayment option, or IBR, was authorized by federal law and allows eligible customers to cap their monthly bill at 15 percent of discretionary income. More information about IBR, including an eligibility worksheet and a repayment calculator are available from Sallie Mae at www.salliemae.com/ibr.

Separately, Congress is considering structural changes to the federal student loan programs. The company continues to advocate for enhancements to the Administration’s proposal that would have service providers compete to provide quality service to students not only in loan servicing, but also in loan origination, and would enhance default prevention success by requiring servicers to share in the risk of loan default.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Georgia State University names new provost

Georgia State University President Mark P. Becker announced today (July 1) that Dr. Risa Palm will assume the role of senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, beginning Sept. 1. Palm, who is currently the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at The State University of New York (SUNY) System, succeeds Ronald J. Henry who will retire this summer after 15 years of service.

“With more than three decades of experience in leadership posts at some of the nation’s premier universities, Dr. Palm is the ideal candidate to help propel Georgia State University into the future as a leading urban research university,” Becker said. “Her focus on excellence in research, instruction and learning is in line with our goal of attracting outstanding faculty and students to our unique and thriving campus.”

Palm began her tenure at SUNY in October 2006. Prior to that she served as executive vice chancellor and provost at Louisiana State University; and from 1997–2003, she was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“I am excited to be joining the Georgia State family,” Palm said. “I am deeply committed to the mission of the public urban research university, and believe that Georgia State is poised to become a national leader. I look forward to working with President Becker, and to joining this winning team that will bring Georgia State to the forefront.”

Palm received both a B.A. degree in history, with a minor in French, and a B.S. degree in social studies education from the University of Minnesota. She subsequently received an M.A. degree in geography from the same institution. In 1972, she was awarded a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota. From 1972 to 1981, she was a faculty member, beginning her career as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Other previous administrative positions include: dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon (1991–97); associate vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1987–91); associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1984–87); and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1981–84).

Palm is married to David Greenland, Ph.D., a professor of climatology. They have one son, Dr. John Greenland, Ph.D., M.D., who is a resident at Beth Israel Deaconess hospital in Boston. She also enjoys playing Baroque chamber music on the harpsichord.

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Growing Demand for Online Learning Not Yet Matched by Opportunities at K-12 Schools, Districts

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite growing interest in online learning, the availability of online classes have not kept pace with demand in K-12 schools and districts, according to a survey report from Project Tomorrow(R), a national education nonprofit organization, and Blackboard Inc. (NASDAQ:BBBB) , a global leader in education technology.

According to the survey, more than 40 percent of 6-12th graders have researched or demonstrated interest in taking a course online, but only 10 percent have actually taken an online course through their school. Meanwhile, comparable percentages of middle school students (7 percent) and high school students (4 percent) have instead pursued opportunities outside their school to take online courses, underscoring the disconnect between the supply and demand of online learning in today's classrooms.

At the same time, a majority of school principals, 58 percent, say that online classes currently offered in their districts are primarily for teachers; just 31 percent say the classes are primarily for students. Additionally, while a full one-third of teachers have taken an online course for professional development - a 57 percent increase from 2007 - only 3 percent of teachers surveyed say they have taught a class online, a number that has not changed in three years. Just 13 percent are interested in teaching online, a considerable mismatch with the growing student desire to learn online.

The findings are included in the report Learning in the 21st Century: 2009 Trends Update, which offers an analysis of data from Project Tomorrow's Speak Up project, an annual survey which has collected and reported on the views of more than 335,000 U.S. K-12 students, parents and educators about online education and 21st century learning.

"While many of our nation's K-12 schools clearly recognize the advantages of online learning and instruction in teacher professional development, there remains a lag in utilizing this technology for student achievement," said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. "Educators must embrace these emerging technologies to enhance student learning and fully prepare today's students for future success."

"Today's students are eager to embrace technology in school but there is still a wide gap between the way they live and the way they learn," said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, president, Blackboard Learn K-12. "As schools and districts look to complement traditional learning methods with digital and online tools, teachers and principals must learn how to effectively use technology in a way that gives students more control of the learning process and contributes to student achievement."

The report revealed that K-12 students want to pursue online learning to gain more control of their own learning experience, have access to more courses and work at their own pace. When asked why learning through an online class might make school more interesting, 47 percent of 9-12th graders, 39 percent of 6-8th graders and one in four 3-5th grade students said they want to learn online to "be in control of my learning." Students do not expect courses to be easier online, but they do expect the online format to make it easier to succeed because they can review materials when they want and are more comfortable asking teachers for help.

The desire for online opportunities is best expressed through the words of students themselves. When asked, "What is the one thing that you would do to improve schools to ensure that all students had the skills they needed to be successful in life," a 10th-grade student from Alcoa High School in Tennessee responded, "I would provide personal laptops for each student and provide online classes. Every school does not have all the classes a student is interested in and online classes (provide) another option."

Teachers who have experience teaching online overwhelmingly agree: 76 percent believe that online learning benefits students by giving them greater control of their learning, compared to just 10 percent of all teachers surveyed.

School principals cited funding and teacher preparation as key barriers to offering expanded access to online courses, with 22 percent reporting that online learning was not a funding priority in their district. Specific to teachers, principals felt that teachers are not comfortable using the tools (18 percent) or teaching online (17 percent), are reluctant to try (14 percent), or their school does not have the expertise to create online courses (14 percent).

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