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NCSS may benefit from 'Race' funds

COVINGTON -- Although the Newton County School System won't receive any federal money directly from the Race to the Top grants, it still may benefit from the nationwide initiative.

NCSS did not sign on to partner with the program, which Georgia was selected to be a part of in August, and, therefore, will not receive any funding as part of the state allocation. But the system could benefit indirectly from the GaDOE's half of the $400 million education reform grant over the next four years.

"Much of the work we do at the state with the $200 million will benefit all 180 school systems (in Georgia), not just the 26 systems that are partnering systems," said Matt Cardoza, director of Communications at the GaDOE.

The partnering systems -- Atlanta, Ben Hill, Bibb, Burke, Carrollton, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Dade, DeKalb, Dougherty, Gainesville, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Jones, Meriwether, Muscogee, Peach, Pulaski, Rabun, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Valdosta and White -- are set to split the other $200 million. They each will receive between $338,000 (Pulaski County) and more than $39 million (Atlanta City Schools); DeKalb is set to receive more than $34 million, Gwinnett nearly $21 million and Rockdale $2.3 million.

Cardoza said funds were allocated based on the total number of students in a district and the Title 1 formula, which is determined by the percentage of economically disadvantaged student in a school's population.

He said the state's $200 million has yet to be fully planned out, but it is expected to fund four areas supported by Race to the Top: a common core curriculum, effective teachers and leaders, logical data systems and technology and turnaround schools.

So far the state plans to implement training for the Common Core Curriculum, funding for logical data systems and technology, alternative leadership pathways, instructional improvement reports, using science as a second indicator for Adequate Yearly Progress, communication of best practices learned through partnerships and payment for the Preliminary SAT, which was previously pulled out of the state budget.

Cardoza also said the state will revise its certification rules to create a three-year nonrenewable certificate for those educators who have completed an initial preparation program or who have been accepted into a Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy program, an alternative certification program.

"If the educator does not reach a threshold Teacher Effective Measure by the end of his or her third year, the educator will not be able to advance to a career teacher certificate," he said.

The $400 million in Race to the Top funds allocated to Georgia are among some of the highest around the country, Cardoza said. New York and Florida will receive $700 million each, Tennessee will get $500 million and North Carolina and Ohio also will receive $400 million each. The allocations, too, were based on reform efforts and student population numbers.