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North Georgias education program fully accredited
Students get at least 50 percent more field experience
North Georgia College & State University senior Kate Williams explains a math project Tuesday to fourth-grade students Alayna Elizalde, center, and Heather Harris while teaching at the World Language Academy in South Hall County. - photo by Tom Reed

Hopeful teachers leaving North Georgia College & State University’s School of Education will now have a degree from a nationally accredited program.

The school recently earned full accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education for its undergraduate- and graduate-level programs.

The national accreditation is required by the University System of Georgia and is part of a seven-year review process that included a site visit in February.

“The fact that North Georgia’s School of Education has once again been recognized in this manner is further indication of the level of excellence of our teacher preparation programs,” university President Bonita Jacobs said.

“(The council) is a highly respected and thorough accrediting body, which makes this designation even more meaningful.”

Reviewers specifically noted the school’s professional development communities program — a collaboration with local school systems to place education students in classrooms for their last two years of school. That program was started three years ago.

Traditionally, only senior students have worked full-time in real classrooms during their last semester.

“A lot of schools are moving in that direction,” said Bob Michael, dean of the School of Education. “The whole intent is to have much more extensive and integrated experiences in the school, where the students really are becoming part of the faculty and the school, if you will, more quickly. Their coursework is more aligned with and integrated with what’s going on in the school.”

Education students are placed in public schools, with their professors, in Dawson, Forsyth, Hall and Lumpkin counties in a two-year, full-immersion model.

The program allows students at least 50 percent more field experience than is required for teacher certification.

“It’s really given them an opportunity to build community among the school and its staff members,” said Alli Roberts, an adjunct professor at North Georgia and instructional coach at World Language Academy. “They feel more a part of the faculty and the staff instead of this random person that comes in in January and leaves in April.”

In fact, the students hardly set foot on North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus during the program. Even roundtable lectures with professors and other students are done in the public schools.

“I’m here to make decisions right alongside the teacher all throughout the day,” said Kate Williams, a senior education student at North Georgia. “It brings the best out in me because I know when I walk in those doors, what I put in is what people are seeing of me.”

North Georgia is one of 26 public and private schools in the state to carry the national accreditation for one or more of its teacher preparation programs. But once the school consolidates with Gainesville State College, the program will have to go through the accreditation process again.

“If the past is any indication, we should do quite well in that re-evaluation because Gainesville State just complete its (accreditation) renewal last year and both institutions came out very strong at the end of the renewal process,” Michael said.

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