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UNG College of Education grads ace the GACE

UNG College of Education grads ace the GACE
GACE is the state-approved certification assessment for public school educators

In the days and weeks leading up to the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam, sleep is lost, fingernails chewed down to the quick, red-rimmed eyes doused with drops, gallons of coffee guzzled. For the College of Education students at the University of North Georgia (UNG), it can be considered the equivalent of taking, and passing, the state bar exam.

This spring, all 300 graduates from UNG passed the GACE, Georgia's state-approved certification assessment for potential public school educators. GACE helps the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) attain its goal of ensuring teaching candidates have the necessary knowledge and skill set to perform the job as an educator in the state school system. GACE is aligned with state and national standards for educator preparation.

"It's not unusual for [UNG], our overall pass rate the last time we were accredited was 98.5 percent," said Dr. Susan Brandenburg-Ayres, dean of the College of Education. "Typically, our students do very well with GACE assessments."

There are six main GACE assessment types: program admission, content, certificate upgrade, educational leadership, Georgia ethics and paraprofessional. Assessments are given via computer at testing centers throughout Georgia and depending on the certification needed, take about five hours to complete.

Ayres attributes the high pass rate to a number of factors: having "remarkable" students, instructors that do an excellent job preparing them for the assessments, and having students with high GPAs accepted into the program.

"Students have to be admitted to the College of Education, and the GPA required is 2.75, but the last three years we've been very consistent with an average GPA of 3.3," said Ayres. The students that enter our program are the cream of the crop."

The College of Education at UNG offers bachelor's degrees early childhood and special education, middle grades education, secondary education and P-12 education; master's degrees in teaching, education, middle grades education, and physical education; an online doctorate program in education and an international baccalaureate program.

GACE is one of several examinations future instructors have to take to teach in Georgia public schools. They also have to take an exam on professional ethics as well as submit a national board portfolio on their teaching performance. Most UNG graduates go into teaching at public schools either locally or within the state, Ayres said.

And, if GACE wasn't enough of a white-knuckle experience, the UNG College of Education requires its graduates to take another assessment, called the edTPA, a performance-based assessment process designed by educators to ensure new teachers are ready for the job. edTPA includes a review of a candidate's actual teaching materials and shows each educator's ability to effectively teach the subject matter.

Ayres says UNG students in the College of Education do well in testing because they start their clinical practice early, in their junior year. Being out in real world conditions, she believes, prepares students for the stress of both the GACE and edTPA.

"By their senior year, we prepare our students as well as we can," Ayres said. "With classes, preparing for the tests, doing an internship and trying to find a job, they go through a lot. But it leads to a meaningful career."

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