November 20, 2002
02-407

Valdosta State University and University System of Georgia receives$4.4 million to launch initiative to meet state teacher shortage

The University System of Georgia (USG) in partnership with Valdosta State University (VSU) has received two grants totaling $4.4 million from the U. S. Department of Education (DOE) to launch the ?Destination Teaching: Customized Pathways to Get You There? initiative.

The initiative, which will initially target people who want to change careers and move into teaching, is designed to help meet the state's increasing need for teachers.

A study by the Professional Standards Commission (Status Report 2001), estimates that Georgia's schools will need an additional 11,180 teachers by 2006, due in part to recent increases in the number of students in Georgia's classrooms and in the number of teachers reaching retirement age.

In its infancy, the initiative will focus on five populations as potential candidates for USG teacher-preparation programs: recent college graduates, mid-career professionals, retired military personnel, pre-kindergarten and paraprofessionals already teaching in the classroom.

According to Dr. Tom Reed, acting dean of the College of Education, VSU will coordinate the Career Opportunities for Paraprofessional Educators (COPE) program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), South Georgia College, Waycross College and the South Georgia Regional Education Consortium (SGREC).

COPE is a program designed by VSU, ABAC, South Georgia College, Waycross College, Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs), and school districts to assist paraprofessionals in obtaining a bachelor's degree in education.

Reed said COPE is a three-phase plan that targets paraprofessionals, who work in close proximately to one of the three two-year institutions or VSU and want to further their professional careers in education.

The first phase is a paraprofessional certificate program that allows the paraprofessional to complete 30 hours towards a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, funded through the state's HOPE Grant.

In the second phase, students will begin working on their associate degree at ABAC, Waycross College, South Georgia College or SGREC. Those students who maintain a ?B? average will be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship.

In the third stage, students can remain at one of the three two-year colleges or VSU and complete a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

?This program would not be possible without the positive relationship that already exists between Valdosta State University and our partner two-year institutions,? Reed said. ?Collaboration is essential so that we can assure that all paraprofessionals in the program will receive the support needed to be successful throughout their studies.?

Students will be assigned a mentor, within their school districts, to provide ongoing support and assistance and receive tutorial assistance throughout the program in their school, at the RESAs, and at their two-year college or VSU.

?These mentors will be former paraprofessionals who have gone through the ranks and received their teaching certificate and understand the challenges and barriers associated with completing their bachelor's degree,? Reed said. ?Additionally, tutorial assistance will provide additional instruction in reading, writing and/or mathematics to help the students achieve in their college classes.?

The five-year federal grants will fund several initial priorities of the teacher-preparation recruitment initiative. The University System will create a Teacher Career Center to market and provide information about USG teacher preparation and professional development programs through ?one-stop shopping.? Career counselors will be available at the Teacher Career Center and at participating campuses to help potential teachers select and enroll in appropriate USG programs. Scholarships will be awarded to aspiring teachers who commit to working in high-need schools.

The partnership between VSU and the USG will use the $4.4 million in grant funds to pilot the initiative in six regions of the state. Participating USG campuses have formed partnership with selected school districts in their region to supply teachers for high-need schools. A total of 27 school districts are participating in the teacher preparation recruitment initiative. University System pilot institutions in each region are as follows:

* Albany State University and Bainbridge College
* Armstrong Atlantic State University and Coastal Georgia Community College
* Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College
* Columbus State University and Georgia Southwestern State University
* Georgia Southern University and East Georgia College
* Valdosta State University, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Waycross College and South Georgia College

?It is important to note that this grant will be most helpful in targeting those individuals who have the potential for excellence in teaching,? said Dr. Louis Levy, vice president for Academic Affairs. ?Retaining such teachers will empower our students to reach their full educational potential.?

Information sessions outlining COPE will be available to interested paraprofessionals in their local school district during the months of January through March 2003. Summer workshops will be offered at the two-year colleges and VSU to prepare paraprofessionals for fall 2003 classes. For more information about COPE, contact Maggie Roberts at 229?333?5925.