01. Race To The Top Initiative – Phase Two

A GAE Position
What is the Race To The Top Initiative?
The Race To The Top fund is a $3.4 billion competitive grant provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The grant is being provided to encourage states to explore ways of improving public schools. States are awarded funds based on the strength of reform they are willing to enact. Two awards have already been made to Delaware and Tennessee in Phase I of the competition. Now there are 19 other states being considered for Phase II of the program. Georgia is among them (Georgia came in third place during Phase I; we believe the application failed because it did not include input and/or buy-in from education organizations).
What are the criteria for states qualifying for the funds?
The specific areas of reform are (1) adopting common standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy; (2) building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; (3) recruiting, preparing, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and (4) turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Who, when, and how was it decided which school systems would participate in receiving the fund?
Twenty-six local school districts have signed on to participate in the program. They are: Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carrollton, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Dade, DeKalb, Doughterty, Gainesville, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Jones, Meriwether, Muscogee, Peach, Pulaski, Rabun, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Valdosta, and White. These systems likely agreed to participate prior to Georgia’s submission of their application. It is also likely that the leadership of these systems made the determination to participate (probably to have access to the funds provided through the grant).
Why does GAE oppose the state’s efforts to obtain the funds?
The Governor’s administration refuses to acknowledge GAE’s efforts to be a positive partner in this process. GAE is on record requesting to be included in the application process. We have not been contacted and have since been made aware that the Perdue administration does not place value on the opinions of professional organizations (citation).
The development of a common evaluation instrument is one of the factors that will be considered to guarantee that classroom and school professionals are evaluated using a common measure. The initially proposed measure would have based 50% of a teacher’s compensation on the success of his/her students-- without taking into consideration social factors that may contribute to students’ outcomes (did they eat breakfast, did they sleep in a bed the night before, did they have dinner the night before, are their parents involved?) GAE opposed this measure because we will not support an initiative that potentially leads to punitive measures.
GAE’s opposition stems from the state’s lack of collaboration and the fact that only 26 systems stand to benefit if Georgia’s application is successful. Our entire state needs help and our children are depending on us to ensure that that help is in place. We respect the opinions of the 20,000 front line practitioners (the Governor says he received), however, we want our Governor to respect what GAE could bring to the table.
GAE proudly offers the following:
  • 43,000 front line perspectives (from among Georgia educators);
  • 3.2 million front line perspectives (from our national affiliate);
  • Access to best practices from 49 other states (from our affiliation with a national organization) and Research and analysis from our nationally recognized staff (both state and national affiliates)
What could Georgia do to earn GAE’s support?
To garner GAE’s valuable support, the Governor should invite GAE to become a part of the discussion and make use of the natural resources that we offer this state and could offer to this process. Our intellectual capital is valued in school districts across the state. Why would it not be valued in this process? GAE is not opposed to receiving funds to help our K-12 budget. We are disappointed that we have not been consulted or invited to play a role in this important decision.
Now is not the time to work in a vacuum. All parties must become larger than the problems that Georgia’s children face in order to find a solution that will benefit all of Georgia’s systems. GAE is committed to doing this. Are you committed to helping?