In two-year Race to the Top update, feds express serious concerns with Georgia’s lack of progress on teacher evaluations

Troubling news for Georgia today after the U.S. Education Department issued a progress report citing grave concerns about the state’s Race to the Top progress. Here is a link to the newly released 17-page report.

What has the U.S. DOE concerned is Georgia’s struggles with introducing and implementing a new teacher evaluation, a central piece of  the state’s $400 million Race to the Top grant.

In a press call Thursday, the US DOE said that while most Race to the Top recipients were progressing satisfactorily, they were concerned with the stumbles in Georgia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

“Race to the Top has sparked dramatic changes, and in only the second year of the program we’re seeing those results reach the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Most states have made tremendous strides and met aggressive timelines on work that has the potential to transform public education for years to come. Comprehensive education reform isn’t easy, and a few states have faced major challenges in implementing their plans. As we reach the halfway point, we need to see every state show results.”

The fed’s focus on Georgia’s stumbles is not a surprise. In July, U.S. Department of Education officials said the $33 million in Georgia’s grant dedicated to the new evaluations is ”at high risk.”

Federal officials feared that Georgia has strayed too far from its original plans to create a teacher/leader evaluation system with four key components: classroom observations, student growth, a reduction in the student achievement gap and student surveys. They also worry that the state is proposing changes before it finds out how well the proposed new evaluations worked. They were tried out in 26 school districts from January to May of last year.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Georgia experienced significant challenges related to implementation of its educator evaluation system in Year 2 of its Race to the Top grant. The Department is concerned about the overall strategic planning, evaluation, and project management for that system, which include 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 LEAs.

For example, during Year 2, the State piloted the educator evaluation system in a portion of schools in its participating LEAs, but did not complete the statistical analyses to determine the degree of correlation between the key components of the system—i.e., student growth percentiles, student surveys, observation protocols—in time to inform the design and roll-out of the evaluation system in subsequent years as originally planned. As a result of these concerns, the Department placed the
educator evaluation projects in the Great Teachers and Leaders section of Georgia’s Race to the Top plan on high-risk status.
Across its Race to the Top plan, Georgia has faced difficulty developing and implementing a comprehensive communications plan that illustrates how all of its Race to the Top projects are complementary and cohesive. In addition, strategic planning across Race to the Top projects was a challenge for the State and affected participating LEAs’ ability to implement key components of the State’s plan, including CCGPS and the educator evaluation system.

Further, Georgia must revise its processes for monitoring and assessing the quality of implementation of Race to the Top projects at both the State and LEA levels. The State must amend its Race to the Top Scope of Work to reflect these challenges and their implications. Georgia also experienced delays in implementation among its Race to the Top projects. For example, Georgia released its benchmark assessment request for proposals (RFP) roughly nine months later than planned because it was determining how best to approach the project without duplicating the work of the Partnership for  Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). As a result, Georgia was several months behind in securing a contract to complete the work for the benchmark assessments. The State was also delayed in the implementation of several STEM activities by over one year.

According to Education Week:

The second annual report on the recipients of $4 billion in competitive grants under the Obama administration’s signature education redesign program reveals that the majority of winners are struggling in two areas: implementing teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, and building and upgrading sophisticated data systems that will do everything from inform classroom lessons to identify students at risk of academic failure.

And Education Department officials say they are most worried about three recipients for which second-year performance took a nose dive: the District of Columbia, Georgia, and Maryland.

Georgia and Maryland have both struggled with implementing their teacher-evaluation systems, while the District of Columbia’s sluggish pace on school turnarounds means it has only worked with one persistently low-achieving school with its grant funds so far.

“This is really hard work, and there will always be bumps in the road,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a call with reporters.

Georgia and the District of Columbia are perhaps in the biggest trouble right now, as department officials say they are encouraged with the new state leadership in Maryland.

Part of Georgia’s $400 million Race to the Top grant is on “high-risk status”—an official designation that can lead to losing grant funding—for weaknesses in implementing its teacher-evaluation system. Their second-year performance, in particular, concerned the department.

