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School officials: 'Race' money for teaching, achievement

By Curt Yeomans and Johnny Jackson

cyeomans@news-daily.com

As participants in Georgia's $400 million "Race To The Top" application, officials with Clayton's and Henry's county school systems said they plan to direct their shares of the money to improving teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

In August, Georgia was announced as a winner in the second round of the federal government's "Race To The Top" competition. Clayton County Public Schools, and Henry County Schools were among 26 local school systems who signed on as partners with the state, to implement its "Race To The Top" plan.

According to figures released by the Georgia Department of Education this week, Clayton Schools is slated to receive $15.26 million, while Henry Schools is expected to get $3.32 million, to help implement the state's plan.

The money is to be doled out in four payments, over a four-year period. Georgia Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza said the participating districts, however, will not receive their money in four, equal-in-size, annual payments. They will, instead, receive the money based on "their scope of work" at the time, he said.

"They [school systems] must use the money for things in the four assurances, which are: Lowest performing schools, Common Core curriculum, Longitudinal data system, and Teacher effectiveness," Cardoza said, in a written statement.

Officials in Clayton and Henry counties said they have until Oct. 25, to finalize their plans, and submit them to the state.

Diana Dumetz Carry, Clayton County Public Schools' chief academic officer, and Tony Pickett, Henry County Schools' executive assistant to the Office of the Superintendent, said their respective districts are still developing their "Race To The Top" plans.

Even though Clayton and Henry school officials do not yet have finalized plans for using the "Race to The Top" money, Carry and Pickett said they have narrowed it down to generalized areas.

In a written statement, Carry said Clayton County Public Schools plans to follow guidelines that were included in the state's "Race To The Top" application.

"Georgia's 'Race to the Top' grant is well-written, with specific actions required," she said. "As a participating LEA, we are responsible for planning strategic utilization of Race to the Top resources to address two major components: 1. Effective Teachers & Leaders [and] 2. Turning around low-achieving schools."

Pickett said Henry County Schools' plan will include: "Recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace, and to compete in the global economy; building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; and turning around the state's lowest-achieving schools.

"These plans are initial requirements," he added. "I'm sure additional plans will be required in the future."