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Group to propose changes in secondary education

ATLANTA - An educational working group that Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed in July plans to present to him on Monday a proposal that could change the face of Georgia's secondary and post-secondary educational system.

Dean Alford, a Conyers resident who serves as co-chairman on the Georgia Excellence in Education for Global Competitiveness Work Group, said late Wednesday that the group plans to present an official report to the governor Monday; the group is co-chaired by Dr. Charles Knapp, president emeritus of the University of Georgia, and includes other business people and educational leaders from around the state.

Alford said the report includes several options and recommendations for the future of education in Georgia - it's a vision for education over the next 10 to 15 years.

"We've done education the same way for a long time, and the world has really changed," said Alford, also a member of the board for the Technical College System of Georgia and chairman of the state's Investing in Educational Excellence task force.

The changes could include an administrative merger between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia in order to be more cost effective and possibly increase post- secondary graduation numbers. Already, an administrative merger among several technical colleges is in the works.

The report says that having the USG focus on four-year and higher-education degrees and having the TCSG focus on two-year degrees could improve the success rate.

"The graduation rate is higher for students who transfer to (a four-year institution) than those who enter them as freshmen," he said. "They have a chance to develop academically and socially."

He said it is one area of concern that needs to be developed as the group moves forward with the plan, but it doesn't necessarily have to take on that role.

"What's challenging is having the ability to step back a little and look at the way you've been doing it and a way it's never been done before," he said.

Alford said the proposal isn't different just for the sake of being different, but it could help make Georgia students become more competitive nationally and globally.

The report also covers an area of concern for students needing to be more prepare for post secondary education at an earlier age by taking Advanced Placement or joint enrollment courses or graduating earlier. Dual enrollment in high schools and post-secondary institutions are options for high schoolers; Alford said that needs to be the rule in addition to getting younger students into AP and other advanced courses.

However, he said students who complete dual enrollment or advanced classes might repeat information - and sometimes the cost - once in a post-secondary institution.

The plan, he said, is to make better use of resources and give more students the opportunity to enroll in post secondary education by offering post-secondary options in high school and giving them access to alternative routes along the way.

He said school systems also need to create virtual schools and nontraditional high schools to increase student marketability - tens of thousands of students already take online courses in Georgia colleges and universities. In Rockdale County Public Schools, educators give students the options to take classes online through Rockdale Virtual Campus, during nontraditional hours at the Open Campus High School and also provide students with the Rockdale Career Academy to take high technology-based and innovative courses as electives throughout the normal school day.

"We need to be more innovative in how we teach our students," Alford said.

Other recommendations in the proposal include attracting and keeping world-class, high-quality teachers and making them seem as professional as higher education educators.

Alford said after the governor reviews the report Monday, the working group, as well as representatives from the USG, TCSG and other institutions, boards and agency heads throughout the state will continue to work on and discuss the future of the educational system of Georgia.

"We hope a report like this is what will ignite the conversation," he said.