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A coalition of business, education, government, and human-services officials last week announced the launching of the nation's first institute designed specifically to train teachers to facilitate youth-service projects.

The Pennsylvania Institute for Youth Service, located in Philadelphia, will serve as a statewide training resource for superintendents, principals, and teachers in the state's 501 school districts to begin, strengthen, and expand school-based community-service projects among students, its organizers say.

The institute will provide workshop training, inservice sessions in schools, extension courses through universities, and assistance in curriculum development, assessment, and testing, officials said.

The institute's purpose is "to give to teachers and school administrators alike the practical tools, technical assistance, and professional support to make community service a daily reality in the lives of Pennsylvania students," J. Lawrence Shane, vice chairman of Scott Paper Company and an organizer of the effort, said in a statement.

The project was organized by the Pennsylvania Citizen Service Project together with the Philadelphia school district and several business groups.

The institute is located at Abraham Lincoln High School, whose existing youth-service projects will serve as a "living lab" for institute participants, said Larry Hochendoner, president of the Citizen Service Project and a consultant to the institute.

The school's principal, Harry Silcox, will be the institute's director.

The institute has approximately $65,000 in seed money, and will aggressively seek grants to fund its operations, Mr. Hochendoner said.

Arkansas officials recently gave students who pass the General Educational Development test the same status as high-school graduates, joining 10 other states that call the credential a "high-school diploma."

The Arkansas decision comes after ged officials last year began urging states to reconsider the various names the high-school equivalency credential is given from state to state. Officials in Kentucky last year became one of 11 states to call their credential a "high-school equivalency diploma."

Other states award some type of "certificate," which ged officials argue perpetuates a stigma that students who pass the test are not on par with high-school graduates.

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