Georgia’s governor announced plans today to eliminate four state end-of-course tests in high school in response to complaints of over testing by teachers.

OPINION: Does it make sense for Georgia to retreat from high school tests?

As expected, Georgia’s governor announced legislation today intended to eliminate four state end-of-course tests in high school in response to complaints of over testing by teachers.

Brian Kemp’s kill list includes geometry, economics, physical science and American literature. Also gone would be an elementary school exam, fifth-grade social studies. Kemp outlined his plan today flanked lawmakers and State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

Still required would be the end-of-course high school tests in biology, U.S. history, algebra and freshman literature and composition. I suspect a full-court press by social studies teachers helped protect history. 

Why would teachers want to retain testing in their area? 

Because there is evidence that what gets tested not only gets taught but gets more attention and resources from administrators.

Woods said that would not be the case in Georgia. 

“Teachers can be absolutely assured that we will continue to focus on all subjects and on educating the whole child – preparing students for life, not a high-stakes test,” said Woods. “I trust our teachers as the highly trained professionals they are, and I know they will continue to offer a high-quality educational experience for their students, whether or not a high-stakes test is assigned to their course.”

In 2016, the Georgia General Assembly slashed the number of mandatory standardized tests from 32 to 24. That was still seven more tests than mandated by federal law, which stipulates 17 tests throughout K-12.

During his campaign, Kemp promised to reduce testing further. At this press conference, Kemp assured teachers he had listened to them. 

Still, I wonder if high school parents worry that much about testing. Almost all testing complaints that come to me are from parents of younger kids.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, testing in high school could be seen as preparation for college classes where grades rely heavily on test scores.

Kemp also wants to shorten the middle school Milestones tests and give the state Board of Education the ability to lift the requirement that scores in end-of-course high tests count 20% in final grades. 

“As a former teacher, and as someone who has spoken with hundreds of Georgia’s classroom teachers over the last five years, I believe so strongly that our students and teachers are worth more than the results of one test, taken on one day, during one school year,” said Woods. “That’s what this legislation is about. We are responding to the persistent and urgent concerns raised by classroom teachers, students, and parents, who have been sounding the alarm about the negative impacts of excessive high-stakes testing for years.

“We are saying, loud and clear, that it’s the teacher, not the test, that makes a difference,” said Woods. “I do not believe the only way to assign value to a subject is to pair it with a high-stakes test, and I do not believe the current high-stakes testing regime has produced positive results for student learning.”

Georgia is stepping away from using high-stakes tests in classroom grades  amid increasing concern about grade inflation.  I noted yesterday that a long-awaited recommendation from faculty in the University of California system urged retention of SAT and ACT in admission decisions in part because of the rise in grade inflation in state high schools.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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