Georgia at risk for losing $33 million of its Race to the Top grant over changes to teacher evals

In a letter this week, the U.S. Department of Education warns Georgia that it is at risk of losing $33 million of its $400 million Race to the Top grant because of its requests to alter its teacher evaluation plans.

According to Education Week:

If Georgia is unable to address the department’s concerns, it could lose roughly $33 million of its $400 million—the portion dedicated to implementing the state’s teacher-evaluation plan. Why isn’t the whole thing being put on high-risk status? Right now, Georgia has demonstrated sufficient progress on the rest of its plan, the department wrote.

Georgia isn’t the first state to see its Race to the Top grant put on high-risk status because of tricky teacher-evaluation issues. Earlier this year, Hawaii came close to losing its grant, in part because its union hasn’t yet embraced its teacher-evaluation plan. Hawaii was able to keep its grant, but it remains on high-risk status. And, unlike Georgia, Hawaii’s entire grant was put on high-risk status because it was behind on other parts of its plan as well. Also, plenty of other states have submitted amendments to their plans or are behind on their promises. Race to the Top, which offered states $4 billion for embracing certain reform priorities, is the Obama administration’s signature K-12 initiative.

Interestingly, peer reviewers gave Hawaii and Georgia the highest scores in the second phase of the Race to the Top program in the area of teacher evaluation.

Here is the letter from US DOE to Gov. Nathan Deal about the problems:

July 2, 2012

The Honorable Nathan Deal

Office of the Governor

State of Georgia

203 State Capitol

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Dear Governor Deal:

I am writing about Georgia’s performance on its approved Race to the Top grant project, and in response to Georgia’s request to amend its Race to the Top plan. Georgia’s Race to the Top Scope of Work was approved on July 20, 2011. This Scope of Work includes specific goals and activities that must be met in order to meet the commitments outlined in Georgia’s approved application.

After careful review of Georgia’s implementation of its teacher and leader evaluation system as outlined in goals 1-4 in Section D of its approved Scope of Work through the June 2012 on-site review, monthly calls, amendment requests, and follow up conversations, as appropriate, the U.S. Department of Education is placing this portion of Georgia’s Race to the Top grant on high-risk status under 34 CFR 80.12. The basis of this determination is detailed below.

The Department is concerned about the overall strategic planning, evaluation, and project management for that system, which includes decisions regarding the quality of the tools and measures used during the educator evaluation pilot and the scalability of the supports the State offered to participating districts.

Also, over the past twelve months, Georgia has submitted to the Department two major amendments in addition to the one detailed in this letter, that, when taken as a whole, may constitute significant changes to the educator evaluation system in the State’s approved plan. The State has requested these amendments in isolation and prior to finalizing dependent deliverables, such as reviewing and analyzing data from the pilot year. These proposed changes have implications for professional development, tools, resources, guidance, ratings and communication with relevant stakeholders that have not been fully addressed thus far. Finally, given the information provided by the State and LEAs, the Department is, at this time, concerned about the technical, policy, and implementation implications of these revisions to its educator evaluation system.

Conditions

As a condition of high-risk status, Georgia must submit no later than August 1, 2012 a revised SY 2012-2013 work plan for application sub-criterion (D)(2) (goals 1-4 in Section D of Georgia’s Scope of Work). This plan must include clear timelines, activities and deliverables for:

1) Management and oversight procedures and routines to oversee project implementation, including ways to identify and address dependencies between multiple projects, timelines, activities, and deliverables;

2) A rigorous and transparent process for reviewing components used in its educator evaluation system, including student and peer surveys and the reduction of the student achievement gap.

3) Educator engagement and communication systems and activities for SY 2012-2013 for all educators;

4) Mechanisms to gather rigorous systematic and ongoing formative feedback from educators participating in the educator evaluation system; and

5) Critical decision points where feedback from educators and data will be used to inform potential changes to the educator evaluation before full implementation in SY 2013-2014.

In addition, the State must submit monthly updates in accordance with the work plan described above so the Department can determine if the State is making adequate progress.

