Georgia Hits Speed Bump in Race to Top
Georgia is the latest state to run into challenges in implementing its share of the $4 billion Race to the Top competitive-grant program, with part of its $400 million grant having been put on "high risk" status by the U.S. Department of Education.
The department is worried that the state, which has had a number of amendments to its plan in the tricky area of teacher evaluation, has strayed too far from the vision it originally outlined in its winning application, according to a letter sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican.
If Georgia is unable to address the department's concerns, it could lose roughly $33 million of its grant—the portion dedicated to implementing the state's teacher-evaluation plan. Georgia has demonstrated sufficient progress on the rest of its plan, which is not on high-risk status.
Earlier this year, Hawaii came close to losing its $75 million grant, in part because the teachers' union there hasn't yet embraced its teacher-evaluation plan. Hawaii was able to keep its grant, but it remains on high-risk status.
With Georgia, the department is concerned about the strategy behind the teacher-evaluation component of the grant. Federal officials want more information about the quality of the tools the state is using for its educator evaluation pilot program, for example. And they want to know whether supports being given to districts can be scaled up.
Georgia also has asked for a number of amendments to the teacher-evaluation component of its plan. When taken together, they could represent a big shift from the state's original vision, the department contends.
But John D. Barge, Georgia's state schools superintendent doesn't think the plan as written is workable. And he takes pains in a July 6 letter to the department to note that the plan was the "best estimate" of how the state needed to proceed was made by a previous administration, which was "unable to foresee" numerous challenges.
In fact, without changes sought by the state to the teacher-effectiveness plan, Georgia could open itself up to "a potentially highly litigious situation," Mr. Barge wrote to Ann Whalen, the director of policy and program implementation in the Education Department's implementation and support unit.
Vol. 31, Issue 36, Page 21Published in Print: July 18, 2012, as Ga. Runs Into Snarl in Race to Top Effort