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UGA College of Education’s Race to the Top projects could have national implications

Athens, Ga. – Two innovative programs developed in collaboration with a local school district-one improving preparation and support for new teachers and another providing professional development and support for early career principals- could serve as models for school districts across Georgia and throughout the nation, according to University of Georgia College of Education faculty members who helped create the programs.

Both programs provide additional clinical experiences, collaboration and mentorship that increase the likelihood of developing exceptional teachers and leaders, said Ron Cervero, associate dean of the college’s office of outreach and engagement. The projects, funded by grants totaling more than $1 million from Georgia’s Race to the Top Innovation Fund, were selected from more than 60 proposals.

In the Teach to Learn Partnership Program, the college is collaborating with the Clarke County School District in a teacher-training program aimed at bridging the gap between teacher preparation and teacher induction while building school leadership capacity.

“Through a continuum of teacher support services and activities, we will be able to prepare high-quality teachers to succeed in the classroom environment and leadership positions,” said Clarke County School District Superintendent Philip D. Lanoue. “From mentoring to peer cohort programs, teachers in middle and high schools-and ultimately students-will benefit.”

Teach to Learn will use a three-year grant of approximately $875,000 to hire UGA graduate students who will spend 20 hours a week during a 10-month assistantship in one of Clarke County’s four middle and two high schools working with an experienced mathematics or science teacher. After an orientation, the graduate students will teach part-time, freeing up a part of each day for the experienced teachers to work with first-, second- and third-year teachers in the schools. Beginning full-time teachers are the main targets of the program.

“This is innovative because it links a teacher induction program with a teacher residency program,” said Janna Dresden, a professor and director of the college’s office of school engagement. “That’s when a teaching career is made or broken, in those first couple of years. Many people leave teaching because they don’t receive the support they need to become good teachers.”

The grant also will provide professional development for graduate students and experienced teachers. The UGA students will receive additional training, similar to young doctors in hospital residency programs after they’ve graduated from medical school, and the teachers will have an opportunity to develop their leadership skills.

School officials will collect information to see if the new program boosts student performance and helps the district retain its new teachers.

Applications will be reviewed this summer, and approximately 12 graduate students will begin their two-year terms as teacher-residents in Clarke County schools in August.

A second grant to the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders will help the college expand its Early Career Principal Residency Program to provide support to young administrators in high-need schools in Race to the Top school districts.

The two-year professional development program began a few years ago in a partnership between the college and the GAEL. It provides opportunities for new principals to learn how to enhance their leadership and problem-solving skills from leading researchers, scholars and current educational leaders.

The program kicked off in fall 2010 on UGA’s Athens campus with the first cohort of 16 principals from nine school districts in the state. Sessions are held throughout the year in Athens and at GAEL conferences around the state.

The three-year grant of approximately $156,000 will provide opportunities for 10 additional early career principals to participate in the second cohort.

“It will enhance the program for all Cohort II participants through financial support to engage presenters, develop a more functional and effective website, provide coach training and program evaluation,” said Jack Parish, coordinator of the ECPRP and executive director of GAEL.

The program includes face-to-face seminars, interactions with experts in educational leadership, performance-based activities linked to job-embedded learning, a coaching component to provide ongoing support, the development of a community of learners made up of early career principals across the state, and the integration of technology to connect the cohort and support content delivery.

The two grants are part of $400 million Georgia is receiving from the federal government’s Race to the Top competition, a part of the federal economic stimulus program designed to encourage innovation and reforms in K-12 education. The U.S. Department of Education is distributing about $3.4 billion in Race to the Top money during a four-year period.