Athens, Ga. – One of the biggest challenges facing Georgia public schools today is not only finding high-quality teachers, but finding enough of them. The need for more and better teachers topped a list of subjects discussed by approximately two dozen Georgia school administrators during the semi-annual two-day conference of the Superintendents’ Education Policy Advisory Group, hosted by the UGA College of Education earlier this month.
The desperate need for teachers from many disciplines is being felt in schools throughout Georgia, said Arnett C. Mace Jr., University of Georgia provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. The numbers associated with that need are alarming: Forty percent of teachers in Georgia schools will be retiring in the next five years, and 50,000 new teachers will need to be hired by Georgia schools in the next 10 years just to replace those who reach retirement age by 2017.
The need for quality teachers in mathematics, science and special education is even more desperate, the school administrators agreed.
“What about math? That is my nightmare,” said Donna Hinton, superintendent of the Washington County Schools.
Mace said the university is exploring ways to encourage high school students to go into math and science education when they attend college, including a grant program operated by the Office of Institutional Diversity that supports initiatives such as the UGA Partnership with the Greensboro Georgia Dreamers.
This program brought 32 middle school students to campus this past summer to learn about higher education through hands-on experiences. The students slept in UGA residence halls and spent their days touring campus, meeting with academic counselors and learning about opportunities.
UGA staffers met with school officials to assess curriculum and provide information about which scholarships are available to high-achieving students. In exchange for participating in these programs, each student is guaranteed tuition for college or vocational school, should they be accepted and choose to attend. The tuition assistance comes from funds raised by the Dreamers Programs.
“We (College of Education faculty and administration) have a responsibility to engage other educational leaders in those endeavors that have the best hope for improving education through both partnerships and other forms of collaborative relationships,” said Dean Louis A. Castenell Jr. “There is no group who has greater responsibilities for improving Georgia educational programs than school superintendents. Through this advisory group, we will open channels of communication and initiate partnerships that will lead to better programs for schools and the college. This is a process we initiated earlier this year and it will be ongoing.”
In addition to the discussion and brainstorming sessions, school administrators heard several presentations from UGA education faculty that focused on topics ranging from the implementation of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding race-based school assignment to ways of closing the literacy achievement gap among adolescents.
“I want to emphasize that we are very open to strengthening our partnerships,” said Mace. “Working together, we can accomplish a lot more than we can individually.”
“I appreciate the way you are elevating our partnership,” said Bettye Ray, superintendent of Social Circle City Schools.
Participants in the Superintendent’s Education Policy Advisory Group included: Crawford Lewis, DeKalb County Schools; Emily Lembeck, Marietta City Schools; Susan Andrews, Harris County Schools; Dewey Moye, Lumpkin County Schools; Bettye Ray, Social Circle City Schools; Gene Trammell, Baldwin County Schools; Thomas (Tom) Dohrmann, Oconee County Schools; E. Steve Smith, Lowndes County Schools; Trudy Sowar, Paulding County Schools; Leonard McCoy, Colquitt County Schools; L.C. (Buster) Evans, Forsyth County Schools; Paul Shaw, White County Schools; Jack Parish, Henry County Schools; Jack Parish, Henry County Schools; Sharon Patterson, Bibb County Schools; James Simms, Clarke County Schools; Thomas Van Soelen City Schools of Decatur; Will Schofield, Hall County Schools; Gloria Duncan, Clayton County Schools; and Fred Sanderson, Cobb County Schools.
The Superintendent’s Education Policy Advisory Group also includes: Ron Saunders, Barrow County Schools; Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett County Schools; Beverly Hall, Atlanta City Schools; Sally Whatley, Dougherty County Schools; and Phyllis Edwards, City Schools of Decatur.