Race to the Top: Will teachers win or lose under the federal grant?

The AJC series on teacher quality looks at the impact on Race to the Top on evaluations. (Dean Rohrer art)

The AJC series on teacher quality looks at the impact of Race to the Top on evaluations. (Dean Rohrer art)

In the second installment of its teacher quality series this morning, the AJC questions whether the state’s $400 million Race to the Top grant will improve teacher quality and evaluation as intended.

According to the AJC series, Georgia spends more than $1 billion annually on teacher improvement efforts with little evidence of success. Among the problems identified by the AJC education team in their month-long investigation: The state hasn’t figured out a way to identify and remove ineffective teachers. In 2011, only 628 of the state’s 114,248 teachers received unsatisfactory job evaluations.

(The AJC is making this occasional series on teacher quality available only to subscribers. You can read the full article by picking up a copy of Monday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Here is a link to the AJC digital options, including an E-subscription, which gives you the actual paper online.)

The series reports:

State leaders are hoping Race to the Top will usher in the kind of comprehensive improvement that has eluded the state for a decade. But there is no guarantee the plans will ever materialize statewide. Twenty-six districts are signed up to pilot the program, with others slated to follow after a four-year roll out. Significant portions of the plan must first be approved by state lawmakers and education policymakers before other districts  adopt the changes.

Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said it’s too soon to tell if Race to the Top will be a positive force for change, or if key components (such as the new salary scale that will pay the highest performing teachers more) will be enacted.

“There is the concern about the Legislature’s ability to pay and their somewhat whimsical attention span,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t advise any educator I know to predicate a car or mortgage payment on any special salary program or incentive.”

Georgia’s plan calls for student academic growth to play a large role in decisions about teachers, along with more traditional measures such as classroom observations. New teachers whose students aren’t showing enough growth on tests will not be recertified. Other teachers  will be recertified every five years only if their students post the proper gains. Teachers will receive training based on where data says they need to improve.

Some metro school districts are already doing innovative work around teacher effectiveness that could be a signal of things to come. In 2010, Atlanta Public Schools was awarded $10 million from the Gates Foundation to fund its “Effective Teacher in Every Classroom” program. The intentions are similar to those laid out in Race to the Top: Use academic growth to see how much value a teacher is adding, evaluate them using a more thorough tool and provide training and support where needed.

Race to the Top is spurring change around the country and some feel Georgia’s pilot approach isn’t aggressive enough. The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based think tank, raised concerns about whether the state’s program will have staying power, since there’s no specific commitment to expand after the grant expires. Other states have written aggressive changes into law, ensuring the reforms will be adopted in every district. For example, Tennessee changed its law to require that all districts make 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation  hinge on student scores.

But others believe the pilot approach is a smart strategy. House Education Committee Chair Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, said lawmakers won’t consider legislation in the 2012 General Assembly session. In the meantime, they will be watching how the evaluation system plays out in the 26 local districts.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

112 comments Add your comment

crystalbeal

September 19th, 2011
5:20 am

What’s more clear with Employment report is that when it comes to joblessness, having a college degree is more important than ever that is why we need the help of “High Speed Universities” now

NWGA Teacher

September 19th, 2011
5:43 am

Has the State decided on a method to evaluate resource teachers, who work with each student 45-50 minutes per day?

Logic 05

September 19th, 2011
6:39 am

Competition is the only answer!

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2011
6:39 am

There’s also rumbles in the blogosphere that, even with RttT money, states can’t afford merit pay. There’s also indications that some states/districts are thinking about pulling out of the grant because the costs to implement the requirements are too expensive. Buyers remorse is rampant on this one :P

btw: it is no accident that RttT mirrors the Gates-Effective Teacher in Every Classroom….who the heck do you think was behind RttT?

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2011
6:40 am

1 billion on teacher improvement efforts? Really? Where and who is getting the money? A breakdown would be most appreciated.

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2011
6:45 am

Teachers will always remember the “promise” made to nationally board certified teachers how Kathy Cox, the governor, and several reporters were quick to say research does not support NBC teachers. In fact, I remember a couple of articles in the AJC in defense of pulling the stipend.

