A new education bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Kevin Tanner would allow the state to provide systems of support and assistance for low-performing schools in Georgia.
On Thursday, the state House Education Committee held its first hearing on the new plan. Last November voters rejected the Opportunity School District constitutional amendment backed by Gov. Nathan Deal, which would have allowed the state to temporarily take over struggling schools. Community members and education groups argued that the legislation took authority away from local school boards. The new bill is the follow-up plan to Deal’s proposal.
“In listening to those who were opposed to the Opportunity School District,” Tanner said during the hearing. “I tried to take those to heart and talk to those individuals and listen to their concerns.”
Georgia House Bill 338 will create the position of the “Chief Turnaround Officer.” The turnaround officer will be employed by the Department of Education, but will report directly to the State Board of Education. The Chief Turnaround Officer will assign schools in the greatest need of assistance with a “turnaround coach.”
“If you do not have good leadership in place, no organization will function and run and be efficient,” Tanner said. “Leadership is so important.”
The turnaround coach will assist in creating local collaborations to address personal and community conditions. Within 90 days of entering into a contract amendment or intervention contract between a local board of education and the State Board of Education, a turnaround coach will conduct an on-site evaluation of the low-performing school to determine the reason for the school’s performance.
After the evaluation, the school will collaborate with the Chief Turnaround Officer and develop an improvement plan. The improvement plan will be implemented by the school with ongoing input and assistance from the Chief Turnaround Officer and the turnaround coach. If the school has not improved two years after implementing the plan, an intervention will be required.
The schools that are positioned at the bottom of list of chronically failing schools published by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement will receive top priority.
“At some point we have to put a stake in the ground and start making forward progress,” Tanner said on Thursday.