ATLANTA - The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has released its annual progress report about each of the 12 states participating in the Race to the Top (RT3) grant initiative. These assessments provide an overview of the many successes and some challenges each state has faced between October 2012 -2013.
The "Year Three" Report about Georgia's Race to the Top efforts cited a number of examples of the resources and support for educators and students in Georgia, as well as other reform efforts.
Gainesville Schools Supt. Merriane Dyer has read the report and says "Of interest might be that the (districts that include Rabun, White, Hall, and Gainesville schools) had the option to extend the grant period for one additional year."
Dr. Dyer noted the Gainesville School System is "one of the few, if not the only, system that is closing the grant out this year. We made that decision because we had met all of our target goals, had an exemplary report card, and wanted to close the grant with the current superintendent (Dr. Dyer, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.)"
"While educational reform work is never easy, we are pleased with the significant progress that our state has made as reflected in this report," said Dr. Susan Andrews, Georgia Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of Race to Top Implementation. "We have taken on some major initiatives and our success is a direct reflection of the collaborative efforts between our department, other education agencies, and the hundreds of participating teachers, principals, and district leaders around our state."
The U.S. Department of Education Report highlighted the following successes and more in Georgia, according to the state Department of Education:
Supporting Student Achievement and Growth - Georgia surpassed its student proficiency targets on its English language arts (ELA) assessments in grades 3, 5, and 8.
Helping States and School Districts Implement Reform -
Developing great teachers. About 280 teachers were placed in Georgia public schools from alternative certification programs.
Credit recovery and graduation. Carrollton City opened the State's third Performance Learning Center (PLC) to help students recover credits and graduate high school. Together, the three PLCs graduated 64 students in Year 3.
Resources and materials to support educators in the transition to new standards. With the help of Georgia educators and institutions of higher education, the state developed, released and piloted an additional 800 formative assessment items. The state also designed curriculum materials, including units and lesson plans, for every subject and grade, as well as 18,000 digital resources that are available on the state's data system. Standards transition training was provided to over 750 teachers in ELA and over 1,200 teachers in math.
Building Educators' Capacity
Rewarding educators and programs engaged in innovative work. Through the Innovation in Teaching Competition, the state awarded educators who use innovative and effective strategies in teaching CCGPS ELA and mathematics $2,000 stipends and $5,000 school awards; through the Innovation Fund competition, over 100 teachers and 50 principals participated in new alternative certification programs.
Using technology to provide resources to educators. The state launched the Teacher Resource Link, which allows teachers to assign specific resources and assignments to students based on their individual needs; teachers can also rate each resource and leave comments that are visible to other teachers. A new instructional improvement report, the High School Transition Report, allows schools to track students on End-of-Course tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Test to ensure that students have met requirements for graduation.
Supporting STEM educators. In partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the state created and offered teachers three project-based inquiry learning courses and three robotics courses. In summer 2012, 101 teachers participated in the Georgia Intern-Fellowships for Teachers program and were placed in internships in mathematics, science, industry, or university placements, and created lesson plans to bring back to their classrooms and share statewide.
Supporting educators in the lowest-achieving schools. During the State's 2013 Summer Leadership Academy, 800 district and school leaders from 91 districts focused on how to best collaborate to sustain reform efforts related to teacher and principal selection, job-embedded professional development, and district planning.
While the report highlighted successes, the US Ed report reiterated a few ongoing challenges in Georgia's efforts. For example, rather than implementing a comprehensive merit-based compensation system within the grant period, the State plans to make one-time bonuses to teacher and leaders in the 26 participating Race to the Top districts (during the SY 14-15) based upon their performance ratings. In July 2013, the US Department of Education initiated withholding the State's Race to the Top funds associated with performance-based compensation because of this change. The State still has an opportunity to use these funds if it presents a credible plan of how it will meet its original commitments.
The state also remains on high-risk status for projects related to implementation of its evaluation system. The Georgia Department of Education asked for and was approved to delay full implementation of the teacher evaluation system until SY 14-15. The State wants to ensure the teacher and leader effectiveness measure is reliable and accurate before the possibility of tying it to compensation or personnel decisions for Georgia's teachers and leaders.
For a direct link to the US Department of Education's Race to the Top "Year Three" Georgia Report, click here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/performance/georgia-year-3.pdf