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Report on National and State Education Agendas

As educators and educational leaders, you know how state and national legislation impacts the work we do. That’s why I want to bring you this update on some of what has been happening in these arenas during the past month.

As incoming president of Georgia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (GACTE), I recently had the opportunity to participate in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) State Leaders Institute and Day on Capitol Hill events. For two days, I gathered with other state AACTE chapter leaders to develop and refine state action plans, learn about and discuss federal and proposed legislation and receive an update on CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) accreditation. On the final day, I met with Rep. Rick Allen (GA 12th District, including Statesboro) and staffers from Allen’s office as well as from the offices of Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Purdue and Rep. Buddy Carter (GA 1st District, including Savannah).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reintroduced as the Student Success Act in the House of Representative and the Every Child Achieves Act in the Senate. Both House and Senate versions prioritize strong clinical preparation of teachers and measurement of teacher effectiveness. Troubling in the House bill is the elimination of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants in the Higher Education Act and inclusion of the GREAT Act, allowing funds to be used to create new teacher preparation academies outside the requirements of higher education programs.

House and Senate hearings have taken place regarding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but no draft bills have emerged. Issues likely to be considered in a draft bill include college affordability and access, college choice and strategies to strengthen the higher education system.

I also learned that CAEP seeks to partner with colleges of education to create a culture of evidence that encourages innovation and addresses important questions about the practice of teacher education.

On the state level, Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission (ERC), chaired by Dr. Chuck Knapp, has been given an additional four months, until December 2015, to deliver recommendations from its funding committee. The governor intends in create a special legislative committee during the 2016 General Assembly to act on the recommendations, creating the possibility that it, rather than the House and Senate Education Committees, will have ultimate responsibility for the funding recommendations.

Of particular concern to educators is an indication that the ERC is heading in the direction of ending state funding for teacher training and experience (T&E) — the state salary schedule that financially rewards teachers for pursing advanced degrees. There is support within ERC and the governor’s office that Georgia end funding for T&E and that local school systems adopt new compensation models based on “teacher effectiveness.”

The changes being considered on both the national and state level have great implications for Georgia educators and educational leaders. As alumni and friends of the College of Education, I believe it is part of our mission to keep you abreast of new policy proposals. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss any of these proposals further.

Thomas Koballa, Jr., Ph.D.

Dean and Professor, College of Education

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