Finally, the State must submit a report no later than July 2013 summarizing the analysis and findings related to validation of all components of its educator evaluation system. This report should include information regarding trainings and support provided to pilot districts, communication materials, evaluation activities, and a proposal for any revisions to the educator evaluation system in SY 2013-2014.

The Department will reassess the high-risk designation if the State demonstrates substantial progress implementing the work plan outlined above. The Department will work with Georgia to identify appropriate technical assistance to support this work.

If Georgia does not substantially comply with the conditions outlined above, the Department may take appropriate enforcement action which may include initiating procedures to withhold up to $33,066,306 associated with projects in sub-criterion (D)(2) of the State’s Race to the Top plan. At this time, the State has demonstrated sufficient progress across all other areas of its Race to the Top plan.

Amendment Request

Between April 18, 2012 and June 28, 2012, the State submitted information regarding an amendment request to the Department. The Department has the authority to approve amendments to your plan and budget, provided that such a change does not alter the scope or objectives of the approved proposal. On October 4, 2011, the Department sent a letter and revised “Grant Amendment Submission Process” document to Governors of grantee States indicating the process by which amendments would be reviewed and approved or denied. To determine whether approval could be granted, the Department has applied the conditions, and compared it with the Race to the Top Program Principles, which are included in that document.

For the project area of Great Teachers and Leaders, Georgia has proposed to move the survey component of their teacher and leader evaluation systems as a separate measure and instead use it as a piece of evidence in “Qualitative Measures,” within its observation protocol based on feedback from participating staff in pilot school districts and the Technical Advisory Committee. In its approved plans, the survey component is worth 10% and the observation protocol composes 40% of a teacher’s rating. For principals, the survey component also comprises 10%, but the observation component composes 30% of a principal’s rating. In addition, the State has requested to remove the survey component entirely for students in kindergarten through second grade.

The Department approves Georgia’s request to remove the requirement for surveys to be administered to students in kindergarten through second grade. However, for all other grades and for the climate survey for principals, the survey component of the evaluation system requires significant revision and validation prior to implementing it in SY 2012-2013. In addition, the State has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate how the survey component would be effectively incorporated and used within its proposed approach or the larger implications of this proposal to the evaluation system as a whole. Therefore, the Department approves Georgia’s request for all other grades and principals based on compliance with the conditions outlined below:

1) Georgia must submit to the Department evidence of an improved or new survey tool that addresses the technical concerns raised by the Georgia Technical Advisory Committee and participating school districts prior to implementing in SY 2012-2013.

2) In its August 1, 2012 plan outlined above, Georgia must include specific timelines, activities, and deliverables for executing against the State’s proposal to use survey results as evidence in the observation protocol that include:

a. Implementation and integration of the survey component in the larger teacher and leader evaluation system during SY 2012-2013;

b. Communication and professional development activities with all impacted educators; and

c. Mechanisms to ensure the data are used consistently across school districts.

4

On June 15, 2012, Georgia submitted a report to the Department in response to the conditions included in the Department’s January 9, 2012 approval of the removal of the student achievement gap component of its teacher evaluation system for SY 2011-2012. In conformance with the condition, Georgia’s report included the steps taken to investigate other methods of calculating the reduction of the student achievement gap at the classroom level, the results of that analysis, and a proposal for the implementation of the component in SY 2012-2013. Based on the report that Georgia submitted, it has minimally fulfilled the specified conditions. As stated in January 9, 2012 letter, the Department has reevaluated Georgia’s request and is concerned that this request in combination with the survey request previously discussed may constitute a significant change to the educator evaluation system described in the State’s approved application. Therefore, the Department is not making a final determination at this time and will reevaluate this request when the State complies with the conditions outlined above. It is our understanding that this component will remain in the leader evaluation system.

The Department appreciates the dedication and hard work of Georgia’s Race to the Top leadership team and recognizes their commitment to implementing the best possible evaluation system for Georgia’s educators. The Department will continue to provide assistance to Georgia as you work to meet the commitments included under goals 1-4 in Section D of its approved Scope of Work, and across its Race to the Top grant and will contact you in the next week to discuss additional technical assistance. If you need any assistance or have any questions regarding Race to the Top, please do not hesitate to contact me. As is our practice with all Race to the Top amendments, this letter will be posted on the Department’s website.

