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Georgia joins with education stakeholders to develop ESSA plan

GaDOE relies on public feedback in plan responsive to new education law


MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358,

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July 21, 2016 – The Georgia Department of Education has partnered with a broad group of education stakeholders to develop a state plan responsive to the Every Student Succeeds Act (, the replacement for the federal law commonly known as No Child Left Behind.

A State Advisory Committee will bring together local superintendents, teachers, students, parents, state agency heads, and representatives of education organizations, advocacy groups and civil rights groups. Six Working Committees are charged with developing Georgia’s draft ESSA plan for submission to the Advisory Committee. During this process, GaDOE will also host public feedback sessions throughout the state, and the draft state plan will be posted for public review a
nd comment. Full implementation of Georgia’s ESSA plan will take place during the 2017-18 school year.

“With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, we have an enormous opportunity to reshape Georgia education and get rid of the standardized, one-size-fits-all model that became prevalent under No Child Left Behind,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “The federal overreach has been dialed back and we can now create a system that offers a holistic, personalized educational pathway for each child, with a strong focus on foundational skills, social-emotional learning, responsible accountability and elevating the teaching profession. We’re inviting all interested stakeholders into this process and hope Georgia’s teachers, students, parents, and community members will participate as we lay the foundation for educational excellence in our state.”

ESSA was signed into law in December 2015, replacing the top-down federal government approach to education required by No Child Left Behind. The new law allows states and local schools/districts to make education decisions that are best for their students, and requires states to develop plans that address standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and special help for struggling schools and students.

The initial meetings of the Advisory Committee and six Working Committees were held on July 18 and 19 (presentations can be found at

Below are the committees responsible for gathering public feedback and developing Georgia’s plan (click the links to view members):

Advisory Committee

The ESSA State Advisory Committee will create a list of focus areas, as well as discussion points, for the various working committees. The working committees will then present their work to the Advisory Committee for feedback and refinements.

Accountability Committee

Chair: Allison Timberlake, Director of Accountability, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Molly Howard, Superintendent, Jefferson County Schools

This committee will examine Georgia’s current accountability platform, the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), and help make refinements to the model, taking a responsible approach to accountability and finding a way to represent school performance in a public-friendly manner. The goal is to develop a tool that is flexible enough to align with the individual strategic goals of schools and districts, capturing and encouraging innovation while also providing useful data to guide improvement. The end result should be less cumbersome and burdensome for districts and schools, while still providing an accurate assessment of student achievement and school quality.

Assessment Committee

Chair: Melissa Fincher, Deputy Superintendent for Assessment & Accountability, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Steve Barker, Superintendent, Coweta County Schools

This committee will review assessment requirements and needs, examining ways to take a more innovative approach to assessing students, strengthen formative tools, and make assessment data more timely and useful.

Communications Committee

Chair: Matt Cardoza, Chief Communications Officer, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Stan DeJarnett, Executive Director, Georgia Vision Project

In order for Georgia to use the framework of ESSA to implement changes that will best serve students, teachers, and schools, extensive two-way communication with the public is essential – Georgia must engage with and seek continual feedback from all stakeholders. This committee will discuss ways to bring stakeholders to the table and facilitate effective communication related to Georgia’s ESSA plan.  

Education of the Whole Child Committee

Chair: Caitlin Dooley, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Susan Adams, Assistant Commissioner for Pre-K and Instructional Support, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

This committee will discuss physical, social, and emotional well-being, positive learning climate, experiential learning, and personalized education in Georgia’s pre-K through 12 education system. Members will examine ways to maximize opportunities using effective practices and innovation and provide an excellent, relevant, and meaningful education to all students, recognizing that all children learn at different rates and have individual needs.

Educator & Leader Development Committee

Chair: Cindy Saxon, Associate Superintendent for Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Ernie Lee, 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year and Savannah-Chatham County Schools social studies teacher 

Teacher and leader quality has an enormous impact on student achievement. This committee will examine ways to strengthen the teaching profession and empower and support school leaders. Members will discuss teacher preparation, recruitment, retention, and development and personalized professional learning, and will help define supports on the teaching continuum from first-year teacher to teacher leader.

Federal Programs to Support School Improvement Committee

Chair: Debbie Gay, Director of Special Education Services and Supports, Georgia Department of Education & Co-Chair: Leigh-Ann Putman, Executive Director of Metro RESA and immediate past president of Georgia RESAs 

This committee will address the various federal programs that support school improvement at the state level, examining the way Georgia identifies schools in need of assistance and the type and quality of assistance provided by the state. Members will provide suggestions on using federal programs/dollars to the maximum benefit of Georgia’s schools and students. The goal is to leverage state and community resources more effectively to support schools, streamlining the process for schools and districts and affording maximum flexibility while ensuring transparency. The state’s role should, ultimately, shift to service and support – in other words, the state’s efforts to support schools should complement local efforts.

More Information

ESSA website:  

ESSA contact information:​