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Governor Perdue Announces 2005 Georgia Learns Education Package

Wednesday, January 12, 2005  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Master Teacher Program, Georgia Virtual High School, and Local Flexibility Form Centerpiece of Governor’s Education Agenda

ATLANTA, GA – Governor Sonny Perdue introduced today his 2005 Georgia Learns education package. The legislation creates a statewide Master Teacher Certification Program, the Georgia Virtual High School, and provides local school systems with an additional year of spending flexibility.

The Governor’s education package, consisting of three bills, was filed today in the State Senate by Senator Dan Moody (R-District 56), chair of Senate Education and Youth Committee, and a bipartisan group of Senators.

Master Teacher Program Recognizes the State’s Excellent Teachers

Governor Perdue’s master teacher legislation will allow the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to award a “Master Teacher” certification to teachers who demonstrate excellence in the classroom.

“The master teacher program will help our all-star teachers serve as coaches and mentors to their peers, so that we can further student success in the classroom,” said Governor Sonny Perdue.

The legislation requires an implementation committee of parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, legislators, and staff and board members of the PSC and the state Department of Education (DOE). The committee will make recommendations to the PSC regarding the criteria for awarding the master teacher certification. The criteria will be grade and subject specific and will include value-added indicators of student achievement.

Teachers who earn the master teacher certification will also be able to serve as an academic coach to further the development of other public school teachers. Schools requesting the services of an academic coach must submit their need to DOE as part of their school improvement plan. For example, a school with low pass rates on the science portion of the state’s High School Graduation Test may request the services of an academic coach to mentor their science teachers in content and/or instructional delivery.

Georgia Virtual High School Extends Educational Opportunities to Students Across Georgia

The second piece of Governor Perdue’s education package creates the Georgia Virtual High School, an internet-based public high school housed in DOE that will give students in any region of the state access to Advanced-Placement (AP) courses, summer school courses, and other advanced science and math courses.

“The Georgia Virtual High School will provide every high school student in our state the opportunity to learn at their full potential,” said Governor Perdue. “Superintendent Cox and her team have worked very hard to help us develop this innovative resource, and they are ready to launch the virtual high school as soon as the legislation is signed into law.”

DOE has more than 60 virtual high school courses prepared for next summer, including more than ten AP courses. Virtual courses taken as one or more of the six segments of the regular high school day will be provided free of charge. If students want to take additional courses or summer school courses, then a nominal fee will be charged, as is the case with additional coursework offered by public schools.

Students taking a course from the Georgia Virtual High School interface with a fully certified and highly qualified teacher via email and telephone. The virtual courses will count as a class credit toward graduation, but the virtual school will not grant diplomas.

Flexibility Frees Local Schools Systems from Restrictive Expenditure Controls

The third bill of Governor Perdue’s education package allows local school systems to decide how to best allocate their resources by extending local flexibility for one year. The bill requires that funds allocated for direct instruction remain in direct instruction, but all site based expenditure controls are removed while maintaining transparency and accountability for how the funds are spent.

“Our local schools should not be run by a top-down, one-size-fits-all bureaucracy. I trust teachers, administrators, and parents at the local level to make the decisions that best fit the needs of their students,” said Governor Perdue.

The legislation also allows schools to target their class size reductions through System Average Maximum Class Size and delays class size reduction in grades 4-12 for two years. The average class size for each grade in a school system must be at or below the number of students set by state law. Permitting school systems to average maximum class sizes allows schools to target smaller class sizes to the students who need the most individual attention. Class size reductions for grades K-3 are fully phased in under the Governor’s plan.

Budget Recommendations Reflect Governor’s Commitment to Education

Governor Perdue has announced that his FY06 budget recommendations include a two-percent, across-the-board pay raise for teachers and paraprofessionals beginning September 1, 2005. His FY06 budget recommendations also fully fund enrollment growth in education (K-12, Board of Regents, and the Department of Technical and Adult Education). Enrollment growth is fully funded for K-12 in the FY05 Amended budget.