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More Georgia school districts win “flexibility” from state rules

In two weeks, Georgia will have five times more school districts operating with more freedom from state rules, under an operational model called “Investing in Educational Excellence.”

The Georgia Board of Education last week authorized “IE2” contracts with nine county school districts: Atkinson, Bacon, Carroll, Coweta, Jefferson, Montgomery, Paulding, Thomas and Forsyth.

The contract with Forsyth County Schools is a “substantially” modified renewal of that district’s existing contract. Forsyth and Gwinnett were Georgia’s only IE2 districts for years, but that will soon change. The new contracts take effect July 1, and scores of other districts are lining up for similar contracts.

The IE2 model was created to “increasingly personalize the learning experience and environment,” according to the Georgia Department of Education. Districts that accept the model must push more decision-making down to the schoolhouse. In exchange, they get to keep money-saving waivers from some state mandates. During the Great Recession, school districts received waivers from caps on class sizes and requirements for a minimum number of school days, but those are going away unless districts choose to operate under either “charter” or IE2 contracts.

Charter districts get even more freedom from state rules, but must do more in return under their performance contracts. So far, IE2 is proving the more popular route.

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In exchange for “flexibility,” schools face consequences for failing to achieve goals on things like test performance, with the details spelled out in each district’s contract. For instance, three Gwinnett County high schools — Duluth, Meadowcreek and Norcross — failed to meet their IE2 targets, and had to implement improvement plans.

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