Georgia, by virtue of this declaration, has been recognized by national education reformers as one of the states most primed and capable of producing significant reform and innovation in our education system.
This achievement alone is worthy of acknowledgement.
Those who have championed and implemented the necessary reforms to make Georgia a viable player in this highly contested race should be recognized for their contributions. Because of them, we stand to be awarded over $500 million to continue such reform.
This is not only an acknowledgement for those courageous reformers who have played a role in what we are doing as a state to change the way we approach education, but a charge to do more. We're now challenged to do more to inspire others to raise the bar for our children, more to motivate lawmakers and powerbrokers to find ways to make education a priority in both word and deed, and more to lead the nation in creating a student focused educational system in which every child has access to a quality education regardless of zip code, socio-economic status or color.
There is legislation before both the state House and Senate that would continue to fundamentally improve the way we advance education in our state. Gov. Perdue's "pay for performance" proposal, SB 386, would reward our educators and administrators partially based on the academic growth and achievement of their students, not solely on the number of years they've accrued or degrees they've earned. This is just one effort that will help our state retain and attract the best and brightest to our classrooms. It will also enhance our current efforts by requiring a uniform evaluation system that tells us that a teacher's effectiveness in Cobb County is the same as one in Catoosa County.
Another initiative, HB 1100, would scrap the old, vague system we currently use to evaluate a school's performance, and replace it with a new grading system that takes a more panoramic look at a school and gives it a grade of "A" to "F."
This is an evaluation mechanism that everyone, especially parents, can understand. Leadership through initiatives like these that focus on the consumers of education, the student and the parent, as well as compensating and supporting our hardest working educators, is the key to raising achievement, closing the gaps amongst our students, and moreover winning the global "race to the top."
We've passed reforms we can be proud of. For instance, Georgia's charter school sector is strong and accountable.
In exchange for this higher accountability they have the flexibility they need to meet the better meet the needs of their students. The influence of the work we've done here in Georgia reaches beyond our state's borders. Just last week I was invited to Richmond by the newly appointed Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson, to testify before the Virginia State Senate on a progressive charter school bill to expand the state's nominal charter system.
Earlier this month that same legislation passed the committee, moving the commonwealth closer to opening a new chapter of opportunity for students, and a new chapter of more reform and innovation for Virginia.
It was exciting to visit another state and have the opportunity to talk about what Georgia is doing well. But our work here is far from done.
Becoming one of the finalists in the Race to the Top competition confirms that we are moving in the right direction.
It's up to us to put aside political agendas, partisanship and listen more to students, parents and effective educators, rather than the special interests.
We have entered the race to the top. And this is the time to embrace the reform and change that we need to ensure that we get there and we stay there.
State Rep. Alisha T. Morgan (D-Austell) serves on the House Education Committee.