Barge was the keynote speaker at the Paulding County Chamber of Commerce’s Georgia Power Luncheon at the Paulding Senior Center.
He spoke about the federal Race to the Top program, a grant which rewards states for undertaking education reform. The state is facing the possibility of not receiving $9.9 million of the $400 million grant because it does not have a teacher merit pay system.
“That portion of our grant has not yet been spent in Georgia,” Barge said.
He explained how there is not yet a way to measure every type of teacher.
“But it is critical that we establish an accurate measurement tool for educator performance before we ever consider linking it to merit bonuses for Georgia’s teachers,” he said.
“I have always been clear that we are not going to implement a program just so we can say we checked the box. We cannot allow the federal government to dictate what’s best for Georgia’s teachers and students. We will take our time and get it right the first time, even if that means not getting $9.9 million of this federal money.”
The state does not automatically lose the money, according to Education Week magazine. The money will be set aside for the state to use if it can implement a plan before Sept. 30, 2015. Without a plan, the money will go back to the federal government, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Barge, a former Bartow County schools administrator, also spoke about the Georgia Career Pathways program the state is implementing, which he believes will help keep students from dropping out of high school.
“In America, roughly 1 million students leave high school without a diploma,” he said.
Most students drop out because they find school boring or irrelevant, Barge said. The pathways program will let students choose what they would like to study while still receiving their core classes -- similar to picking a major in college.
All incoming freshman in the state will choose one of 17 career clusters to focus on.