I reported last week that the US DOE is concerned about changes to Georgia’s Race to the Top plans, changes that could cost the state $33 million of the $400 million education reform grant.
One of the federal agency’s concerns was that Georgia wanted to put less focus on student surveys, piloted this year in some Georgia districts. I wrote about the evaluations a while back.
According to the AJC, Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge has responded to the feds, saying he will not implement a teacher evaluation system that might not work and could lead to lawsuits.
The AJC reported:
Barge, in a letter to Ann Whalen, who oversees the federal Race to the Top program, said attorneys for Georgia schools determined that including student input in teacher evaluations is legally risky.
“I will not waste taxpayer dollars to defend a system that we have been warned will not work, ” Barge wrote.
Georgia’s pledge to implement a new teacher evaluation system was part of the reason it won a $400 million federal Race to the Top education grant. Tinkering with its plans for that system got a $33 million chunk of that grant money placed on “high risk” status by the U.S. Department of Education.
In its winning application for Race to the Top funds, Georgia officials said they would implement a teacher evaluation system that includes student surveys of teachers.
“The grant application was written by a different administration and was Georgia’s best estimate of how we needed to proceed in order to achieve the goals outlined in the grant application, ” Barge wrote.
Georgia officials now believe the surveys, particularly from students in kindergarten through the second grade, should not be used as an official part of the evaluation system and should, instead, be informational. They have said the surveys from young students are likely to be uniformly positive, and they have questioned how appropriate it is for students to have a role in evaluating their teachers.
Teresa MacCartney, deputy superintendent for Race to the Top implementation in Georgia, said the state is concerned about potential legal action from teachers if they are denied a raise or face sanction because of student surveys, which, in the state’s initial plan, would account for 10 percent of a teacher’s formal evaluation. “Our legal counsel has advised that, without changes, we will subject the state to a potentially highly litigious situation, ” Barge wrote.
The federal government granted Georgia’s request to drop the student surveys from students in kindergarten through the second grade, but it wants the state to demonstrate more clearly how it would use surveys from older students.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog