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City educators to attend national conference
Focus will include how to raise student achievement
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Gainesville school leaders will travel to a national conference this week to discuss how schools and unions can work together to advance student achievement.

The district was among 150 across the country invited to attend the Labor-Management Collaboration conference Tuesday and Wednesday in Denver. The expense is covered by the U.S. Department of Education at no cost to Gainesville.

"We were glad to get a voice in this," Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "We're also the only school district invited from Georgia."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will moderate the two-day event.

Dyer said she expects some of the talks will center on the pay-for-performance proposal. Paying teachers based on student achievement has caught on nationwide in the last year due in large part to President Barack Obama's $4.3 billion "Race to the Top" education initiative. It rewards states with grants if they comply with its guidelines, one of which is rewarding excellence in the classroom with more teacher pay. The idea has drawn both support and spurn from administrators, teachers and politicians alike.

Georgia was awarded $400 million from Race to the Top last year. The funds were to be shared among the 20 school systems that opted to accept the money, including Gainesville and Hall County Schools.

Around the same time, Gainesville approached the Georgia Department of Education and requested to pilot a teacher and school leader assessment called CLASS Keys and Leader Key evaluation systems.

"We could see it coming," Dyer said of merit pay. "We feel like this has given us a head start."

At the conference, Dyer hopes to learn more about the outcomes of pay-for-performance. She said her group will also be encouraged to give feedback.

"We want to see what the impact of a performance model would have on current salary structure for teachers and identify the issues that would impact the surrounding factors of teacher performance, for example the recognition of different student populations and different school sizes," Dyer said.

Dyer will be joined by Gainesville school board member Delores Diaz and Gainesville teacher Shari Frazier.

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