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March 2010 Issue

Georgia a Finalist for Race to the Top School Funds

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in early March that Georgia is one of 16 finalists for a piece of the Obama administration’s new Race to the Top education fund, which is worth up to $4 billion to states that embrace education reform.

“Georgia’s designation as a finalist in the Race to the Top competition is further proof that we are moving in the right direction to advance student achievement in our state,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue. “Our work to transform education in Georgia is being recognized nationally, but it is only a beginning. We must continue to align our funding and policies with our desired outcome of improved student achievement.”

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. Winners will be announced during the first week in April.

Georgia’s application was prepared through a strong partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Georgia Department of Education, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and education stakeholders, including the University System of Georgia.

At the March meeting of the Board of Regents a few days after the announcement, Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. praised the contributions of Dr. Lynne Weisenbach, vice chancellor for Educator Preparation and Innovation, Dr. Melinda Spencer, chief of staff for the System’s Office of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Patricia Paterson, director of College Access Policy and Programs, to the 200-page application state officials submitted in January.

“Being among the finalists is a tremendous accomplishment for Georgia and for all of education in this state,” Davis said.

Georgia – which is eligible for an estimated $400 million grant from the fund – concentrated on four key areas in its bid: standards and assessment; data systems to support instruction; “great” teachers and leaders; and turning around the lowest-achieving schools.

Officials described the state’s efforts over the past decade to overhaul Georgia’s school curriculum, unify learning initiatives and test boundaries with a nationally rated charter school law.

The application says state officials want to create a new office – the State Office of School Turnaround – to concentrate on low-performing schools. They would improve local and statewide student data systems to track students’ academic progress in real time.

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 represent 41 percent of all public-school students in Georgia, include Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carrollton, 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 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.

Georgia was one of 40 states and the District of Columbia that applied for the grants. The other finalists are Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Posted by John Vanchella on March 01, 2010
Published in: Board of Regents

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