End-of-course test scores will not influence high school grades this year

December 15, 2020 Atlanta -  Renee O'Connor, holds a sign during a protest to urge a stop of standardized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, at Liberty Plaza in Atlanta on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
December 15, 2020 Atlanta - Renee O'Connor, holds a sign during a protest to urge a stop of standardized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, at Liberty Plaza in Atlanta on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia state school board votes to support superintendent’s recommendation to render tests toothless

This news should ease the minds of many high school students and teachers: The State Board of Education today voted unanimously to approve State School Superintendent Richard Woods’ recommendation of a .01% course grade weight for this year’s Georgia Milestones end-of-course exams.

The school board initially balked at Woods’ recommendation to dilute the impact of the Georgia Milestones, which normally count for a fifth of the grades in core high school courses. Some board members contended students would not take the tests seriously if the scores had no impact on their grades.

But that position provoked teachers and parents to urge the board to reconsider, saying that holding students accountable for a high-stakes exam amid the COVID disruptions was unfair and added stress to an already difficult year. Students must take the Georgia Milestones as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos refused to waive the federal requirement for high-stakes exams.

Last month, the state board changed course and granted preliminary approval to essentially eliminating the weight of Milestones scores on grades in the four high school courses where the tests will be given. Today’s vote made it official.

In a statement, DOE said:

Given the impact of the pandemic and the clear need for students and teachers to have the flexibility to focus on learning and remediation – rather than end-of-year, high-stakes tests – the Georgia Department of Education applied for a waiver of federal standardized testing requirements for the 2020-21 school year. When that waiver was denied by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Superintendent Woods made a series of recommendations to reduce the high-stakes impact of the test, including the .01% recommendation for high-school EOCs, waiving the summative TKES evaluation for teachers, and removing Georgia Milestones EOGs from consideration in promotion/retention decisions.

Today’s vote means students’ course grades will not be negatively impacted by their score on the Georgia Milestones EOC. Even for exams already administered this fall, school districts may recalculate course grades with the .01% weight.

“I wish to thank the State Board of Education for their unanimous support of this proposal,” Superintendent Woods said. “I firmly believe this is the right thing for kids – we must ensure students and teachers are not penalized for circumstances beyond their control.”

The .01% recommendation was supported by large majorities of Georgians in public comment: in a survey with 93,079 responses, 86.31% said the weight should be .01%, 11.35% said it should be 10%, and 2.34% said it should be 20%.

Other states have followed the same lead, taking steps to reduce the high-stakes consequences of tests for students – including South Carolina, where a similar 20% requirement has been waived. And the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) made the decision to suspend NAEP testing – known as the “Nation’s Report Card” – for the 2020-21 school year.

“I continue to believe, and we continue to see indicators, that Georgia’s commitment to compassion over compliance from the onset of this pandemic has been the right path to take,” Superintendent Woods said. “As I’ve said since the beginning, who we are will be measured not by a test score, but by how we meet this moment, which is why we plan to resubmit our request for federal testing and accountability waivers to the U.S. Department of Education.”

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