Sincerely,

Ann Whalen,  Director, Policy and Program Implementation Implementation and Support Unit

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

75 comments Add your comment

NTLB

July 3rd, 2012
1:48 pm

I believe Section 2 “Mechanisms to ensure the data are used consistently across school districts.” will be the ultimate deal breaker in this predicament.

Jefferson

July 3rd, 2012
2:04 pm

This is called political payback.

Eric

July 3rd, 2012
2:20 pm

Must we have a “race” to the top? Very angst-ridden term.

What strikes me most in this is how the language of corporate America has infiltrated the public schools: deliverables, stakeholders, management, oversight, high-risk status, scalability, dependencies, timelines, etc., all in one document! Seems like it’s all about the corporate training of our kids. Maybe local school decisions and funding are just fine by themselves than trying to satisfy the Fed?

Beverly Fraud

July 3rd, 2012
2:33 pm

The Department approves Georgia’s request to remove the requirement for surveys to be administered to students in kindergarten through second grade.

Translation: We feel perfectly comfortable allowing 8 years to judge the PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS of educators. We feel perfectly comfortable asking children who can’t read to READ and fill out a survey that will help determine the PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS of educators.

And you wonder why professionals are leaving? Seriously?

BT

July 3rd, 2012
2:39 pm

Do you think there are strings attached to the money? Perfect example of the government knowing what is best!!

Beverly Fraud

July 3rd, 2012
2:48 pm

We are going to offer you millions in exchange for creating a new layer of government bureaucracy that this grant can NOT possibly sustain, which in essence will create unfunded mandates that will cost millions if not BILLIONS more for Georgia to sustain over time?

This is “hope and change”? And the ones DESPERATE to get this “deal” claim they are the “fiscally responsible” crowd?

Put them ALL in the SAME room and spend the money on “I’m with Stupid” T-Shirts.

living in an outdated ed system

July 3rd, 2012
2:49 pm

@Maureen, this is very simple. A vision means nothing without solid execution. Georgia may have been given high marks on its “vision,” but clearly, it has struggled with its implementation.

living in an outdated ed system

July 3rd, 2012
2:51 pm

@Jefferson – this is called checks and balances. The fed shouldn’t give states a “blank check.” These awards came with conditions, and it is good that the DOE is not squandering taxpayer dollars.

Beverly Fraud

July 3rd, 2012
2:51 pm

The Department appreciates the dedication and hard work of Georgia’s Race to the Top leadership team and recognizes their commitment to implementing the best possible evaluation system for Georgia’s educators.

EIGHT YEAR OLDS are an essential component of “the best possible evaluation system for Georgia’s educators”?

Is this from The Onion?

GwinnettParentz

July 3rd, 2012
2:57 pm

This worry and so many others would vanish overnight—if we went to a market-based K-12 system (as in higher education) where parents are free to choose their kids’ schools.

Parents who make consumer decisions based on facts they themselves consider important can’t later complain. Teachers who agree to perform work for stipulated compensation terms can’t later whine.

And Maureen could possibly move on to another interest.

NTLB

July 3rd, 2012
3:23 pm

In regards to: “The Department is concerned about the overall strategic planning, evaluation, and project management for that system, which includes decisions regarding the quality of the tools and measures used during the educator evaluation pilot and the scalability of the supports the State offered to participating districts.

The new teacher evaluation tool that Fulton County is rolling out next year is of great “concern” when teachers will be partly evaluated by administrators that are unqualifed in the subject areas that are being taught; and by which parent and student surveys results are measured in teachers’ evaluations.

The pilot of this “performance tool” was administered in my school and it was mere fiasco: administrators had no clue what they were evaluating and provided ZERO support to teachers; teachers were burdened with more paperwork and record keeping; overall school morale was at its lowest point in years; student achievement was NOT AT ALL positively impacted by this ludicrous and nebulous performance measurement. It was the ultimate “blind leading the blind” experience.