For their part, Georgia officials said they’re working to straighten things out with federal officials. State education department spokesman Jon Rogers said Georgia has made “quality progress” in four of the five conditions federal officials placed on its grant—which included things like improving the overall management of the teacher-evaluation system. The final condition, which is using feedback and data to improve Georgia’s educator-evaluation systems, will come after teacher and leader evaluations are done this school year, Mr. Rogers said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

150 comments Add your comment

Just let us teach

February 1st, 2013
9:32 am

This is where the money is spent in education, one useless program after another. Why don’t we just fully fund education to eliminate shortened school year and furlough days and just let the teachers teach?

Just let us teach

February 1st, 2013
9:33 am

should have been “the shortened school year”

d

February 1st, 2013
9:38 am

I despised GTEP for not giving me any useful feedback other than “You’re satisfactory” and I now despise TKES for what seems to be an impossible goal of exemplary, trying to justify the growth model between completely unrelated courses or waiting 3 years between tests, and surveys that so far (this is just anecdotal evidence) students are not taking seriously. I crave feedback and evaluation – it is the only way I can perfect my craft, but to insist that students are widgets or customers (and that seems to be what TKES does) is doing a huge disservice to the students.

Just let us teach

February 1st, 2013
9:41 am

I could really care less whether or not the administrator who has no knowledge of what I teach is impressed with what I do.

Rick L in ATL

February 1st, 2013
9:59 am

Teacher evaluation panels should consist of a principal, a parent and an outside expert approved by both parents and the district, and there should be extensive use of video in the process so that termination (or bonus) decisions can be documented.

If you just do this much, you get better and fairer evaluations from day one. The current system relies too heavily on the discretion of principals and admins and is corrupted by the pettiness and egos of those folks far too often. Parents, have you met some of the APS bureaucrats who are making these crucial decisions about who’s a good teacher and who’s not? Trust me, you do not want to delegate these decisions solely to them.

sw

February 1st, 2013
10:03 am

“I could really care less whether or not the administrator who has no knowledge of what I teach is impressed with what I do.”

AMEN!

cherokee teacher

February 1st, 2013
10:05 am

Isn’t Jon Rogers the brother of Chip Rogers? That says a lot…

cris

February 1st, 2013
10:06 am

Administration is drowning just trying to keep up with the number of evaluations and the online TKES site is quite possibly the most user-unfriendly I have ever come across. I think the state DOE jumped into this with their eyes closed (and their noses plugged) and now maybe they understand how us “little people” feel when this gigantic new evaluation AND common core have been dumped on teachers. No fun, huh? Waste of time, money and resources, huh?

FBT

February 1st, 2013
10:13 am

Once again, students and taxpayers lose and educrats win.

alco

February 1st, 2013
10:13 am

most waste of taxpayer money on all these “evaluation” grants & programs — it just never ends in DC–all this money gets squandered on useless consultants and new “models” that get shelved in 2-3 years and the process starts again.

red herring

February 1st, 2013
10:17 am

educators in ga. have no desire to be evaluated—most think they are somehow above it all. sad to say when there is a lot of incompetence out there. with the nepotism, favoritism, and in many places racism factors in play—-i believe the only fair evaluations must come from outside. i do not see ga. educators successfully evaluating themselves or their friends. it hasn’t happened yet in my lifetime.

Teacher

February 1st, 2013
10:21 am

Why are administrators doing the evaluations? They have no idea what teachers do…same with parents. I think other teachers need to come in to evaluate teachers. Other teachers understand what is real teaching, versus whatever buzzword garbage the administrators are currently concerned with that week. Our observations by our administrators for TKES are a joke. Very biased, and they don’t really understand what’s going on in classrooms. And I’m not complaining based on my results – I’m judged as one of the “exemplary” ones. However, others that are also just as good as me are giving proficient or lower because of biased administrators.