Funny thing….many states are using their RttT money to encourage teachers to complete the certification process.

I guess GA is ahead of the curve in encouraging their teachers to NOT participate in NBC.

Our legislators are so brilliant! I wonder what their average SAT score is……

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 19th, 2011
6:48 am

Can Mr. Callahan of PAGE make any public comment without mentioning or alluding to teacher pay? Mr. Callahan, let me remind you that good teachers teach in spite of, not because of, the salaries and benefits. Only practitioners of the world’s “oldest profession” – in its various current forms- are motivated primarily by money. What might I conclude by your persistence history of references to it, sir?

Nick P.

September 19th, 2011
6:54 am

another joke for teachers, education is full of tricks and one size fits all solutions! to improve schools is real simple, go after the bad schools who cannot score in the 75% or above, and leave the high functioning schools alone from all of this extra step2achieve crap! I work in a high functioning school, test grades and high performance is the norm, and some of the things we are asked to do is just plain dumb when we already meet and exceed all standards in place to measure schools, this is why i dont take educational solutions seriously!

Teacher tired of the BS

September 19th, 2011
7:03 am

Only when we remove the bureaucratic BS will schools improve…I like the direction of the high schools adapting this “college-esque” setup though, but how are you going to evaluate teachers when there are too many variables outside our control. I can’t go to their house and make sure they are in bed by 10 or feed then a healthy breakfast and make sure their homework is done. Can we evaluate parents too?

dcb

September 19th, 2011
7:25 am

We’re barking up the wrong tree here, folks. Take it from a retired school head, all the money and attention in the world directed to the vehicle rather than the cause, isn’t going to improve a thing. And the evaluative criteria we’re using in the first place is looking at the wrong source. The old saying “improve the quality of the prisoners and you’ll improve the prison” is right on target here. Until we solve the issues of parenting and putting responsibility on the home front where it needs to be in the first place, the only way you’ll improve test scores is to renorm – like the SAT’s did a few years ago. And while that doesn’t really solve anything, at least it confuses the issue and gets the news media off our school’s case for a year or two.

South Georgia Retired Educator

September 19th, 2011
7:26 am

The whole idea of linking student test scores to teacher evaluation is a complicated, messy thing. I just don’t think it can work effectively and fairly because of the many, many variables from classroom to classroom. The billions being currently spent to experiment with this concept would be better used to build and renovate schools and provide more instructional support. Right now, classroom size is growing and public schools are struggling to balance their budgets. It’s pretty stupid to spend money on a revolution in teacher evaluation while our public institutions are in a battle to survive financially.

Former APS Teacher

September 19th, 2011
7:45 am

APS’ Effective Teacher in Every Classroom program works like this:

Each year, one teacher from each school is chosen as Teacher of the Year. This is mainly based on your administrator’s personal feelings about you. Then, you wear a name tag that says “Effective Teacher in Every Classroom Rep” for the next year. Such a program is clearly highly effective, as recent news shows.

CB

September 19th, 2011
7:55 am

Take the billion dollars spent annually on teacher improvement efforts and find a way to “fix” parents. That is the key to better educated students.

RJ

September 19th, 2011
7:58 am

@NWGA Teacher, I wasn’t aware schools still used resource teachers. I doubt that the state has developed a method of evaluating them though. They haven’t even figured out how to evaluate non-core teachers such as music, art, physical education and foreign language.

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2011
8:00 am

Skeptical

September 19th, 2011
8:01 am

Cherokee County is “improving teacher effectiveness” by using RttT funds to buy every principal an iPad. I would like to see the AJC research Cherokee’s decision to supply prinicpals with iPads and its proposed impact on improving teacher performance.

