Education reform in Georgia and 26 school districts, including Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), made headlines in late August when the second round of Race to the Top (RT3) grantees was announced by the United States Department of Education. A total of $4.325 billion in federal stimulus funding was awarded to nine states and the District of Columbia to support their comprehensive plans for school improvement.
GCPS agreed to partner with the state in applying for the competitive grant because we believe the four RT3 focus areas are the right ones for improving education: effective teachers and principals; standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace; data systems that measure student growth and success, and turning around the lowest-achieving schools.
Georgia received just under $400 million in RT3 funding to implement its reform plan, with approximately half of it to be divided among the 26 partner districts. Gwinnett”s $20.8 million share, about 10.4 percent of the state”s allocation, will allow us to accelerate a number of improvements already underway here.
For example, our long-time interest in increasing leader effectiveness led to the establishment of our Quality-Plus Leader Academy four years ago. RT3 funding will enable us to expand that program. Long before RT3, we committed to revising our personnel evaluation system so we ultimately can compensate employees for outstanding performance. RT3 requires such a move at the state level. For the last 15 years, we have worked relentlessly to close the achievement gap among groups of students and to improve academic performance at all of our schools. Consistent with that focus, our Academic Knowledge and Skills curriculum now is being aligned with the new common core state standards associated with RT3. We also are making further technology improvements that will give teachers easy access to the content, resources, and data they need for planning instruction, a key to the teacher effectiveness RT3 promotes.