Gwinnett named one of the two top school districts in country for teachers to thrive, excel

Is Gwinnett County one of the best districts in the country for teachers to thrive and flourish?

Yes, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality's first-ever list of "Great Districts for Great Teachers."

Gwinnett is among eight U.S. school districts to earn the distinction and one of only two, along with the District of Columbia Public Schools, to be declared an Outstanding Great District for exceeding the organization’s benchmarks and demonstrating exceptional achievement.

(I still don't get why the state of Georgia needs to hire outside expertise to figure out turnaround strategies when they have excellent resources right here. See House Bill 338 and its call for a national search for a chief turnaround officer.)

Districts received the honor on the basis of programs and policies on recruiting, encouraging, supporting, and retaining great teachers. Other winners are Boston Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools (Florida), Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, New York City Department of Education, Pinellas County Schools (Florida) and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We first conceived the Great Districts for Great Teachers initiative over a year ago as a way to celebrate the good work on the part of so many school districts,” said Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ. “We hope these winners will inspire other districts in their own transformations so that sometime soon, all districts will be great districts where great people want to work.”

"We are proud to have been named a Great District for Great Teachers winner and that our work to recruit, reward, and recognize our teachers is getting noticed,” said J. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett CEO/Superintendent. “We have some of the most outstanding educators in the profession and their dedication to their students and to providing a world-class education for students is a driving force in our district's success... This national recognition is a testament to the hard work our teachers do every day and our district's work to support and develop educators.”

According to NCTQ:

To develop the criteria districts would need to meet to earn this honor, NCTQ obtained the input of great teachers in focus groups and surveys and examined what research has concluded about best practices, as well as the organization’s own extensive experience analyzing district human capital policies and practices.

The eight winners excelled in five key areas: compensation, professional support, effective management and operations, career and leadership opportunities, and support services for students.

Some of the criteria included:

Substantial salaries provide a good standard of living, and the district rewards excellence in multiple ways;

Professional development and coaching are tailored to teachers’ needs and include sufficient collaborative planning time;

Schools are run efficiently, with evidence that the district allows schools to make decisions in their own best interest;

Teachers have multiple opportunities to tackle leadership roles; and,

Districts offer vital support that enables great teachers to meet the needs of their students.

In choosing the winners, researchers conducted an 18-month analysis, carefully evaluating data from districts’ teacher contracts, examining documents and data, and surveying and interviewing teachers. NCTQ staff verified the selected finalists through focus groups with teachers and interviews with district leaders in each district.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.