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Georgia Responds to Being Put On 'High-Risk' Status

Back when the Race to the Top state grants were first created, folks wondered how changes in state leadership could affect their implementation. And now we're getting something of a case-in-point with Georgia, which had part of its grant put on high-risk status by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month.

The Education Department has questioned Georgia's management of the teacher-effectiveness portion of its Race to the Top grant, potentially jeopardizing $33 million of its $400 million award.

The grant was largely written by Georgia's previous superintendent, Kathy Cox, and is being implemented by her successor, John D. Barge. Both are Republicans. But Barge doesn't think the teacher-effectiveness plan, as currently written, is workable. And he takes pains in a July 6 letter to note that the plan was the "best estimate" of how the state needed to proceed by a previous administration, which was "unable to forsee" numerous challenges.

"We cannot, with intergrity, continue building the program without making changes that our pilots and our principal stakeholders have told us need to be made," Barge wrote to Ann Whalen, the director of policy and program implementation in the department's Implementation and Support Unit.

In fact, without changes sought by the state to some of the details of its teacher effectiveness plan, Georgia could open itself up to "a potentially highly litigious situation," Barge wrote.

Georgia is seeking to revamp parts of its teacher-effectiveness plan dealing with piloting its new teacher-evaluation system, using student surveys, and finding a measure to demonstrate whether educators are able to close the achievement gap.

In addition, Barge says the state is "disappointed" that it wasn't given "sufficient time" to respond to the change in status. Still, it's committed to "building out" the Race to the Top grant "with integrity and discipline."

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