Cobb educators show ‘overwhelming interest’ in free advanced degree

The Cobb County School District has seen an “overwhelming level of interest” in its new program aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers by helping them get an advanced degree, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said this week.

So far, the district has received more than 3,700 applications of interest, he said.

The district originally intended to pay for 500 educators to obtain advanced degrees through a partnership with the University of West Georgia. The program is called Georgia’s BEST — which stands for “Building Educator Success Together.”

“We will be doing everything we can to see how we can expand those 500 slots,” Ragsdale told board members. “Perhaps as an additional cohort or something along those lines.”

Cobb officials initially planned to invest $500,000 in the program.

Cobb County, the state’s second-largest school district, currently employs about 7,400 teachers. About 70% of those teachers already have advanced degrees, the district reported.

“We are very excited that Cobb teachers are so enthusiastic about the district’s new partnership,” the district said in an emailed statement, adding that the state Senate is considering a resolution to commend the program.

The district was in the process of developing application criteria for the program. Teachers who participate will be required to commit to working in Cobb schools for an additional three years after they complete their degrees. The district will cover the tuition and fees for educators selected to participate. The University of West Georgia will discount the tuition and fees to about 50% of what those educators would pay out-of-pocket.

Classes will start as soon as June.

The Coweta County School District is also partnering with the University of West Georgia. Its school board committed $450,000 per year for four years, which will cover 150 educators’ participation in the program annually.