Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Georgia Racing to the Top

State submits application for unprecedented federal grant opportunity

Governor Sonny Perdue today announced that Georgia has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education for the first round of federal “Race to the Top” grants. Georgia stands to receive up to $462 million over four years to implement its plan if selected.

The Race to the Top fund is a $4 billion grant opportunity provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to support new approaches to improve schools. The fund is available in the form of competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform, specifically implementing ambitious plans in four education reform areas:

· Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

· Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

· Recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and

· Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

“I applaud Education Secretary Arne Duncan for encouraging states to take bold steps forward in these four areas, and I believe Georgia is in an incredibly strong position to compete and win this race. The goals of Race to the Top are very well aligned to the direction Georgia has been moving in education policy,” said Governor Perdue. “Through strong partnerships with diverse districts around the state, Georgia will be able to further develop innovative ways to continue improving student achievement.”

Georgia’s application was prepared through strong partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Office of Student Achievement, the Georgia Department of Education and education stakeholders. Four working groups and a fifth critical feedback team consisting of teachers, principals, superintendents, higher education faculty, non-profit and informal education organizations, state policy makers, and members of the business and philanthropic communities developed the ideas for inclusion in the state’s application.

Recommendations focus on strengthening traditional and alternative preparation programs for teachers and leaders, supporting teachers more effectively in the classroom, evaluating teachers and leaders with consistent and objective criteria that inform instruction, and rewarding great teachers and leaders with performance-based monetary bonuses.

The application also calls for Georgia to adopt and implement common curricular standards and internationally-benchmarked assessments that indicate Georgia’s ability to compete within a globally-connected economy.

Twenty-three local school districts have signed on to partner with the state in implementing Georgia’s Race to the Top plan. These districts, which make up 41 percent of public school students in Georgia, include: Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carrolton, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, DeKalb, Dougherty, Gainesville, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Jones, Meriwether, Muscogee, Rabun, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Valdosta and White.

The state will work closely with these systems to implement the ideas contained in the application. Fifty percent of the funds awarded to Georgia will be distributed to the local partners to meaningfully enact the Race to the Top reforms. The state will study the effectiveness of these practices to identify and scale up those that prove to be effective.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that round one winners will be announced in April 2010. Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted Race to the Top applications.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation selected 15 states, including Georgia, to benefit from technical assistance for RT3 application development. The states were selected based on how well poised they are to win Race to the Top based on progress in education policy and reform. Georgia partnered with The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm based in Boston, which specializes in part in education reform.

Georgia’s entire application can be viewed at http://gov.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,78006749_154885747_155733684,00.html.
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