Colleges Column

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Members of a new council have begun the long process of trying to integrate each stage of public education in Georgia--from preschool through college.

The committee, known as the "P-16" council, includes legislators, administrators, teachers, students, and business leaders from across the state. It is part of a growing national movement to link postsecondary education with primary and secondary school-reform efforts. (See Education Week, April 13, 1994.)

"The first driving factor is that we wanted to get all the players in the same room," said Stephen R. Portch, the architect of the new effort and the chancellor for the board of regents of the state university system.

Gov. Zell Miller, a strong supporter of the council, helped launch the first meeting in July by giving the group its mission: Smooth the transition between educational levels, increase college enrollment for students from at-risk backgrounds, and create strong professional-development programs.

Upcoming council projects include awarding three-year challenge grants for individual colleges and schools to form partnerships in their communities, building a database that will allow those partnerships to share information, and gradually increasing admissions requirements at state universities.

In order to tackle its hefty agenda, the 38-member council has formed subcommittees and plans to turn quickly to such issues as fund raising and setting criteria for colleges and schools wishing to apply for the partnership grants.

"I think they're starting off exactly right," said Kati Haycock, the director of the American Association for Higher Education's K-16 project and a longtime advocate of combining postsecondary and K-12 reform.

Ms. Haycock noted that K-16 councils need to undertake reform efforts from both the "top down"--meaning broader policy objectives--and the "bottom up"--what actually goes on in the classroom.

She said her only advice to the Georgia group is that some initiatives "get stuck at the big policy levels. They never get down to where things really matter."

But Mr. Portch, who envisions active communication between the local groups and the statewide P-16 council, is determined not to let that happen. "That's why the two have to work together," he said. The newly formed council, he added, "is not meant to be a group sort of sitting up away from the action, pontificating philosophically."

--Jeanne Ponessa

Vol. 15, Issue 01

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