Woods said any test results would lack validity as instruction was disrupted by the pandemic, which forced many students into virtual classes. Even students in Georgia districts that resumed in-person learning have experienced rolling closures of their schools due to COVID exposures and quarantines. “This unprecedented school year has been anything but traditional, and experts know tests cannot be completely redesigned and revamped overnight,” he said.
In its waiver application, state officials said some impacts of the pandemic have been “unavoidable.”
While the vast majority of Georgia schools are offering in-person instruction, students are dealing with the ongoing effects of a global crisis and the trauma of necessary but unprecedented isolation, they said.
Georgia’s waiver application also cites the risks of returning students, especially those who are medically fragile, to classrooms for testing.
Georgia already acted to mute the impact of the Milestones on student report cards; the state Board of Education in December agreed to eliminate the weight of Milestones scores on grades in the four high school courses where the tests are required.
Education advocates disagree on whether states ought to be required to test their students this year. While it made sense last year to cancel assessments, Khalilah Harris, acting vice president of K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress, says eliminating exams against this year poses risks to students who have been historically marginalized.
“Studies of local test results caution that millions of students who are especially vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 are missing from the data,” she said. “Now more than ever, we need to understand how students are performing against the common metric of state academic standards so that we may understand what schools and educators need to enhance and enrich their learning.”