House committee approves bill slashing number of state tests

The bill eliminates five Milestones exams, including fifth grade social studies

The House Education Committee canceled its 2:30 p.m. meeting Friday where it was supposed to discuss a bill eliminating five standardized state tests but then rescheduled it for 4 p.m. -- with a 10-minute notice.

And that's also about how long the meeting lasted. The only agenda item was the testing bill, Senate Bill 367, which easily passed after a brief summation by the committee chair. Changes to the bill were minor.

To recap how the bill affects the Georgia Milestones exams, which are administered annually:

Eliminates one elementary school test, the 5th grade social studies test.

Reduce Milestones tests in high school to four from eight. (One each in math, science, social studies and language arts.)

Gives the state Board of Education control over whether end of course tests count toward a high school student's final grade in a subject, stating: "The State Board of Education shall adopt rules and regulations requiring the results of core subject end-of-course assessments to be included as a factor in a student's final grade in the core subject course for which the end-of-course assessment is given."

Sets a testing window designed to maximize classroom instruction time by stating: "Local school systems shall administer the state required end-of-grade assessments for grades three through eight within 25 school days of the school system's last school day of the regular school year. The state required end-of-course assessments for grades nine through 12 shall be administered on dates set by the Department of Education."

Encourages districts to develop and implement formative assessments programs in reading and mathematics for kindergarten through fifth to ensure that students entering sixth grade are on track to meet grade-level expectations.

What the bill doesn’t do that was part of the original version: Jettison the requirement Milestones include norm-referenced questions to permit performance of Georgia students to be compared to other states. The bill requires: “The Department of Education shall annually publish a report of aggregated data from local schools and local school systems that compares performance to other states using data from such features.”

Georgia requires seven more tests than the 17-test minimum set by the federal government for accountability compliance.  If it passes, Georgia will administer 19 Milestones tests each year, down from the current 24.

In a listening tour last year, Gov. Brian Kemp was apparently persuaded by educator testimony that Georgia over-tests students and wastes too much instructional time doing so.

SB 367, sponsored by Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, chair of Senate Education and Youth Committee, is an outgrowth of the listening tour. State Superintendent Richard Woods and teacher groups support the bill.

SB 367 goes next to House Rules to endorse for a vote in the full House, where it is expected to pass.

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