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Sunday August 30th, 2015 6:38PM

Mixed results for Ga. in teacher training report

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) Just four teacher-training programs at Georgia's college and universities earned high marks on a national survey released Tuesday looking at more than 1,000 programs across the country.

The review by the National Council on Teacher Quality overall found colleges' education programs are not adequately preparing future teachers and criticized their admission standards, training and value. The assessments faced criticism even before they were released and set off a debate on whom and what belong in teacher training programs.

The ratings were based on a set of key standards, such as instructing prospective teachers how to implement the Common Core academic standards, teach non-native English speakers and manage classrooms. Colleges and universities were rated on a four-star system.

In Georgia, five teaching programs received the lowest rating of no stars with a consumer alert designation. Those schools were Albany State, Armstrong Atlantic State, Augusta State (now known as Georgia Regents University Augusta), Columbus State and University of West Georgia.

Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said any conclusions from the report should be considered carefully.

``I'm not sure how much we can attach to all of that. Some of this doesn't pass the giggle test how many stars did you get or didn't get? Is there a consumer alert?'' said Callahan, whose group represents some 84,000 Georgia teachers and education professionals. ``That said, it's always good for us to face criticism and examine our programs and improve them where and how they need to be.''

Patricia Wachholz, dean of Armstrong Atlantic State's College of Education, said the report was too focused on counting credit hours to determine how much preparation a future teacher receives.

``Georgia students and parents are better served by a focus on outcomes and the ability of a new teacher to demonstrate high-quality teaching effectiveness in the classroom rather than a simple check box of hours and courses taken in college,'' Wachholz said.

She added 99.4 percent of Armstrong Atlantic State's teacher candidates passed the state's licensure exams during the years covered by the report.

Cindi Chance, dean of the Georgia Regents' College of Education, also questioned the methodology and said the university's programs are aligned with curriculum for Common Core and English language learners.

``Our programs and courses are reviewed by university faculty and P-12 teachers from our 52 partner schools periodically throughout each academic year to ensure that our courses remain relevant to today's schools,'' Chance said.

John Lester, assistant vice president for university relations at Columbus State, said it was frustrating the report was receiving attention when the university has been nationally accredited for years, ranked high for teacher education quality and earned a number of state and federal grants to support efforts to prepare educators for teaching science, technology, engineering and math.

``From what we can tell, the standards provided here are not aligned with any of the standards created by the federal government for teacher education or by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which recently reviewed our programs again and recommended zero changes,'' he said.

At Albany State, officials said its early education program had been ranked 42nd in US News & World Report's 2013 Best Online Education Programs. Surveys showed high satisfaction among graduates and employers that graduates were knowledgeable in their fields and able to create learning environments that focus on engaging students in collaborative and individual learning.

``Recent graduates of ASU's Teacher Education Program strongly agree that they have been prepared for the classroom,'' said Kimberly Fields, interim dean of the College of Education. ``More importantly, this is demonstrated by the high levels of academic achievement and student success that ASU's graduates are able to achieve throughout the state.''

Nationally, the report noted that the institutions with multiple teaching programs, only 13 of them earned high ratings in two or more programs. One of those was the University of Georgia, which earned three of four stars for both its undergraduate and graduate secondary teaching programs. UGA's undergraduate elementary program, meanwhile, received two stars and its graduate elementary program received one-and-a-half stars.

Craig Kennedy, dean of UGA's College of Education, said officials were attempting to understand the differences in the ratings.

``We respect their interest in assessing the quality of teacher preparation programs. However, we are concerned with the quality and rigor of their methods,'' Kennedy said.

Meanwhile, Clayton State University earned the highest rating of any Georgia program, receiving three-and-a-half stars for its graduate secondary teaching program. Mercer University's undergraduate secondary program also received a high mark of three stars.

Overall, 44 different programs at 22 college and universities in Georgia were included in the report. Of those, 31 programs at 21 institutions earned two stars or less.

The authors of the report, which looked at 1,130 teacher preparation programs, argue schools should make it more difficult for students to get into the programs and then instruct a smaller number of students on the most effective teaching methods. The report noted that only a quarter of education programs nationally limit admission to students in the top half of their high school class.

The National Council on Teacher Quality is an advocacy group that has on its board veterans of the Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
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