Education reform can sometimes feel like a slow moving creature, with reforms stuck in the mud of real or perceived barriers, miscommunication between districts and states, and leaders understandably nervous about crossing the bridge into territories unknown.
However, five districts in Georgia—ranging from large urban districts in metro Atlanta to small ones in the rural south—have managed to defy the odds. In partnership with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), these districts are each implementing reform-minded changes that have the potential to improve teaching effectiveness, resource use, and, ultimately, student achievement. We are inspired and humbled by the great work in Georgia and want to share their progress as a model for what collaboration between state and district leaders can achieve.
In June, ERS and GaDOE worked with Fulton, Hall, Marietta, Treutlen and Vidalia school districts on crafting resource strategies, as part of a two-year engagement spearheaded by GaDOE’s Race to the Top division. During the session, the districts shared their academic goals and what they are currently doing to achieve those goals. Here is just a sampling of reform efforts gaining steam in Georgia:
From adding time to the school day, recognizing and eliminating non-strategic spending, investing in teacher compensation reform, and taking advantage of flexibility options, these districts are reforming education in ground-breaking ways. Equally as important as district tenacity is state support. GaDOE has created an atmosphere that is conducive to change by investing in accountability metrics, such as a comprehensive and balanced teacher evaluation system, creating flexibility options that put more decision-making authority in the hands of district leaders, and by inviting dialogue between district and state leaders. The progress in Georgia is truly inspirational and serves as proof that change can happen; but it requires courage to make tough decisions, collaboration of key stakeholders, and, of course, the strategic use of people, time, and money.
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