Published Online: April 23, 2010

Ga. Gov. Pushing for Teacher Evaluation System

Gov. Sonny Perdue is asking lawmakers to create a statewide teacher evaluation system in a last-minute push to boost Georgia's chances of winning up to $400 million in federal funds.

A bill that would establish a uniform way of judging how well teachers do their jobs is scheduled to go before the state House next week after clearing a key committee Wednesday. Perdue wanted to create the evaluation system and use it to help determine merit pay for teachers, but performance bonuses were stripped from the proposal after an outcry from teachers.

The governor is hoping the evaluation system will help Georgia in the second round of the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" federal grant competition. The state fell just shy of winning money in the first round last month, losing out to Tennessee and Delaware.

"We think it would be in best interest of the state and teachers to have statewide tool," said Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley.

Already, teachers' groups in the state are working to defeat the bill, calling it a first step toward a merit pay program that could unfairly punish teachers. Jeff Hubbard, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said the issue of evaluations should be studied more before a statewide program is created.

"If you're going to do something like this, there needs to be a carefully thought-out, deliberative process rather than a bunch of stuff slammed together in a couple of months under the guise of 'Race to the Top,'" said Hubbard.

The federal grant competition is designed to encourage states to embrace education reforms like performance pay for teachers and charter schools. The aim is to improve low-performing schools by using innovative tactics and increase student performance at all schools.

Georgia received 433 out of a possible 500 points in the first round of the competition, compared with Delaware's 454 and Tennessee's 444. Florida came in fourth with 431.

State education officials are tweaking the application and plan to resubmit it by the June deadline for the second round of funds. Perdue said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that even though performance pay did not make it into the bill, he still feels strongly that Georgia should pay teachers based on how well their students do.

"I will continue to advocate for this even when I'm out of office," said Perdue, whose second and last term as governor ends in January.

Lawmakers don't have much time to approval the teacher evaluation bill. The last day of the legislative session is Thursday.

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