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College of Education earns exemplary rating for teacher preparation

UNG earned an exemplary rating in 2020 for its teacher preparation program.

For the third year in a row, the University of North Georgia's (UNG) College of Education scored Level 4, or exemplary, in the Preparation Program Effectiveness Measures (PPEM).

Developed by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC), the PPEM includes a performance-based assessment of teacher candidates, the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE), a system of classroom teacher evaluations, an employer survey, and a survey of teachers at the end of their first year in the classroom.

"It's very valuable for us because we get to see how we are really performing," said Dr. Sheri Hardee, dean of UNG's College of Education.

UNG was the fifth-largest program in the state to receive a 4, which is the highest possible rating, with 226 graduates evaluated by PPEM. See more about UNG's effectiveness measures on the GAPSC website.

Dr. Cristina Washell, head of UNG's Department of Elementary and Special Education, said the 1,700 hours of classroom experience spread through students' junior and senior years provides the best preparation possible.

"That model lends itself to having high levels of success once they get in the classroom as teachers," Washell said. "We have high standards, and we have amazing faculty and partner schools who are supportive of our students."

Emily Shorthill, a senior from Jefferson, Georgia, pursuing a degree in English with teacher certification, is a student teacher at Lumpkin County High School for 2020-21. She spent the spring semester of her junior year as a teacher candidate at Gainesville Middle School.

"You get a little taste of it your junior year," Shorthill said. "Then to be spending my entire senior year teaching nearly full time in a high school is invaluable experience."

Jasmin Trujillo, a May 2020 graduate, is a kindergarten teacher at Chicopee Woods Elementary School. The Gainesville, Georgia, resident was part of UNG's Realizing and Inspiring Successful Educators (RISE) program. Through RISE, the Hall County School District pays tuition of heritage Spanish-speaking students who aspire to be educators and offers them teaching positions upon graduation.

"UNG really prepared me for what I'm doing now as a teacher," Trujillo said. "My professors were so involved and so caring and wanted to ensure we were prepared for our teaching careers. They went above and beyond to make sure we knew what we were doing."

Liliana Esqueda, a May 2020 graduate, is a first-grade teacher at Mundy Mill Academy in the Gainesville City School System. The Gainesville, Georgia, resident was part of the Aspiring Teachers Program (ATP) through which the Gainesville system pays tuition for diverse UNG students who want to be teachers and offers them jobs upon graduation.

Trujillo and Esqueda earned elementary and special education degrees. Esqueda expressed gratitude at the way her specialized degree prepared her to be more aware of potential learning disabilities for her students. She also appreciated the way RISE and ATP students at UNG compared notes on their student teaching through regular meetings.

"We were able to share our experiences and see how it was going to help us in the future," Esqueda said.

PPEM was formulated for program improvement, to hold teacher education programs accountable for the quality of educators they produce, and provide transparency to the public, including the K-12 education community.

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