My opinion is that Georgia stands to lose more than 32 million in the near future if the State doesn’t know its head from its tail.

Just Sayin'

July 3rd, 2012
3:28 pm

“Parents who make consumer decisions based on facts they themselves consider important can’t later complain.”

LOL! That’s a good one.

Solutions

July 3rd, 2012
3:29 pm

Ha ha ha, the almighty Feds command and the little people jump! Washington waves its green paper and fools fall into line. Tell Washington to kiss your behind……as we will on the Medicaid expansion!

Solutions

July 3rd, 2012
3:32 pm

Beverly Fraud – I am sure there will be big bonuses for all Georgia’s Race to the Top clowns, er administrators.

living in an outdated ed system

July 3rd, 2012
3:33 pm

It seems you all want “handouts.” Blank checks with no strings attached. The bottom line is that Georgia promised something it couldn’t deliver on. I’d rather our taxpayer dollars be used towards entities that deliver on what they promise.

CCMST

July 3rd, 2012
3:37 pm

@GwinnettParentz: “This worry and so many others would vanish overnight—if we went to a market-based K-12 system (as in higher education) where parents are free to choose their kids’ schools.”

Reminder – those higher education establishments are also free to choose their students. People conveniently forget that part. Under a voucher or completely free market system, you may want your child to go to Northview, Walton, Marist, or Lovett, but they may not want your child. Harvard has cache in part because it’s exclusive.

Jefferson

July 3rd, 2012
3:37 pm

Solutions you will find yourself suprised again, with your miopic view. You were told.

two cents worth

July 3rd, 2012
3:37 pm

There are approximately 116,000 employed public school teachers in Georgia. 33 milliion dollars is not that much. I bet most teachers will pay 286 dollars each to NOT have this evaluation tool that will require several hours of training per teacher, administrators behind closed doors evaluating student responses, and require extra overhead staff to process the data. This evaluation effort has no impact on student achievement. Tell the U.S. Dept of Ed to keep their money. Don’t jump through these moving hoops.

CCMST

July 3rd, 2012
3:38 pm

*cachet – dropped the ‘t’

William Casey

July 3rd, 2012
3:46 pm

@NTLB: I was a teacher in Fulton County, 1987-2006. I was ALWAYS evaluated by administrators who had no knowledge of my subject area (history.) This isn’t anything new. I was once tempted to provide students with totally false information during an observation just to see what would happen. I resisted the tenptation.

Rockerbabe

July 3rd, 2012
4:00 pm

If you want to improve public education, then you are going to have to get the politicans and the corporate interest out of education.

Nikole

July 3rd, 2012
4:19 pm

Georgia needs to slow the entire process down. I had a friend in the pilot last year and it didn’t even begin until 2nd semester. She gave her kids the pretest one month and the post test the next. She created her own method of providing documentation that was required, which means that teachers at other schools were probably doing something totally different. And no one got training, which means we’ll all be making up our own thing this school year. What a mess!

Simone Bradford

July 3rd, 2012
4:25 pm

I am very upset with the governor and the republicans because they are taking the paraprofessionals away from the students and the teachers. The paraprofessionals are just as important to the students and the parents as the teachers are even moreso than the teachers because we are more in tune with the para’s than the teacher and the para’s are beloved by the children. The parents see this and love what they’ve done for their children. I am a parent that really counts on the paraprofessional at my school in georgia. They are valuable and very much needed.

Old Teacher

July 3rd, 2012
4:30 pm

I would gladly pay $286 to get out from under this waste of time and get back to actually teaching my students what is important. Every minute spent generating this new required paperwork is a minute I cannot spend on lesson planning or paper grading.I stay till six or seven most days now, and I have some of the highest test scores in the county, but I can only devote so much time to teaching and every minute spent documenting and building up a notebook is a minute my students are cheated out of. I am thinking that this may be my last year not because of the students but because of the federal and state bureaucrats who know nothing about teaching but ACT as if they know it all and have all the solutions.

