ATLANTA — The U.S. Department of Education is pressuring Georgia to follow through on promises the state made last year to win $400 million in the “Race to the Top” grant competition.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a draft progress report shows Georgia was slow to fill 21 jobs considered key to completing the state’s education reform plans. That means the state is about six months behind in piloting its teacher evaluation system, which begins next month.
The slow pace is in part because the state elected a new governor and state schools chief, and six of the 26 school districts participating in the grant program hired new superintendents.
The report noted that state officials are finding it difficult to communicate with the public about Race to the Top initiatives, which could create challenges when the new teacher evaluation system is rolled out statewide.
Teresa MacCartney, who oversees the grant, said state officials weren’t surprised by the issues raised in the report.
“This is very complicated work,” she told the newspaper.
The Education Department also is stepping up pressure on the 11 other winners — 10 states and Washington, D.C. — to make good on the promises they made in their grant applications. Last week, the Obama administration put Hawaii’s four-year, $75 million grant on “high-risk” status because the state has made little progress on promised reforms.
The $4.3 billion Race to the Top program is designed to encourage states to adopt education reforms ranging from evaluating teachers based on student performance to creating a welcoming environment for charter schools.
Since the awards were given out last year, every state has submitted waivers to change the timelines they originally promised.
Georgia is one of five states to get approval to push back its efforts on teacher evaluations by a year.
“My view is that taking too much time is a virtue not a vice, particularly given the complicated and technical nature of what they are trying to do,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which represents more than 81,000 educators across the state. “The feds will have to allow states to take the time they need.”