DeKalb County Schools will use its share of $400 million from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition to improve teacher quality and help low-performing schools, a school official said.
Georgia was among nine states and the District of Columbia to share the $4 billion that is scheduled to be distributed nationally over the next four years. DeKalb County is one of 26 school districts in Georgia that will share in the funding.
The state will keep $200 million and the rest will be divided between the districts. County school officials said they do not yet know how much their share will be.
“Our focus will be on professional learning and helping the schools improve,” said Dr. Moncrease Beasley, DeKalb’s interim deputy superintendent for teaching and learning.
The grant rewards states that implement ambitious plans in four education reform areas. According to a release by the state department of education, the program’s top priorities are:
• 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.
• Turning around the state’s lowest-achieving schools.
“Going for Race to the Top has never been about just the money, but more about further development of our foundation to drive increased student achievement,” said state Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant. “But now that we have the additional resources, we can put an even greater focus on implementing that foundation for the benefit of Georgia’s students.”
Other Atlanta-area school districts also will receive Race to the Top funds, including Atlanta, Clayton, Gwinnett and Cherokee.
“This is truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement,” said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Recommendations from the state’s application for the grant 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 salary increases.
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. The State Board of Education adopted these standards in July.
Three metro Atlanta districts – Fulton, Cobb and Forsyth – chose not to apply for the money. One of the drawbacks of the program, according to officials at some Atlanta-area school districts, is that school systems will have to abandon their own teacher evaluation system for a statewide system that has not yet been developed. Beasley said he did not expect that to be an issue for DeKalb County.
“As long as the evaluation system is objective, we will be very supportive of it,” Beasley said. “I’m confident it will be a very objective process.”