On Georgia’s BEST One-Year Anniversary, Cobb Educators are Thriving!

Georgia's BEST

Georgia schools started the 2023-2024 school year with over 3,000 teaching vacancies. Some Districts in the metro-Atlanta area had more than 400 vacancies. 

In contrast, there were about 20 vacancies in Cobb Schools thanks to Cobb Schools programs like Georgia’s BEST (Building Educator Success Together), which is continuing Cobb’s legacy of high retention and successfully recruiting the very best. February marks the one-year anniversary of the cutting-edge partnership between the Cobb County School District and the University of West Georgia (UWG) to provide Cobb educators the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree at no tuition cost. 

So far, more than 98% of Cobb Schools educators have already said they plan to return to support Cobb students in the 2024-2025 school year. 

“One year in, we are incredibly pleased with the results of Georgia’s BEST,” said Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. “The program provides significant benefit for those who complete it and stay in the Cobb County School District for the rest of their careers—more than an additional $1 million worth!” 

As UWG’s Dean of the College of Education, Mike Dishman, explained during the February Board meeting, a Georgia’s BEST teacher who invests their increased earnings from an advanced degree will be able to invest more than a teacher who must pay back a student loan. Over time, the investment gap will widen between a Georgia’s BEST teacher and one forced to repay a student loan. By retirement, a Georgia’s BEST teacher could have $642,825 more in investments. 

“A year ago, I would have hoped, but not expected, the program to succeed like it has. It has been wonderful. The Cobb educators who have participated in it have been enthusiastic. They have been wonderful students. They are so engaged. In 25 years of doing this, I have never seen that [level of enthusiasm.] It is truly remarkable and clearly resonates with them,” Dr. Dishman said.


“Our Board and Superintendent have said our employees are a priority for almost a decade. It is one thing to say so, it is very much another to see innovations like Georgia’s BEST prove those words to be true,” praised Cobb Schools Board Chair Randy Scamihorn. 


In the Fall of 2022, Superintendent Ragsdale approached UWG to assist in developing the educator retention/education program now known as Georgia’s BEST. In February 2023, the Cobb Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to support 500 slots for Cobb educators in the program for five years. Designed as an educator retention program, it will help offset the onboarding costs associated with hiring a new educator to replace one who leaves. 


After one year, the positive impacts of the program are clear. In addition to the low vacancy numbers, the 700 new teachers hired by the district largely pointed to Georgia’s BEST as one of the reasons they applied to join the Cobb Schools team. That includes more than 100 applicants who were willing to move across the country to work in Cobb and be part of Georgia’s BEST. 

The feedback from the Cobb educators enrolled in Georgia’s BEST leaves little doubt about the program’s success. 

“One of my favorite parts of the Georgia’s BEST program is that it has allowed me to form relationships with colleagues within my district that I may not have met otherwise. We have had opportunities to collaborate on projects, share resources and ideas, and learn from each other, which has been incredibly valuable,” shared Courtney Aquilino, Brumby Elementary School teacher and Georgia’s BEST student. 

The UWG professors are also receiving more praise from their Cobb students/educators. 

“We have student quotes that say they could not have completed their degrees without this program and how life-changing [the program] is for them. A lot of them have said that the collaboration among their peers has been unmatched from other programs, and they are so grateful for Cobb County Schools for paying for this,” said Dr. Katy Green, UWG Interim Department Chair of Special Education. 

Like her UWG colleague, Dr. Trinia Wood, UWG assistant department chair, has heard similar praise from her Cobb students. “It has been all positive. They have been very explicit about how the program has been an advantage to them going through as a cohort, having that community of learners, as well as just the knowledge level of increased understanding they are getting in their field of study. The collaborative efforts that we have had as well as just building the partnership, this has been a tremendous opportunity,” explained Dr. Wood. 

Word of the Georgia’s BEST program spread quickly across the state of Georgia and states away. Other school districts were knocking on the door to learn how Cobb Schools and UWG make it work. The unique partnership between Cobb Schools and UWG has directly contributed to the success of the program. 

“I have had the great pleasure to work with two outstanding Cobb County instructors who are dedicated to the partnership and the success of the students they serve. The collaboration is unparalleled, and as a result, the Cobb County participants are able to connect the coursework to their district’s practices. Ultimately, GA’s BEST is a win for Cobb County students,” said Samantha Fuhrey, the 2020 Georgia Superintendent of the Year and Clinical Assistant Professor UWG Instructional Support Mentor. 

What Cobb’s educators are learning at UWG is already spreading to Cobb students in the classroom. 

“From the Instructional Technology side, one great example is the integration of CTLS. We have integrated [CTLS] into the courses. The Cobb teachers in our courses are actually developing virtual materials that can be used and implemented in CTLS and then shared. They are developing them for teachers in their same discipline, same area, or same team, and they are developing it for their students,” shared Dr. Logan Arrington, Interim Associate Department Chair, UWG College of Education. 

Cobb teachers are using what they learn to boost student success. 

“The Georgia’s BEST program has reignited my passion for teaching and learning. I have learned so much about the science of reading and implemented new strategies with my students. I love that it is a personalized experience that gives me practical knowledge I can use now,” declared Stacy King, Kemp Elementary School teacher and Georgia’s BEST student. 

The first cohort of Georgia’s BEST teachers will graduate with their advanced degrees in the next few months.