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Race to the Top plans OK'd; Gwinnett schools to get $20.8 million

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

SUWANEE — Federal officials have approved plans by 26 Georgia school districts, including Gwinnett, participating in the state’s Race to the Top grant.

The approval means the districts will soon receive their first infusion of money from the $400 million the state won last year. Teresa McCartney, who oversees the four-year grant program for Georgia, said the districts will get about $32 million this year, much of which is going to teacher training.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is slated to receive about $3.6 million this year and a total of nearly $20.8 million over the four years of the grant, spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

“The Race to the Top grant and our involvement in that partnership with the state — it’s really a perfect fit for our school system. Our district had initiatives and priorities identified prior to Race to the Top (that aligned with the program’s goals), and we were moving forward with those,” Roach said. “With the Race to the Top grant and funding, what that means is our school system will be able to move more quickly in implementing some of those planned improvements.”

Participating as a partner district also allowed school system leaders to have input when state and federal leaders were making decisions that would affect Gwinnett’s teachers and students, Roach said.

Gwinnett will receive Race to the Top money for the following initiatives:

• Fund a pool of up to 10 additional teachers to be assigned to schools determined to be “high need.” This would be in addition to their normal personnel allocation — $585,580 per year for the four-year grant.

• Partner with Teach for America to provide approximately 75 teachers for the duration of the grant period — $150,000 per year for the four-year grant period.

• Enhance data systems to improve instruction — $1,771,019 per year for the four-year grant.

• Provide funding for the development and/or assessment not currently funded or administered by the district — $1,132,448 per year for the four-year grant.

• Implement pay-for-performance system in 2013-14 — $6,238,366.

Georgia was one of 11 applicants — 10 states and Washington, D.C. — to win money from the $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition last year. The program is designed to get states to adopt innovative measures to improve student achievement and turn around low-performing schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.