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UGA-school district partnership wins national recognition

Kristen B. Morales

March 6, 2015

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A partnership between the University of Georgia College of Education and the Clarke County School District that gives more than 500 teacher candidates classroom experience each year has been named one of the top programs in the country.

Called the Professional Development School District, the program was awarded the NAPDS Award for Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement from the National Association for Professional Development Schools. The award recognizes university-school district partnerships that "create and sustain genuine collaborative partnerships" and help shape future educational leaders.

The award was announced Friday, March 6, during the annual National Association of Professional Development Schools conference earlier this week in Atlanta.

What makes the partnership unique is the placement of College of Education faculty and students into local classrooms. Many schools have a "professor-in-residence" who supervises student teachers, teaches on-site courses and provides professional development to teachers at the school. In addition, most faculty members involved with the program teach at least one teacher-preparatory course in a local school, and some serve as a "professor on special assignment," working at a school on a project developed by the school's administration and teachers.

As a result, UGA students graduate with experiences teaching in many different schools, Clarke County students benefit from additional classroom support and role models, and teachers and faculty benefit from collaborative research projects and ongoing professional learning.

"This honor reflects the level of commitment our faculty have for sharing exemplary teaching methods with our students and professionals in the field, and a commitment to educating the next generation," said Craig H. Kennedy, dean of the College of Education. "We are thankful to have such a strong partnership with the Clarke County School District and the ability to set a standard for the nation."

Now in its sixth year, the Professional Development School District is in place at 11 schools across Clarke County, at the early learning, elementary, middle and high school levels. Each semester, around 20 College of Education courses are taught on-site at schools across the district, with eight faculty members working as professors-in-residence.

"I am extremely pleased that our nationally innovative work is being recognized at this level, and I am so proud of what the Clarke County School District and the University of Georgia have been able to accomplish together," said Clarke County Superintendent Philip D. Lanoue. "We are making a real difference in connecting research and practice to ensure the most effective teaching and learning environments at all levels— from our students to UGA students to our teachers to UGA professors. Partnerships are central to who we are as a community school district, and I look very forward to this continued work as we transform our classrooms."