Randy Glover

July 3rd, 2012
4:35 pm

Governor Deal,
Your chief of staff told me (a month or so before the election) that you were dead-set against Race to the Top. A few days later (I’m sure under some sort of fiscal pressure) you changed your mind. I wonder how much grumbling has since come from your office about the fact that we are under RTTP provisions.
That being said, I will be glad to draft your response to Arne. I can think of a couple of places that he can stick that 33 million.

Good Mother

July 3rd, 2012
4:38 pm

I like this part “including student and peer surveys…” but I want it to also include parent feedbac, particularly for elementary schools. The students aren’t old enough as kindergarteners to even write what they want to express. Neither are first and second graders.

and I wonder if any teacheres on this blog read the entire post. It has a detail I think every teacher would cheer about “Mechanisms to gather rigorous systematic and ongoing formative feedback from educators participating in the educator evaluation system”
formative feedback from teachers…that’s what teachers on this blog are always wanting — or say they want — is more power to shape their profession. this is a part of the grant — it says GA has to listen to teacher feedback.
and to student feedback but lacking is the overall ommission of parent feedback. How is an elementary-aged child supposed to correctly evaluate a teacher?

Pilot

July 3rd, 2012
4:41 pm

The pilot program was ridiculous. Started end of January, post test in March, criteria for growth was ridiculous and unrealistic. County level and Admins were clueless. It ended up being ALOT of extra paperwork and stress for the teachers. All of it thrown at the teachers at the last minute. The webinars and other teacher training were not the greatest either. All this because Georgia was greedy for the federal bucks and jumped on the bandwagon a**backwards.

Solutions

July 3rd, 2012
4:52 pm

yo jefferson, the word is “surprised” not “suprised,” a mind is a terrible thing to waste, I hope that did not surprise you!

Solutions

July 3rd, 2012
4:55 pm

Yo jefferson, what is “miopic?” Just a wild guess, did you attend public schools in Atlanta or Dekalb County? Please tell me you are not a public school teacher, thought that would explain much.

Jefferson

July 3rd, 2012
5:09 pm

Typical punk.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 3rd, 2012
5:28 pm

Georgia public education (GAPubEd) doesn’t need to be “racing” to the top, to the bottom or even to Wal-Mart. GAPubEd needs a comprehensive, systematic,sustained, long-term effort toward public school improvement as demonstrated by reasonable gains as well as nationally- and internationally-comparable achievement in the academic knowledge, skills and attitudes of the graduates they produce.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 3rd, 2012
5:33 pm

Fortunately, Team Barge has embarked upon such an effort.

Will we practicing and retired teachers actively support John and his team in their herculean task?

George

July 3rd, 2012
5:42 pm

Solutions you are so smart you have all the answers WOW !!!!

NTLB

July 3rd, 2012
5:43 pm

@GoodMother—clearly the report is blaming Georgia for NOT DELIVERING on the ongoing teacher feedback format. When this fictitious component becomes a reality in our schools, then I will cheer.

@William Casey—-that is funny and sad at the same time.

NTLB

July 3rd, 2012
5:49 pm

Can someone tell me where were the $42 million in federal funds to Georgia allocated????

Teacher2

July 3rd, 2012
5:55 pm

“The Department approves Georgia’s request to remove the requirement for surveys to be administered to students in kindergarten through second grade.

Translation: We feel perfectly comfortable allowing 8 years to judge the PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS of educators. We feel perfectly comfortable asking children who can’t read to READ and fill out a survey that will help determine the PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS of educators.

And you wonder why professionals are leaving? Seriously?”

@Beverly Fraud- Exactly!

carlosgvv

July 3rd, 2012
5:57 pm

Deal probably realizes that fully implementing a rigorous teacher evaluation program will result in howls of “racism” and will bring Jesse and Al down here to lead “protests” faster than you can say “stick it to whitey”.

