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CSU cleared to establish new teaching degree

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University will soon be able to help local school systems meet a continually growing demand for more English and math teachers across the Southern Crescent.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the university's request to establish a master's degree in secondary teaching and a bachelor's degree in computer science on Oct. 15. Students will be allowed to begin pursuing the degrees next year. The teaching degree program will begin during the summer 2009 semester, and the computer science program will begin that fall.

"Anytime we add a new degree, it's an important occasion for us," said University Spokesman John Shiffert. "It's about fulfilling our mission as a university, which is to provide a quality education to metro Atlanta."

The master's degree in teaching will include majors in English and mathematics, with secondary teacher certification, which means it will prepare future educators to teach at the middle and high school levels. The driving force behind the program's development was a need for more math and English teachers in the Southern Crescent, and the university system's desire to produce more teachers for Georgia schools.

"There's an older work force as the Baby Boomers reach retirement age," said Flannagan. "And, some teachers are leaving after three to five years for various reasons. For some of them, it's the amount of paperwork they have to do. Others are concerned about not always receiving the support they need from their supervisors, or the pay is not that attractive, and some complain about discipline issues."

The teaching degree was originally slated to be an undergraduate degree, said Flannagan. A June 2003 meeting between Clayton State officials and leaders from schools systems in Clayton, Henry, Fayette and Rockdale counties identified the need. And a survey of students in 2007 showed an interest in a master's level program.

To help address a statewide shortage of teachers, the university system has an initiative in place to increase the number of teachers in the state by 80 percent by 2020, Flannagan said.

The master's degree is designed to help address the shortage of teachers in school system's across the state, but university officials anticipate local school systems will see the biggest benefit from the new teaching degree.

"By virtue of them residing here, they understand the community and they will automatically be ready to work in the local schools," said Larnell Flannagan, the coordinator of CSU's undergraduate teaching program. "We will have a ready pool of teachers to send into these school systems. Our graduates will be ready, able, and willing to move into the teaching ranks in their communities."

University officials will likely meet again with area superintendents in either 2009 or 2010 to reassess the teaching needs, Flannagan said. "Hopefully, by 2010, we'll be able to add an undergraduate secondary teaching degree for history, English, mathematics and biology," he added.

Meanwhile, the addition of an undergraduate degree in computer science will help expand computer-related programs offered by the College of Information Technology and Mathematics beyond informational technology. Students will have to take 20 computer science courses, as well as several math classes, including calculus and advanced math.

"They are going to get a very good background in the technical areas," said Lyla Roberts, dean of the College of Information Technology and Mathematics, on Oct. 14.

The computer science degree will include an emphasis in computer gaming development, which will be the program's hook for now. University officials hope to eventually add emphasis in other areas, such as robotics.

"We do our due diligence before we add a new degree program," said Shiffert. "That way, we can make sure we're serving the wants and needs of our potential students."