It’s a joke, it doesn’t work. Have teachers do the reviewing, or get rid of all this junk altogether and actually pay teachers. Better teachers will appear if you offer decent pay. Oh, and allow for a way to fire teachers, like any other job…don’t make hoops to jump through when someone has proven to be worthless. Granted, for that, you would need a way to easily remove worthless administrators as well. I think the percentage of worthless administrators is higher than the percentage of worthless teachers.

d

February 1st, 2013
10:29 am

@Red herring – quite the contrary. We crave the feedback (as I just said). The problem is the old system didn’t do anything to help any teacher and the new system is going to the other extreme. It seems to be put together by bureaucrats who don’t have any idea what they are doing. Several districts around the country are using what is known as PAR – Peer Assistance and Review – to help new teachers and experienced teachers who are struggling become better teachers. Top teachers in the district are actually out of the classroom for 2 or 3 years depending on the district focusing strictly on helping their peers become the best teachers possible. We have not been evaluating ourselves or our friends – even under GTEP. All I ask for is a fair system of evaluation that can truly show what I am capable of and where I need additional support.

USG Professional

February 1st, 2013
10:29 am

Has any parent out there actually tried to teach his/her child how to read? How to subtract? Being able to do something yourself does NOT necessarily mean you know to TEACH someone else how to do it. What can parents say about a teacher that is meaningful from an educational standpoint? “I like her?” “She goes to my church?” “I didn’t like the way she told the students that the Civil War was about slavery!”?

I will be the first (and oftentimes am) to acknowledge that Schools/Colleges of Education are too frequently where students end up after they FAIL in an academic major. (”Gee, I didn’t know I would have to pass Statistics to be a Psychology major — guess I’ll major in Education instead.”) There certainly ARE incompetent teachers out there. There are also burned-out teachers and over-burdened teachers. But to think that parents are equipped to evaluate professionals is ludicrous. Would you place parents on the licensing/evaluation board for physicians? The ugly truth is really very simple: We will have good, talented, professional teachers when the Schools of Education cease to be dumping grounds for students who can’t succeed anywhere else.

RJ

February 1st, 2013
10:34 am

I have no problem with evaluations, I welcome them. I work hard every day to ensuer my students are learning. However, they are not knowledgeable in my field, therefore they have no idea what they’re evaluating. They often ask questions about my lesson and what was being taught. They love what they see, but are clueless about the content. I would much rather have my coordinator evaluate my teaching. They can provide meaningful feedback. Regardless, my days are numbered in this career.

DunMoody

February 1st, 2013
10:40 am

Unintended consequences: the state DOE and powers-that-be saw that Race to the Top Money and said “Yay!” as they cut Georgia’s education budget beyond reason. But they didn’t ask the front lines if we even have the infrastructure to meet the requirements. Case in point: at Dunwoody High School, teachers have had to commit valuable instruction time for pre- and post-evaluations, teacher evaluations, etc. without supporting technology, internet access, sufficient computer workstations for each student, etc. Many teachers had to just give up because of the impossibility of the available technology.

You can’t fix stupid.

indigo

February 1st, 2013
10:41 am

This just another social experment designed to, somehow, bring minority test scores up to par with white ones.

Even though Govt. officials have long since known no experiment of any kind will succeed in this area, they must keep them comming. Otherwise, civil right “leaders” would be all over them crying RACISM RACISM RACISM!!!!

[...] Go to this article [...]

HOC

February 1st, 2013
10:41 am

The system is not user friendly at all for teachers or admin as someone suggested. Education is becoming one big fiasco in this country with too many hands in the pot with many interest outside of educating children.

A Concerned Parent

February 1st, 2013
10:44 am

To USG Professional: Yes, I am a parent “out there” who has taught my daughter to read AND subtract. I work at least 50-60 hours a week, then come home and spend all evening helping my 1st grader in hopes of enabling her to excel at what she is not getting in the classroom. Not saying the teacher is incompetent, but busy with the number of students in the classroom…so yes, I feel I could fairly evaluate the teacher. Have to say, I think you need a new profession as it sounds as if you are one of the “burned-out” teachers.