Jim

September 19th, 2011
8:03 am

Interesting article on “too many bad apples stay hired. I am not a teacher but have sent children through the public and private system. QUESTION: Where is the parents responsibility in all this? There seems to be a continual effort to “bash” the teachers when the real responsibility rest with the parent as well as the teacher. There are too many great teachers that do not get credit and support. Therefore you lose them to industry. Also, yes teachers that pursue advance degrees should be paid. I think it’s crazy to think that an educator with a doctorate degree, and still teaching is not a committed person that brings value back to the class.

dixiecrat

September 19th, 2011
8:06 am

Once again, when are parents going to be held accountable for their actions? While teachers do not think they are going to get rich as educators, I am sure that they expected to make a decent income. Salaries have been cut severely, and the cost of benefits has risen. That politically correct crap that Dr. Spinks is spewing is for the birds. Teachers deserve the right to have a great life too, just as a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, an IT specialist, and other people who have degrees have the right to.

Yah

September 19th, 2011
8:13 am

Maureen — are you going to watch this? I think it would be good for everyone to see first hand what we are doing here. This is what passes for teacher training now. This is just the first of many to come apparently.

“Dr. Barge and GaDOE staff will provide an orientation session regarding the CCGPS initiative on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, via live video streaming from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). The orientation session will run back-to-back and can be viewed from 3:00-4:00 p.m. and/or from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Use the following link to access the session on September 21, 2011, as well as all GaDOE CCGPS professional learning sessions via Georgia Public Broadcasting. The recordings can also be accessed by using the same link:

http://www.gpb.org/education/common-core

dave

September 19th, 2011
8:18 am

Determining a teacher’s worth based on test scores was also Bev Hall’s MO. Like Vietnam, we learn nothing from our mistakes…and the beat goes on.

sloboffthestreet

September 19th, 2011
8:29 am

First, If you bark I don’t want you teaching my children. If 4th & 5th graders are using their fingers to do simple addition & subtraction, is this the parents fault? These same 4th & 5th graders do not know their multiplication facts therefore they cannot divide. Is this too the parents fault? Funny thing about multiplication facts. Once you learn your X 5’s there are only 10 more facts to learn to know all the products thru 9×9. X2’s, X5’s and X10’s seldom need to be taught because most students find it simple to skip count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. It seems they are taught to skip count by 2’s, 5’s & 10’s but it stops there. So really you only need to teach X3’s, X4’s and 10 more facts. With 180 days of education each year can someone explain why you would even require parental involvement for a 4th grade student to be highly proficient in addition thru division after 900 days of instruction? Nevermind. I already know that answer. It’s because many Georgia Public Schools don’t teach these facts. They expect the parents to do it along with teaching our children to spell and read. Could the teachers on here please hold down the roar of how awesome you all are just for one minute so one of you can explain to me exactly what it is you do?

The state already knows what % of teachers are highly effective. They just don’t share this information with the public. California had a huge dust up over this issue last year. The teachers didn’t like it very much. HHMMMMMM?

k teacher

September 19th, 2011
8:29 am

@Yah Thanks for posting this, first I’ve heard of it … and, I ask, how many teachers will actually be able to watch this between 3/4pm and 4/5pm when they are trying to get other meetings (grade level, parent conferences, RTI, etc) in and get home to their families?!? Training should be during school hours or on Professional Learning Days, not after hours with no stipend or overtime pay.

Sad State of Affairs

September 19th, 2011
8:34 am

More money to fuel more of the same? We have not undergone any significant philosophical or structural changes in our approach to education since its inception. Expect more of the same – a continuing decline of America’s leadership in the standard of living.

HS Public Teacher

September 19th, 2011
8:35 am

In a word, NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

This mess means more standardization for teachers and lessons. We are being ‘boxed in’ with rules and regulations. This is happening at an alarming rate and to an alarming degree.

In plain English, this means that teachers MUST do a specific day’s lesson in a specific way and using exact words and on exactly the same day as other teachers. The result is no differentiation for the students. We cannot challenge the advanced kids and we cannot remediate the slower kids.

We may as well have robots teaching, or even a video tape for the kids to watch.

