Georgia high school students to take fewer Milestones tests; 4 cut by state board

High school students will see fewer Georgia Milestones tests this school year now that the Georgia Board of Education has picked four for elimination.

Senate Bill 367, adopted unanimously by the Georgia General Assembly this year, eliminated the fifth-grade social studies test and four high school tests for math, science, social studies and language arts. Georgia had two tests for each of those high school subjects, and the legislation required the state education board to eliminate one per subject.

On Thursday, the board cut geometry, ninth-grade literature and composition, physical science and the exam for economics, business and free enterprise. High school students will now take only the state standardized tests for Algebra, American literature and composition, biology and U.S. history.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office called the board’s action “a measured step forward to remove unnecessary burdens in the classroom,” and school board member Mike Royal said, “This is awesome.”

SB 367, which was backed by Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods, requires that tests in elementary and middle school be given within 25 school days of summer break since learning in some classrooms often ends after spring testing.

It also requires the Georgia Department of Education to publish an annual report that compares the academic performance of students in Georgia against that of students in other states.

Nineteen Milestones tests remain — two more than the federal government requires. Those extra tests are for eighth-grade Georgia history and the high school U.S. history course that the board kept.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education allowed Georgia and other states to skip high-stakes tests last spring despite their federally mandated role as a school and teacher performance measure. Kemp and Woods want another federal waiver for the current school year. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who visited a high school in Forsyth County Tuesday, has not ruled on their request.

So the testing cutbacks may not matter until next school year. Even so, the reduction will likely please teachers and school administrators who complained about the tests when Kemp visited with them during his travels across the state last year.

In other state school news, Kemp’s office told the Associated Press that he is still considering whether to declare teachers essential workers who would not have to quarantine if exposed to the coronavirus. Most local superintendents want this because extended quarantines could lead to teacher shortages, but teacher groups have opposed them or said quarantining should be a teacher’s choice.