Twenty-six Georgia school districts participating in the federal Race to the Top initiative will learn Monday how much of a $200 million pool each district will receive.
Bibb, Jones, Peach and Pulaski county school systems are set to get millions from President Barack Obama’s challenge to states to be the next education trailblazer by taking new approaches to improve schools.
The $4.35 billion Race to the Top funding was earmarked for school reform as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia applied during the first and second phase of the competition.
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States with the highest scores on their submitted applications were selected to get funding over four years.
Georgia was selected in August along with eight other states and the District of Columbia. Delaware and Tennessee were chosen in the first round of the competition.
Reform changes center on four key areas: ensuring that curricula and tests are globally competitive, creating data systems to measure student growth over time, rewarding effective teachers and turning around low performing schools.
The state will use half of its total $400 million award for statewide initiatives, said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.
“Two hundred million will be split with a formula of some kind to those 26 districts,” he said. “All our Race to the Top folks are in Delaware going through the details.”
A state board meeting is being held Monday to announce individual district awards.
Likely, Cardoza said, districts with larger percentages of students living in poverty will get a bigger cut of the funding.
Among Bibb’s 24,500 public school students, about 19,250 are considered to be living in poverty, which is among the highest percentage of participating school systems, the state application shows.
The Race to the Top funding will mean a lot of hard work and major changes ahead for the Bibb school district, but the funding will help bolster Bibb’s lagging student test scores, said Kathy Reese, the system’s interim deputy superintendent for teaching and learning.
Bibb’s student test scores have fallen under state averages for a decade.
“There has to be some major changes in the student achievement in Bibb County schools,” said Reese, who will attend Monday’s meeting. “Students have to do better on standardized tests ... to be prepared to move on to the next level.”
Bibb County also has four high schools targeted by the state as among the lowest achieving in Georgia and is getting up to $12 million in federal funding over three years in School Improvement Grants.
While that grant has similar goals as Race to the Top initiatives, such as evaluating teacher performance and rewarding effective teachers, the two funding streams are from separate pots of money, but will operate simultaneously.
“All we know at this point is that School Improvement Grants targeted high schools, and we anticipate Race to the Top funding will be districtwide and (go) to schools other than (those four) high schools,” Reese said. “They all tie in together because certainly there is a focus of turning around the lowest achieving schools.”
As part of Georgia’s Race to the Top application, some of the state’s plans include: supporting more charter schools; ensuring that students are proficient in science, technology, engineering and math fields; bonus pay for effective science and math teachers; and reducing achievement gaps among minorities, low-income students and students with disabilities.
The state also will require all elementary and middle schools to make science test scores their second indicator on Adequate Yearly Progress. And the state plans to adopt Common Core Standards — aligning standards in kindergarten through 12th grade English/language arts and math to global standards.
As part of measuring teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom, the state proposes implementing a “value added score” as part of teacher’s annual evaluations, according to the application.
Georgia also is building a statewide data system that will track students’ growth in classes and on exams through state-assigned student ID codes. The state now has five years’ worth of data on individual students, Cardoza said.
The 26 school districts on board in Georgia represent 41 percent of the state’s students, 46 percent of Georgia’s students in poverty, 53 percent of Georgia’s black student population, 48 percent of Hispanic students, and 68 percent of the state’s lowest achieving schools.
The school districts are Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carrolton, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Dade, DeKalb, Dougherty, Gainesville, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Jones, Meriwether, Muscogee, Peach, Pulaski, Rabun, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Valdosta and White.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.