By doing this, the administrators “FEEL” like they can more accurately see which teachers are “better.” What hog wash! A great teacher is NOT one that conforms to those education standards….. but that is totally lost in NCLB and its dollars.

the prof

September 19th, 2011
8:38 am

From me personally, thank all of you hard working public school teachers! I couldn’t be more happy with the school that my kids are in!

carlosgvv

September 19th, 2011
8:53 am

The State has figured out a way to identify ineffective teachers. The problem is that many of them are black and to remove them would provoke howls of “racism”. Since our politicians have no gumption whatsoever, nothing will change.

APS Teacher

September 19th, 2011
8:54 am

@ Former APS Teacher:

I completely agree with you, this program is a joke!

In 2010, Atlanta Public Schools was awarded $10 million from the Gates Foundation to fund its “Effective Teacher in Every Classroom.”

All we do is focus on preparation for the CRCT. Our effectiveness is based soley on end of year test results. Its no wonder so many of us cheat and or do “Whatever Takes” to keep our jobs.

The people behind this foolishness don’t really care about kids. Bill Gates wouldn’t subject his dog to this mess. The Gates Foundaton is one of this country’s biggest supporters of charter schools and sadly, they want to see public education fail!

Yah

September 19th, 2011
8:54 am

@k teacher
Well, considering the DOE only sent out the link on Thursday I imagine a lot of people will be scrambling. We were told it is not optional so I guess everything else takes a back seat when the Big Kahunas want to speak. It is being archived so those that have a valid excuse to miss it can watch it later.

Nothing like planning well and in advance is there :-)

Yah

September 19th, 2011
8:55 am

@k teacher
Well, considering the DOE only sent out the link on Thursday I imagine a lot of people will be scrambling. We were told it is not optional so I guess everything else takes a back seat when the Big Kahunas want to speak. It is being archived so those that have a valid excuse to miss it can watch it later.

Nothing like planning well and in advance is there? :-)

Yah

September 19th, 2011
8:56 am

@slob
“If 4th & 5th graders are using their fingers to do simple addition & subtraction, is this the parents fault? These same 4th & 5th graders do not know their multiplication facts therefore they cannot divide. Is this too the parents fault?”

I’m going with yes and h&!! yes!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

September 19th, 2011
8:57 am

More money tossed into the toilet.

Joe

September 19th, 2011
9:01 am

We need to hold the administrators responsible. In Dekalb Co. and Atlanta city schools the people in administration are robbing millions from the taxpayers, teachers, and students with impunity. If a school has bad teachers, or is failing it is the fault of the administrators who are not doing there job. Too many good teachers are being driven away, or discouraged from teaching in the first place, by poor administration and bureaucratic bs. We also need education reform for the curriculum. We need to realize that all kids are not college bound and in the poor communities especially we need to provide a real education for these kids to help them function in society instead of teaching abstract stuff so they can pass some test. Any all scrutiny should be put on the crooks running the schools, but then again the fox is guarding the hen house so don’t expect change anytime soon and instead we will continue to see these straw man arguments against teachers to take the heat off them.

Yah

September 19th, 2011
9:10 am

Interesting article regarding the fact that merit pay is already being phased out in other states.

As usual Georgia is a day late and a dollar short…

Some States, Districts Abandoning Performance Pay

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/09/16/04pay_ep.h31.html?tkn=ZLTFXzsdy44fkSmhtr30XiweVDs12a36r0zw&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1

Fericita

September 19th, 2011
9:12 am

Joe, I agree with the fisrt pat of your post that this is an administrator problem. It is their job to weed out bad teachers. I’m sure it’s hard and messy and takes up more time than they would like. But what takes up more time is the unneccessary training that good teachers sit through politely and bad teachers don’t realize is targeted at them.

seabeau

September 19th, 2011
9:12 am

Vouchers for Public Schools!! Let the People Vote with their Feet!!

sloboffthestreet

September 19th, 2011
9:14 am

Yah,

What’s that you say,, I still can’t hear you over your cries of greatness. Again, Exactly what is it you do here?

carlosgvv

When it comes to ineffective teachers,, “I SEE WHITE PEOPLE!”

Reality

September 19th, 2011
9:17 am

@seabeau -

You say “let the people vote”. Are you crazy? These are the same people that voted for Obama. These are the same people that raised the crazy kids that have no manners and refuse to study or learn.

