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Schools may enter contract with state

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks on Thursday told school board members he wants the district to enter into a performance contract with the state Board of Education in exchange for increased flexibility in school operations.

The details of House Bill 1209, signed into law this year by Gov. Sonny Perdue, have not been finalized by the state Department of Education and the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, but the school district could potentially enter into a five-year agreement that would stipulate the areas of flexibility and the areas of additional accountability, said Linda Mitchell, the district's executive director of accountability and assessment.

For example, by setting goals to raise students' scores on college readiness exams such as the SAT and ACT, the district could receive flexibility in determining class size, Mitchell said.

Each school would have to develop a plan outlining the requested flexibilities and the accompanying performance goal, Mitchell said.

Wilbanks said each school already has a plan called the Local School Plan of Improvement (LSPI). Meeting higher standards is something the district strives for already, he said.

"The accountability is there," he said. "The flexibility ... would improve our ability to educate children."

While the district moves forward in its efforts to raise student achievement, prospective teachers will soon be able to participate in one of two alternative certification programs that will be offered by the school district.

TeachGwinnett, the district's Teacher Alternative Preparation Program, was implemented during the summer, and the two-year program is helping 30 people become "diagnostic, prescriptive educators," said Nikki Mouton, the executive director of staff development.

That means the class is learning how to "take benchmark data and prescribe instruction to meet the needs of students," Mouton said.

On Thursday, the district received approval from Georgia Professional Standards Commission to offer a One-Year Supervised Practicum for aspiring teachers, Mouton said. That program will give the district another way to help professionals become licensed to teach.