HOC

February 1st, 2013
10:48 am

@USG Professional…You are right on about this but first teaching must be attractive financially and organizationally. We know it is not. I have told my nephews and daughters to not even consider Education as a major because it is stressful beyond belief (especially if you are talented and care). It is a calling but the ones called will not come into this chaos.

x

February 1st, 2013
10:52 am

Why would anyone want to be a teacher anyway? (I am in my 32nd year of teaching in public school in GA.) We get very little respect in the community. Everyone SAYS they respect us and support us, but at crunch time the support vanishes. We are required to have more education than any profession other than those in the medical field or lawyers. Our pay is no where near those professions. Worst of all, our society does not value education. The majority of my students (and I teach in a properous community with excellent schools) are, at best, indifferent to getting a high level education. The level of apathy toward education in our society is soaring. Parents do not do their part, students come to us unprepared to learn, and we are most often seen as the enemy when we try to discipline unruly students. The apathy, and its resulting frustration on the part of teachers, is the worst thing with which I deal on a daily basis. It starts at home and most AMERICAN parents are not doing what needs to be done before their children ever get to school.

Sorry for rambling. I fear I am approaching burnout.

Kris

February 1st, 2013
10:54 am

This is why we need a Governor (loosely used terrn) who is interested in the development of our state and our education system , but instead his priorities lie in taking payoffs, building stadiums, and asphalt. Teachers need good pay raises and our School’s need SRO’s. Keep our children safe

Welcome to GA 48th in education. And proudly NUMBER! in political corruption.

Bye Nate (shady dealer.)…2014.

HOC

February 1st, 2013
10:57 am

@ Concerned Parent. When your daughter is older, you will not be able to walk into a Calculus class, AP Economics class or a British Lit class and evaluate the teacher’s content delivery. I am not sure you can do a fair job at it in the first grade.
Yes we go to school for our content area and to study pedagogy (and it is an art).
Unfortunately most parents think we are camp counselors, high end baby sitters and maybe some are but most I know are not.

Business Like

February 1st, 2013
10:57 am

How are you evaluated in your job? When I worked in private industry, before I was a teacher, my boss set down with me and told me what he or she thought were my strengths and what were my weaknesses. A decision was made as to whether or not I would receive a pay raise that year. Why do we think that a review for a public educator should take 40+ hours of work per year, when in the private sector you might spend 2 hours preparing for the review and 20 minutes talking with the employee. We need to have better priorities. Demand excellence from your elected representatives.

Steve W

February 1st, 2013
11:01 am

Concerned Parent

February 1st, 2013
11:05 am

The Democrats ran this state for 200 years and Republicans took over in 2003.

This state has not improved one iota in the education and schooling of its public education students, under both parties.

Pehaps its the parents, or the lack of parenting that contributes to this generational problem.

Instead of looting the taxpayers for more money, the teachers unions need to be busted and the top-heany administration needs to disbanded.

Tim Ryles

February 1st, 2013
11:12 am

I have mixed reactions to this. I recognize a need to improve the educational process; however,an underlying premise of reform that students and parents are consumers and education is a product disturbs me. There is a good reason why we have teachers and students: teachers know more, students know less. If teachers need to know more, then we need to see that they get proper training. It is not a democratic system and should never be evaluated as such, nor is a classroom a micro-market governed by rules of the market place. Besides, the schools do an outstanding job of satisfying goals the public truly expects of them and is willing to pay for: we turn out some of the greatest football players in the nation.

Principal Skinner

February 1st, 2013
11:13 am

Hey MD,

Are you diggin into the rumor that Atkinson has resigned? Some folks in DCSS believe that an announcement is forthcoming at 1pm today

A Concerned Teacher

February 1st, 2013
11:15 am

A Concerned Parent,

Congrats on being one of the few who can.

Mandy

February 1st, 2013
11:16 am

Could someone please explain to me why, on Yahoo, there is a banner of “Sates with the Best and Worst School Systems,” with a link to an article from Jan 16, 2013 regarding the research publication, also put out by Education Week, that is saying the exact opposite. This is the 17th annual status of education in all 50 states, in which GA is ranked #7. The article Staes: “Georgia is one of a minority of states that evaluate teachers annually, and is also among the minority in tying teacher evaluations to student performance.” Sounds to me like we’re getting two completely different stories on the same subject. So, which one is right??