And you want “these people” to make a wise decision???? Are you crazy?

November 6, 2012

September 19th, 2011
9:32 am

This is a WASTE OF MONEY we don’t have and will have to borrow. Folks, when are we gonna “Just Say No” to throwing our children and grandchildren’s money away. That’s what this is doing. There was an article on the web yesterday about Little Rock, Ar. schools. One of the statements made was this……..

After weeks of testimony, Miller concluded that “few, if any, of the participants in this case have any clue how to effectively educate underprivileged black children.” It is quite obvious that Georgia doesn’t either.

That’s a telling statement and before we start pouring money, that from the start looks to be wasted, we should at least try to find an answer. Stabbing at something blindly is not gonna accomplish what we want. Our leaders??? talk about 400M like it was just a drop in the bucket. The WH is only trying to buy votes, nothing more, nothing less. Remember to vote responsibly on November 6, 2012 :)

teacher

September 19th, 2011
9:40 am

If the teachers were the bad guys under No Child Left Behind, they just became public enemy number one under Race.
There is no responsibility for anything on the part of the child or the parents.
There was an article the other day discussing the new teacher leaving the classroom after the first year. Well, Race will make that worse because new teachers won’t be granted full certification for three years under this new plan.

hmmm

September 19th, 2011
9:40 am

Why isn’t there a law that removes inaffective parents?

Can'tBelievethatSlobpost

September 19th, 2011
9:47 am

@Slob
If you catch your child still counting on their fingers by the 4th and 5th grade then apparently YOU are too. Stop counting soley on teachers and pay attention to your own childs education! Your post represents the poison that pleagues public education, the poison in the form of the attitude from parents that teachers are solely responsible for your child’s education. You are your child’s first and most influential teacher. You should be going over times tables at home with your kids. My dad did. There is no way my kids are not going to know their times tables. If your child can’t count no one can be blamed but mom and dad. How foolish do you sound to admit that that my kid doesn’t know how to count because the teachers aren’t teaching. It’s like saying I can’t eat because no one told me how to swallow correctly, or I can’t see because no one correctly told me to open my eyes…get smart people and then please pass it on to your children!! You’re crippling them!

sloboffthestreet

September 19th, 2011
9:54 am

hmmm

Interesting you have absolutly 0 argument. Again, please explain why you even need any parental involvement to accomplish educating Georgia students to a basic level? That would include reading, writing {penmanship please} and basic math. You know 2+2=4? That kind of stuff.

I asked 6 of the 5th grade Horizon kids at the end of last year how much 1/2 + 1/4 was. Not one of them could answer the question. The problem isn’t inaffective parents. But don’t let this stop you from making your convincing arguments! I see a great deal of this on here. OK, maybe I made that part up. My Bad!!

Teacher Reader

September 19th, 2011
9:56 am

Race to the Top sounds like so many other government programs, the cost is more than the money is really worth. In education, we hear so much about the teachers, and as I look at the cheating scandals in Atlanta and Dekalb because of the extra money in Atlanta, to try and make their school look good in DeKalb, I am left asking what about the children. I believe that more cheating will be wide spread (it already is more that teachers and administrators would let you believe).

Ed Johnson

September 19th, 2011
9:57 am

“btw: it is no accident that RttT mirrors the Gates-Effective Teacher in Every Classroom….who the heck do you think was behind RttT?”

@teacher&mon, spot on!!

Inman Park Boy

September 19th, 2011
10:13 am

Whose responsibility is it when you go to a doctor, to get you well? Whose reponsibility is it to handle your legal problems effectively when you go to a lawyer? Teachers want to be viewed as “professionals,” until someone raises the question of sound teaching and learning. Then they want to point the accusatory finger at someone, anyone, but not themsleves. Some professionals.

sloboffthestreet

September 19th, 2011
10:26 am

Hey Can’t believe???

Where did I say my children are not proficient in math? Perhaps you should take a Sally Struthers course in Reading Comprehension? What you are reading from my posts are pure facts. Remember the truth will,,, What was it the truth is supposed to do??

