GACTE Plays Prominent Role in Statewide Partnership Work

Meaningful and purposeful collaboration among multiple agency heads is something that many states aspire to do. Georgia is among those that have been successful in forming such alliances, which provides a supportive environment for the work of the Georgia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (GACTE).

The collaborative culture is well established in the Georgia Alliance of Education Agency Heads, which over the past decade has been successfully fulfilling its mission to collaborate, innovate, and achieve while addressing three strategic goals: (1) increase the percentage of students reading at grade level by completion of third grade; (2) increase the percentage of graduates from high school and postsecondary institutions prepared for the demands of college, workplace, a global economy, and responsible citizenship; and (3) increase the percentage of effective teachers and educational leaders. The alliance includes the state’s universities and technical colleges, the governor’s office, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, and other education agencies.

It has been the good fortune of GACTE to work within this intentional context. While serving as president of GACTE in 2014-15, I sat on the advisory committee of the Georgia Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (GaNTEP), an initiative in which Georgia and six other states participated to implement the 10 recommendations focused on three state policy areas—licensure; program approval; and data collection, analysis, and reporting to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce—put forth by the Council of Chief State School Officers in its report, Our Responsibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession.

Introduced at one of the GaNTEP advisory committee meetings was a campaign called Project SPARK! Igniting Education in Georgia, a state-level initiative conceptualized to change the negative perception of public education in our state, and to garner support for public education as the means for social and economic growth in Georgia. With educator morale at an all-time low, a declining respect for the education profession by the general public, and enrollment in undergraduate and graduate educator preparation programs decreasing, multiple educator organizations (e.g., Georgia School Board Association, Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Professional Association for Georgia Educators) partnered to launch the SPARK campaign.

As a recipient of an AACTE State Chapter Support Grant in 2014, GACTE was able to collaborate with the above-named organizations, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and other community and business groups to provide positive examples of education successes. Specifically, GACTE is supporting efforts to ensure that a positive message about educator preparation is a major piece of the 2-year media campaign. Modules are under development for use with preservice teachers and induction teachers to produce a more resilient professional community of educators. Also, educator preparation providers (EPPs) are participating in the development and dissemination of the positive educator preparation message via videos and “selfies” to be shared on EPP web sites, in state-wide and local media, at local civic clubs, etc. Among the videos are those of the last three Georgia Teachers of the Year.

A second AACTE State Chapter Support Grant received in 2015 supports GACTE’s ongoing involvement in the SPARK campaign while enabling the association to continue its lead role in another statewide initiative, Project SWIM: State-Wide Induction Model. During the 4 years that Georgia engaged in the Race to the Top initiative, an induction program was mandated for all beginning teachers, with EPP participation required. To address this unfunded mandate, GACTE called on PK-20 professional organizations, the Professional Standards Commission, the University System of Georgia, the Department of Education, the governor’s office, and selected civic groups to consider the development of an online clearinghouse of available resources needed to support new teachers during their first 3 years in the profession. GACTE’s respected position in the state was evidenced by representatives from all invited groups seated at the table. 

The New Teacher Center’s Continuum of Teaching Practice Core Capabilities served as a guiding model for the development of SWIM. Standards and assessments currently used in Georgia, including edTPA (preservice), Candidate Assessment Performance Standards (preservice), and Teacher Assessment Performance Standards (in-service), were reviewed to identify specific learning outcomes. The SWIM matrix consists of six areas: (1) resilience, (2) planning, (3) instructional delivery, (4) assessment of and for learning, (5) learning environment, and (6) professionalism and communication. The continuum applied to each area illustrates a developmental progression from early field experiences to student teaching/internship to Years 1-3 of in-service practice. For each learning outcome found in each area and time period, there are multiple hyperlinks to resources that novice teachers can avail themselves of as they reflect on their professional learning needs. Once the SWIM document is completed, it will be housed at the Georgia Department of Education.

I am heartened by the energy and commitment of the SWIM Leadership Steering Committee to continue our collaboration to identify and develop other PK-20 initiatives and to examine critically important Georgia education issues (e.g., edTPA implementation, effectiveness of Georgia Race to the Top initiative, professional accreditation, core curriculum/testing challenges, pay for advanced degrees). In that several of these issues are not unique to Georgia, I take advantage of every opportunity afforded by AACTE’s Advisory Council of State Representatives (ACSR) and the State Leaders Institute to interface with colleagues across the country, whether it is through face-to-face encounters or online meetings. It behooves all of us to make use of the connections offered by ACSR that are germane to our state chapters.

It was inspirational to hear AACTE President/CEO Sharon Robinson remind us during the fall AACTE Board of Directors meeting that regardless of the outcome of the U.S. Department of Education’s rule on teacher preparation, we will keep doing the good work we have been doing and move forward with continuous improvement as our focus. My commitment to work with my fellow GACTE officers, and alongside colleagues representing several other state-level organizations, to address ongoing educator preparation issues remains ever strong.

Arlinda Eaton is dean and professor in the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University (GA). She also serves on AACTE’s Board of Directors and is southern region representative to ACSR.

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Arlinda J. Eaton

Kennesaw State University (GA)