School chief didn’t want Milestones scores to count. State board disagreed.

In a split vote today (8-4 with some members not present), the State Board of Education voted to reject State School Superintendent Richard Woods' recommendation that the EOC 20% course grade weight be lowered to 0.01% for the 2020-2021 school year.
In a split vote today (8-4 with some members not present), the State Board of Education voted to reject State School Superintendent Richard Woods' recommendation that the EOC 20% course grade weight be lowered to 0.01% for the 2020-2021 school year.

Board lowered weight, but refused to eliminate score from a student’s final grade as urged by superintendent

In a setback for Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods and a likely disappointment for teachers, parents and students, the state Board of Education voted today to retain end of course test scores as part of final grades. The board reduced the weight of the scores, but not to the near zero that Woods wanted.

“While I respect each member of the State Board of Education, I strongly disagree with the majority’s decision in this matter,” said Woods in a statement this afternoon after the board voted down his recommendation.

The test score now counts 20% toward a student’s grade in core high school courses; the state board lowered that to 10%, still much higher than the 0.01% -- essentially zero -- that Woods sought in response of the challenges facing schools this year from COVID-19 disruptions and delays. High school students in Georgia take end of course tests in math, social studies, science and English.

When I wrote about this a few weeks ago, several teachers said students would not take the end of course tests seriously if the weight was removed. The fact scores influenced final grades made the test matter to students. If the scores didn’t count, the teachers said there was no real reason to waste time giving the tests.

I would love to know what other teachers have to say about that position, which was clearly the one state school board members took today.

Woods requested a waiver from federal resting requirements for the 2020-2021 school year, but U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated a few weeks ago she opposed any more test relief. She sent a strong letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers saying that, while she exempted states from testing mandates in the spring, she did not intend to do so this year.

In her letter, DeVos said, “Make no mistake. If we fail to assess students, it will have a lasting effect for years to come. Not only will vulnerable students fall behind, but we will be abandoning the important, bipartisan reforms of the past two decades at a critical moment.”

Unhappy with the secretary’s stance, Woods said last month. “Georgia will abide by federal law, but we are not going to layer additional stress and burden onto our students and teachers during this time. In this environment, these tests are not valid or reliable measures of academic progress or achievement, and we are taking all possible steps at the state level to reduce their high-stakes impact.”

The state board apparently did not agree with going as far as Woods wanted to blunt that impact.

The Georgia Department of Education released this statement:

In a split vote today (8-4 with some members not present), the State Board of Education voted to reject State School Superintendent Richard Woods' recommendation that the EOC 20% course grade weight be lowered to 0.01% for the 2020-2021 school year.

The State Board has proposed a 10% course weight for the 2020-21 school year; this proposal will be posted for public comment and that information will be shared as soon as it is available.

“Similar to the federal directive to administer standardized tests in the middle of a pandemic, insisting on high-stakes consequences for those tests is unreasonable and insensitive to the realities of the classroom,” said Woods. "I am confident our high-school students whose GPAs and scholarships are riding on this decision would agree that a 10% weight is still high-stakes. I encourage all Georgians, whether they agree or disagree with my view, to provide their feedback through the public-comment process and let their voice be heard.”

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