You see sweetie, If a child already knows these facts and the rest of the 4th grade does not, guess what. A child sits in class and learns nothing. Perhaps you should go tour a few elementary schools and ask the kiddies a few questions. Then go to a few high schools and ask the exact same questions. You just might learn something? And yes, after 900 days of instruction every student should be able to answer basic math questions, be able to read on grade level and write an essay with proper spelling, grammar and be able to convey a cohesive thought through their writings. 900 days of school is more than adequate to accomplish the job at hand all done AT SCHOOL. Think about this. 45 minutes each school day for math, 900 days of school. That means every elementary school student from K- 4th grade has received 658 hours of math. And you mean to tell me that in all that time no one could teach these kids their addition and multiplication facts? What’s wrong with you? Quit drinking the KOOL-AID.

Help me Tom Cruise!! What does PLEAGUES mean? And you want other people to get smart? How typical! Do PLEAGUES cripple people?

cris

September 19th, 2011
10:40 am

I’m horribly dissapointed with the tone of both of today’s posts……I spent the weekend reading Diane Ravitch’s “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” because I had read so many references to it on this very blog…unfortunately, it is apparent that the journalists who brought the book to my attention have not read it themselves….and a pity, because it sums up very simply and directly why NCLB and RttT have not/will not ever work. I strongly recommend if you’re willing to suspend your “let’s find someone to blame” mentality to read this book and then if you want to continue to blame teachers, blame on…

Wow

September 19th, 2011
10:41 am

“Whose responsibility is it when you go to a doctor, to get you well? Whose reponsibility is it to handle your legal problems effectively when you go to a lawyer?”

This statement is as stupid as a bag of chicken lips. It is NOT my doctor’s responsibility to “get [me] well”. The doctor is responsible for diagnosing my problems, prescribing medication, and advising me on what I can do to maintain my health. I don’t know of one doctor who is going to make me take my medicine or follow a regimen. Lawyers? Yeah, right. I won’t even go there.

Teachers are responsible for instruction; however, too many teachers have to deal with making sure that children have basic school supplies (i.e. pencils and paper) and meeting the emotional needs of some children. Some parents won’t even get their children to school on time, and they live across the street from the school! NCLB and other so-called education reforms will always make teachers the scapegoats. Until we hold parents as accountable as teachers are held, our children will continue to fail.

I am so sick of the if-the-players-can’t-win-the-championship-fire-the-coach mentality when it comes to education. Just like the coaches aren’t playing the games, the teachers are not the ones taking the tests. In my experience, I have seen too many “Oh!” students. “Oh!” students are those who know how to get the correct answers, but in their haste, they pick the wrong answers. Then, when you point our their careless errors, you get the response, “Oh!”

yah

September 19th, 2011
10:43 am

@InmanBoy

“Whose responsibility is it when you go to a doctor, to get you well? Whose reponsibility is it to handle your legal problems effectively when you go to a lawyer?”

If you don’t do what the doctor tells you – it is your fault – and they aren’t going tell you 100 times
If you don’t follow your lawyer’s expert advice and smack your ex wife around and go to jail – it is your fault – and he will drop you as a client.

WEAK argument is weak

troll on!

just Me

September 19th, 2011
10:44 am

@Inman Park Boy your post is ridiculous. Yes, you go to the doctor to get well. He gives you medicine but it is YOUR responsibility to take it. Teachers give their students the tools to learn, but it is up to the student and family to use what is given. Homework needs to be done correctly before video games, soccer practice, tv, and all the other stuff kids do after school.
Yes, we expect lawyers to handle our legal affairs, but a lawyer isn’t a miracle worker. If you did the crime, you should expect to do the time. The same with students. If they choose not to learn while they are in class, they should expect to fail. If they choose to skip school, or parents choose to take their out of school for doctor appts and other ‘non-emergency’ reasons, then they should expect a failing grade from missed instruction.
Teachers are just like any other profession…you can only work with the materials given to you. If we send our kids to school unprepared to learn, what do we expect?