A Concerned Teacher

February 1st, 2013
11:17 am

A Concerned Parent,

I retract the previous statement. We don’t have “Unions” in this state. Please go back North and complain about their unions.

paulo977

February 1st, 2013
11:17 am

Just let us teach….”Why don’t we just fully fund education to eliminate shortened school year and furlough days and just let the teachers teach?”
_________________________________________________________

Because those ‘alleged’ education directors have no clue as to what real EDUCATION IS!!!

sneak peak into education

February 1st, 2013
11:20 am

@ Concerned Parent; You state “Instead of looting the taxpayers for more money, the teachers unions need to be busted” as a cause of the state of education in Georgia but how come the states that are unionized are the states that continually perform better, in general, than the states that where unions are illegal i.e. Georgia?

Maureen Downey

February 1st, 2013
11:21 am

@Skinner, I asked her about that yesterday as we are also aware of the speculation, fueled by frequent meetings behind closed doors of the school board.
She said, “I can’t comment on that.”
Made me wonder as I expected a clear denial that any such discussion was under way.
Maureen

Don't blame the parent

February 1st, 2013
11:23 am

Could we please have someone show our elected officials a presentation using really small words and pretty pictures showing that no company or business would want to move to Georgia if they cannot get a smarter work force who can do the required job. A new dome is not going to pick up the lost revenue. I pity the “legacy” that the politicians are leaving us.

bctman

February 1st, 2013
11:23 am

Such ridiculousness…. The economy improves and guess whats going to happen. Teachers leave the profession in Drones! Watch, my prediction, they wont be able to find anyone who wants the thankless job of teaching. So so sad!! Its all about teachers being bad. I work hard every day in the classroom and out of the classroom. Im done. This is my last year!

rookie math teacher

February 1st, 2013
11:25 am

Enter your comments here

d

February 1st, 2013
11:28 am

@Business like – I can say that I have been on both sides of evaluation in the private sector…. and my boss’s boss read every evaluation in his district. I can vouch for putting in a lot of time to write effective performance evaluations (and I was rewarded for having the best/most thorough in the district on a couple of occasions). I want to know why I, as an educator, cannot have that kind of feedback. One walkthrough this semester got me dinged on a standard that, sure, in the 10 minutes the AP was in the classroom, I wasn’t doing, but it was in my plans and happened shortly after she left. How is that fair? Should I stop everything I am doing and put on some song and dance show when they are in the room – and in the process disrupt a well-planned out lesson?

rookie math teacher

February 1st, 2013
11:29 am

Fiasco would be an improvement. This is a race to the bottom. Republicans niether know nor care about urban education, Democrats the same. Teacher must organize. Join MACE

Irishmafia

February 1st, 2013
11:31 am

I have an extremely bright 3 yr old grandson (I taught for a number of years also). I fear putting him into any of the public school systems in this state ( i have worked with almost all of them over the past 20 years) all the teaching nodays is dumbed down to the loest common denominator and all about scores, nothing to do with learning, thinking. I will gladly give up retirement money to put him and granddaughter in a private school where they would get a real education. That being said, and a thesis for my Master’s. Despite the continual cries for more money (APS spens more money per pupil than any other state system -Where are the results?), the only thing that will ever make a difference, is when parents make education important to their kids.

MiltonMan

February 1st, 2013
11:32 am

A decent teacher evaluation program in GA??? Forget it. It will not happen because the “system” prefers to keep the incompetent teachers in the classroom. When my children attended public school there were many, many times I would find problems with homework assignments, memos sent home, etc. When I discussed this with the teachers, I always received the same answer – we are only allowed to teach the material assigned to us. What a freaking cop out. My response: Mr./Mrs. Teacher how about reviewing the material before you teach it???

Google "NEA" and "donations"

February 1st, 2013
11:33 am

From Pres. Obama on down, leading Democrats school their kids in private schools far, far from the influence of unionized teachers or the economic underclass.

Among that privileged class, teacher “evaluations” take the form of … transferring your kids to a different school when you’re unhappy with the help!

The National Education Association’s political donations (along with GAE’s here in Georgia) help ensure that the status quo will be maintained and reform kept on the back burner.

mountain man

February 1st, 2013
11:37 am

Teacher Evaluations? Sure. They should be broken down into two parts

How well does the teacher know the subject matter that he/she is teaching.

How well does the teacher present the subject matter to the students.

