Georgia will submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the suspension of the 2020-21 Georgia Milestones assessment and CCRPI school and district rating.

Georgia wants to halt Milestones testing next year

Many of you have urged a suspension of high-stakes testing next year in the wake of the pandemic and disruption of school.

You may get it.

From the Governor’s Office this morning:   

Today Governor Brian P. Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods of the Georgia Department of Education issued the following joint statement: 

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have urged common sense regarding compliance in Georgia’s public schools, and a focus before anything else on the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and school staff. 

"On March 16, Georgia became one of the first states in the nation to suspend standardized testing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 school closures, and later received approval from the U.S. Department of Education for the cancelation of all remaining standardized tests in the 2019-2020 school year. 

"Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year. In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom. 

"Georgia will submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the suspension of the 2020-21 Georgia Milestones assessment and CCRPI school and district rating. To our knowledge, Georgia is the first state in the nation to make this announcement for the upcoming school year. Additionally, effective immediately, the Georgia Department of Education is suspending the teacher evaluation (TKES) summative rating for 2020-21. 

"These efforts are in line with our longstanding shared belief that assessment has a place and a purpose in education, but the current high-stakes testing regime is excessive. Though the legislative session was shortened due to COVID-19, we are continuing to pursue Senate Bill 367, which aims to get Georgia’s state testing requirements in line with the federal minimum and maximize time for instruction. 

"We are hopeful the federal government will recognize that the upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual’ and will accept our request for a standardized testing waiver."

A dozen readers sent me a plea going around social media to oppose the contract for 2020-21 Milestones testing that was on the state Board of Education agenda this week. Those readers said the money for the tests could be better spent elsewhere in education, and it didn’t make sense to give the exams next year in the midst of this chaos.

I asked DOE spokeswoman Meghan Frick about the contract earlier this week, given that it wasn’t clear yet if Georgia would even give the Milestones next spring.  She explained:

The State Board of Education initially had the routine renewal of the Georgia Milestones contract on its agenda for today. After the release of the Senate’s budget proposal for FY 21, we pulled the contract from consideration until after the FY 21 appropriations bill is approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. 

We intend to seek a waiver of federal assessment requirements for the 2020-21 school year, and are very hopeful the federal government will understand that this is not a typical school year and grant flexibility. With that said, the waiver will have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and we have to be prepared to administer the assessments required by federal law if they do not. If the board does approve a contract renewal with DRC at a later date, the final amount spent would only be for work completed. 

By the way, the bill to pare down the number of tests in Georgia is still alive and was debated Wednesday in the House Education Committee. The committee is supposed to return to Senate Bill 367 Friday.
The federal requirement calls for state tests in 17 subjects in various grades. Georgia gives 24 Milestones exams. The bill would eliminate five of them, four of which are taken in high school. Also on the list is the fifth grade social studies test.
There were a few sticking points during the House discussion. One was a provision in the bill removing the mandate that End of Course tests in high school count in final grades. The scores count 20% in final grades now.
Some lawmakers want to keep EOCs as part of the final grade, arguing that teens "need some skin in the game" to take the tests seriously.

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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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