While students stay home for Presidents Day, more than 3,000 teachers in the Atlanta school district will be at work — and getting paid — on a previously scheduled furlough day.
The teachers will receive training Monday on how to carry out a more rigorous national curriculum, known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and their pay for the day will come from a General Electric Foundation grant. Atlanta Public Schools estimated the cost of the restored workday and another training day May 24 at about $3 million.
Every classroom teacher, instructional staff member, principal and assistant principal will report to their schools to hone classroom instruction skills, according to the school district.
Superintendent Erroll Davis said the GE Foundation grant money came through at a crucial time for the financially stretched school system, which had used furlough days to help balance the current budget.
“Everything adds up to a considerable and meaningful investment in Atlanta Public Schools when we need it most,” Davis said.
Teachers need time outside the classroom for training that they couldn’t receive if students were also in school Monday, school district spokesman Stephen Alford said.
“We need to be able to segment the teachers away from their regular responsibilities, so when they return to the classroom, they’ll be able to teach to the standards,” Alford said. “It’s hard to do that when they’re teaching a class.”
Atlanta Public Schools initially scheduled four furlough days in the current school year, one of which was already taken Oct. 8 (Columbus Day). Without the furlough, that day would have been a paid holiday.
The three remaining furlough days will be restored by spending part of the GE Foundation’s $22 million Developing Futures in Education grant, which was awarded to Atlanta Public Schools in 2007. The grant is intended to improve student education in core subjects and close achievement gaps. Six other cities where GE does business also received grants.
The May 24 training day will include all teachers, and year-round school staff (excluding teachers) will have their June 3 furlough day revoked for additional education about Common Core standards.
“There’s a huge need across all districts for teachers to come away from the classroom and add to their skills,” said Kami Luigs, GE’s director of the Developing Futures in Education grant in Atlanta. “Teachers have always told us that the more they know about the subjects that they’re teaching and the methods that they use to teach, the better that they can help their students.”
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core standards, which aim to align educational requirements across the country. Georgia fully implemented the standards beginning with the current school year.
“As we embark upon full implementation of the Common Core standards, it is imperative that all teachers receive superb professional development in order to effectively facilitate 21st-century instructional frameworks,” said the school district’s teacher of the year, Tamika Bell, who teaches at Therrell High School of Health Sciences and Research.