Gov. Deal announces winners of teaching contest funded by Obama’s education initiative, Race to the Top

By David Pendered

Gov. Nathan Deal announced today a round of state teaching awards, months later than planned and after Deal defeated state school Superintendent John Barge in the Republican gubernatorial primary election.

Georgia created the Innovation in Teaching Competition as part of the state’s implementation of President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, which is to provide $400 million to Georgia through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Gov. Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal

This fourth round of awards was slated to be announced in spring 2014, according to a state website. Teachers from metro Atlanta school districts dominate the overall winners list.

Three teachers in metro Atlanta school districts were among the eight winners announced Friday. These teachers are in the school districts of Cherokee, Gwinnett and Henry counties.

Since the contest was started in 2013, half of the 20 award-winning teachers were teaching in metro Atlanta school districts at the time they were honored. The school districts with winning teachers include:

  • Barrow County (two winners);
  • Cherokee County (three winners):
  • Cobb County;
  • DeKalb County;
  • Fulton County;
  • Gwinnett County:
  • Henry County.

The contest intends to recognize innovative teaching strategies for Georgia standards in English and language arts, and math. There’s also a cash award of $2,000 to each winning teachers and a $5,000 grant to the teacher’s school district that’s to be used to implement Georgia’s instructional standards, according to a statement released Friday by the governor’s office.

Georgia was awarded $400 million from President Obama's Race to the Top education initiative. Credit:

Georgia was awarded $400 million from President Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative. Credit:

In a practical side of the competition, other educators will have the opportunity to see the award winners in action in the classroom. Georgia Public Broadcasting films the winners and the edited videos will be available at and through iTunesU, according to the statement.

As a candidate for governor in 2010, Deal said he would not accept funding from Race to the Top. A report by quotes Deal as saying at the time:

  • “Race to the top has standardized curriculum. I do not agree with anything that has strings attached. … I would say it’s probably not worth the money we’re going to receive. In the overall scheme of things it’s not that much money. It sounds big but when you distribute it across every level of the education system, it’s not that big.”

Three weeks later, Georgia won a $400 million grant from Race to the Top. Deal determined at that time that he would accept the money, which resulted a grant initiated under by then Gov. Sonny Perdue’s administration, according to

Along with funding this teaching competition, Race to the Top has enabled Georgia to create two “non-traditional schools” that intend to address high school students who are at risk of dropping out of school. The report released by the White House, in March, doesn’t elaborate on the program.

The White House report portrays Race to the Top as a successful successor of President George W. Bush’s educational initiative, No Child Left Behind.


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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