HSTeach

July 3rd, 2012
6:23 pm

Another issue is time. They piloted part of a new eval system this year and apparently across the board administrators had difficulty completing all the needed observations, and this is with a tiny fraction of staff being used as pilot teachers. I can’t imagine the time needed to perform them for all staff. They tend to have to swoop in classrooms in a rush to do the few mandated now, how will they perform the new ones and have time to do anything else, let alone make sure to look for the dozens of new “best practices” we should all be using simultaneously in one lesson?

Dondee

July 3rd, 2012
6:34 pm

I always thought that $33 million was a drop in the bucket considering all the time and effort that will be spent on implementation…..It is worthless. And yes, it is a prime example of the problems inherent in our federal government. If you want me to teach, allow me the time to plan and support me by taking out the students who are habitually disruptive and don’t want to learn and trust my judgment regarding those that struggle. I am a professional, at least, I thought so!

[...] In a letter this week, the U.S.Department of Education warns Georgia that it is at risk of losing $33 million of its $400 million Race to the Top grant because…  [...]

ick

July 3rd, 2012
8:55 pm

The politics of this country make me sick. GA—> let em keep their 33 million, not worth it.

Good Mother

July 3rd, 2012
9:03 pm

IT is very interesting how teachers on this blog complain about a lack of funding schools…and then call 33 MILLION dollars a drop in the bucket.
If the 33 million was for teacher pay it would all the sudden be an enormous amount of money but if it used to actually evaluate the teacher, then it is nothing.
No matter the blog topic, if it involves evaluating teachers…the bloggers here don’t want it. Face it, any person who does a job has to be evaluated.
If anhy person does not want to be evaluated for their job, then quit and become an unpaid volunteer.
If you want to get paid, you HAVE to be evaluated — just like the rest of us.

Anonmom

July 3rd, 2012
9:24 pm

Get the Feds out of public ed… let the states do their thing…. it’s such a waste of taxpayer money — it’s our money at all levels.

CDog

July 3rd, 2012
9:43 pm

Is federal money worth federal control? Nope. If teachers are going to be evaluated on parent and student surveys, you are just asking for grade inflation (which is already bad enough with HOPE). “90 and a pleasure to teach” will be the default report card entry
.

Teacher2

July 3rd, 2012
10:12 pm

@ Good Mother – I have no problem being evaluated by my peers and or administrators. However, I do have a problem being evaluated by my high school students. They are not qualified nor mature enough to assess my teaching skills. I am not in this profession to win a popularity contest.

David

July 3rd, 2012
10:30 pm

Deal messed up by even pursuing this worthless grant. But, the Governor’s Chief of Staff needed a job at the time….before Barge fired her.

Pilot Teacher

July 3rd, 2012
11:17 pm

I am a high school teacher in a school which piloted. Students in my school went to computer labs to complete the surveys, and were monitored by other teachers. Less than half of my students completed the survey. I have not yet seen the questions or the students’ responses-no feedback at all. I have heard that the surveys may count 10% of my evaluation. I also have taught a subject for many years “outside the core” so there is no pretest, post test, or End of Course Test to measure my students’ progress. I want to be evaluated by someone who can fairly evaluate what goes on in my classroom. We are building this plane while it’s in the air.

abacus2

July 4th, 2012
12:03 am

Please, just leave us alone and let us teach! Most of us are pretty good at it. Any administrator with half a brain knows who the lousy teachers are. Start documentation and get them out. The rest of us will thank you.

JJ Evans

July 4th, 2012
12:42 am

We should loose more $$ b/c we failed to keep a statewide alternative authorizer of charter schools. Let’s “vote yes” in November and allow the state to approve charter schools along with local boards of education.

The Truth Hurts

July 4th, 2012
1:28 am

@Goodmother
By all means, bring on my evaluations but I’ll be dammed if I am going to be judged on the success of students whose parents don’t do their part or students who don’t follow the rules. I have already found success in my classroom by calling on the school social worker to report neglect if a student sleeps often in class, rarely does their homework, or is just unruly. Just a warning, be careful what you ask for! Actually, this might have the unintended consequence of rooting out the loser parents which is a very good thing.