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Georgia Partnership To Award Grants to 'Lighthouse' Schools

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Ten to 15 Georgia public schools or clusters of schools will be selected to serve as "lighthouses'' for innovation in education, under a program created by a state business-education collaborative.

The "Next Generation School Project,'' announced by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education this month, would provide each school with up to $500,000 in state, private, and local funds to advance restructuring efforts.

The goal of the project "is to support change in education throughout the state of Georgia and to get schools on the fast track to making these changes,'' said Betty Jo Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Southwire Company, an Atlanta wire and cable manufacturer that is one of 10 business partners in the initiative.

Gov. Zell Miller has asked the Georgia legislature to appropriate $2 million for the program, and business and industry groups in the state have pledged an additional $2 million.

The grants will be awarded as matching funds, with the winning communities receiving $2 of grant money for every $1 they raise locally.

"This is money to accelerate change; it's not money to supplant any existing funds,'' said John W. Rhodes, the director of the state education department's Schools for the Future program.

"The general design of the program is that schools would work to meet or exceed the six national education goals and establish high standards for all components of the educational process,'' Mr. Rhodes noted.

Community Collaboration

To be eligible for the grant competition, schools or clusters of schools must submit to the partnership descriptions of how they would implement nine project criteria and of what outcomes they would expect to achieve.

The 10 to 15 winners are expected to be selected by May 13, subject to the legislature's appropriating the necessary funds.

According to the project criteria, participating schools must develop a community collaborative to support the restructuring initiative, set "world class'' performance standards, personalize instruction on a continuous-progress model rather than by grade levels, and reorganize how time, space, and students are utilized in the learning environment.

Other criteria include integrating vocational education into academic instruction, using computer and telecommunications technology as "cornerstones'' in the learning process, addressing the needs of at-risk children and their families through interagency cooperation, adopting a "quality'' management philosophy, and developing a continuous, comprehensive staff-development program.

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