Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer is asking teachers to be proactive in embracing pending legislative changes.
"Pay for performance is a part of the Race to the Top initiative," she said during a called meeting Monday. "In some form or fashion, Georgia will be moving down that road — whether it’s Friday or next year."
Dyer called for the meeting with system faculty to share potential changes in legislation that could impact how students are taught and how teachers are compensated.
The Race to the Top initiative started out this year as a federal pilot program, which awarded grants to two states to implement self-prescribed school reform plans. Although there were 41 applicants for grants, only Delaware and Tennessee received funding in the first round of the program.
While there will be a second round of competition for additional grants, Dyer believes that the Race to the Top initiative will replace the previous No Child Left Behind legislation, which has been used to establish educational standards for American classrooms.
Among other things, the initiative focuses on "turning around the lowest-performing schools, building data systems that measure student growth and success (and) adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace."
While linking teachers’ salaries to students’ academic performance has drawn criticism from many educators, a potential by-product of the Race to the Top initiative could draw even more ire.
"Tenure, under Georgia law now, when you sign your third contract with the same school system, you have tenure in that it takes a due process hearing after unsatisfactory evaluations to relieve you of your teaching duties," Dyer said. "Tenure, in my view, will really become irrelevant as teachers are evaluated on their 21st century (teaching) skills."
According to Dyer, those skills include teaching collaboratively, incorporating technology and helping students develop critical thinking skills.
While the potential changes could be a tough pill for some to swallow, Dyer said it’s important for educators to understand the ultimate goal — to provide students with the best possible education.
"If we look at this from the point of view of learning those things as teachers, then we’ll do this in a healthy way," she said. "If we look at as something we have to do in order to be paid more, then we won’t do it in a healthy way."
"What we wanted to impart to our employees is that teacher and leader quality really means the ability to be a learner yourself, to learn along with your students in a more collaborative way," said Dyer, about why the meeting was necessary.
"What I was hoping to get the message to them is let’s take the opportunity to be a learner and bring more joy into the classrooms and not do it from the point of view of compliance or because we have to. This is about getting ahead of the changes and understanding what is being asked."