Nothing else should matter. Not Student performance (that would be evaluating STUDENTS). Not student opinions. Not parent opinions. If the teacher knows the material and is able to present it well, then they are a good teacher. Whether the student learns is controlled by other factors beyond the teacher’s control.

Pluto

February 1st, 2013
11:40 am

Eliminate the federal DOE and all of the strings attached to taking the dollars for education. Too much is wasted on the pet projects of the revolving door directors and administrators.

Principal Skinner

February 1st, 2013
11:41 am

Maureen Downey

February 1st, 2013
11:21 am

@Skinner, I asked her about that yesterday as we are also aware of the speculation, fueled by frequent meetings behind closed doors of the school board.
She said, “I can’t comment on that.”
Made me wonder as I expected a clear denial that any such discussion was under way.

Maureen
________________________________________________________________________________

Thanks MD. I know you’ll stay on it. There’s plenty of us here, with ALOT invested in DCSS. We don’t mind doiing the hard work of restructuring and rebuilding, but there’s got to be a light at the end of the tunnel to motivate us enough to continue the fight for these kids.

Private Citizen

February 1st, 2013
11:43 am

Teaching is like fishing. You can’t micromanage how someone fishes. You can, but it sure will not be any fun. I woke up this morning thinking, “I wish there was a government schools environment where I could teach and not have to turn in lesson plans – you know? Like in private schools?” Government schools teachers are required to make detailed lesson plans, often imitating a formula, telling what they are doing every minute of the day for each day. No one reads them. They take a lot of time to make. They are a major distraction to me and counterintuitive to the way I like to work, to speak plainly. And I do good work and get excellent results, but for the most part – literally – this is ignored. I’m not saying that to make a point, it is just how it is based on my personal experience of management emphasis on formula methods, management ignoring real accomplishment, and a separate issue, highly paid managers making life unpleasant for productive workers and choosing people out like a hit list, to do hit jobs. Competent teachers do not need overt supervision and management. The managers should be managing the students and student / family issues, which can be real and need accommodation. Currently, teachers are treated like the enemy in their own work environments and managers are directed away from their duties managing students, not teachers. I realise their may be some lame teachers, but my experience is working with capable and dedicated teachers and everybody being on the hot wire and having the endure a formula environment “lesson plans” “how to teach” “introduction / opening / lesson / closing.” It’s like we’re waiters in a restaurant or something.

I’d like to teach somewhere where you do not have to turn in lesson plans. Once administrator even suggested the publishing company providing the source materials should provide lesson plans to go with the source materials, and this would meet the need and relieve teachers of a time-consuming formula activity that for me is distracting to doing meaningful work. I think in macro overview, not in planned minute-to-minute efficiency scheduling. One teacher told me, with great relief, that when they left the government schools and went to work in private school, there were no more turning in of lesson plans, none of it.

FlaTony

February 1st, 2013
11:46 am

Good riddance! The Feds are trying to force Georgia to implement portions of teacher evaluations that are known to be unreliable and are a waste of money. Our state superintendent knows this and has alerted them to the problem. Yet they insist on full implementation of their plan. Test-based evaluations and student-survey-based evaluations are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

dc

February 1st, 2013
11:47 am

Baffling how anyone would think that a teacher is not responsible for a students actual performance. Only in the academic world…wow.

I think coaches should take that same tactic. “the score doesn’t matter, I should just be evaluated on how well I know the sport, and how good I am at talking to the players”……hilarious, and idiotic, all rolled up into one.

Fed up

February 1st, 2013
11:48 am

Not sure why any Georgia residents are surprised by this. Typical Georgia. Last in most all things this state is involved in. And this is what happens when a state is ruled by one party. Especially when that party does not believe in government, rules, regulations, standards, math and science. Couple that with a party who hates state employees and is head strong on reducing as many of them as possible all the while not giving raises in 7 years does make for quality teachers in the classroom as a whole. When you look at all this, are you really surprised that Georgia remains one of the most backwards screwed up places in the union? Oh I forgot, citizens here still want to susceed even though this state remains one of the largest takers of federal money. I don’t think that worked out for this state too well in the past….they lost and will continue to lose until they join the 21st century, and that means education is important more so than political cronies and lining your pockets while in office. Thanks Governor Deal. You’re doing a fine job it looks like.