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

COE Ranks in Top Tier of Best Online Graduate Programs for Veterans

COE’s online graduate programs ranked number 63 in U.S. News & World Report‘s just released “Best Online Programs for Veterans.”

The rankings covered online bachelor’s degree programs and master’s degree programs in business, education, engineering, computer information technology and nursing. To qualify for the “Best Online Programs for Veterans” rankings, the 737 online degree programs featured first had to be among the top 75 percent of schools ranked in the “2015 Best Online Programs.” For those rankings, U.S. News “evaluated regionally accredited degree-granting programs on a number of factors, which, depending on the discipline, could have included their affordability, faculty credentials, student services and reputation,” according to a news release.

Programs had to be certified for the GI Bill and participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, two initiatives sponsored by the federal government to help veterans reduce the cost of school. Public schools that don’t participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program still qualified if they offer in-state tuition to student veterans from out of state. Click here for more information on the “Best Online Programs for Veterans Rankings.”

COE Graduates Over 300 Educators and Educational Leaders at Spring Commencement

Additional 97 graduate students scheduled for summer commencement.


COE sent over 300 educators and educational leaders into area and regional school systems this month with graduation ceremonies at Georgia Southern University. For most COE degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate level, candidates must also pass state certification exams to graduate and teach in their fields. COE represented 241 out of 600 graduate degrees conferred.

“As always, we’re extremely proud of all of our graduates,” commented COE Dean Thomas Koballa. “They’ve chosen an exciting, and challenging, career path and one that is sure to make a difference. Educators at all levels touch so many lives,” he continued.

Nearly 100 candidates will receive graduate degrees this summer, bringing the total number of graduate degrees conferred spring and summer to 338.


Online and Innovative

The past several months COE has had the privilege of announcing accolades the College has received for our graduate online programs. Providing a high-quality online option for the many professionals seeking to expand or update their skills is a priority for our College. As the public school year moves into its final stretch, this is a good time for educators and educational professionals at all levels to consider enrolling in one of our programs. To help you decide which program is right for you, click here for more information on our online and hybrid offerings.

As a dynamic institution prepared to meet the changing needs of future and current educators and educational professionals, innovation doesn’t stop with online degree programs. We’re always exploring ways we can use our expertise in online learning to provide inservice educators with opportunities to continually improve their knowledge and skills. Throughout the summer and next year we’ll be working with partners in a number of different areas to develop ways school systems can improve performance based in large part on the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) which began through Georgia’s Race to the Top Initiative as a means of supporting the continuous growth and development of each teacher through multiple assessments. We are also actively working with our Partnership Council (see related article on Partnership Council grants) on a number of different ways the College of Education can continue to have a presence in the growth and development of educators at all levels. And we’ve  been busy working with schools in area helping teachers develop strategies to work with English language learners.. These efforts have paved the way for educators in those schools enrolling in our online ESOL certificate program.

These are just a few of the ways the College of Education is helping to bridge the gap between our educator preparation programs and life-long learning  for educators at all levels of their professional careers.

Georgia Southern University’s National Youth-At-Risk Center Conference Breaks Attendance Record

SAVANNAH, Ga., March 10, 2015: More than 1,500 professionals from across the globe travelled to Savannah, Georgia, for Georgia Southern University’s 26th Annual National Youth-At-Risk (NYAR) Conference, directed by the College of Education’s NYAR Center, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel from March 1, 2015 through March 4, 2015.

The conference’s official count Wednesday reached a record-high of 1,534 in attendance, making this the largest attendance in conference history and one of the largest conferences of this kind in the United States.

“Adults who serve youth placed at risk value the training opportunity this conference provides, not only to better serve our students in school and in life, but also attendees have the ability to network and meet with colleagues to discuss new ways to reach our children in positive ways,” remarked Dan Rea, Co-Director of the NYAR Center in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University.

Participants had an opportunity to hear three internationally recognized keynote speakers as well as benefit from over 120 training sessions featuring educational experts during four days. The conference helps professionals create safe, healthy, caring and intellectually empowering educational environments for children and adolescents.

“People come to this conference year after year because every session helps teachers, counselors, principals, law enforcement officers, social workers and anyone else working with youth placed at risk to find ways to successfully bring about change in our society,” said Eric Landers, Co-Director of the NYAR Center in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University.

Organized by the College of Education’s NYAR Center in collaboration with the Division of Continuing Education at Georgia Southern University, the NYAR Conference provides annual professional training and certification for adults who serve youth. For additional information and to view the complete program, visit the NYAR Conference website at

The NYAR Center also directs the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Conference in Savannah and the NYAR Conference in Las Vegas. For more information about the Center’s educational initiatives, visit

Georgia Southern University, a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers 125 degree programs serving more than 20,500 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement.  Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered approach to education. Visit:


College of Education • P.O. Box 8013 • Statesboro, Georgia 30460 • (912) 478-5648