Standardized test scores could be mostly erased from Ga. high schools during pandemic

Georgia could drastically reduce the effect of the End of Course Milestones tests on student grades during the COVID-19 pandemic. AJC FILE

After losing his bid to waive the mandatory standardized state tests known as the Milestones this school year, Georgia’s top education leader is trying to diminish their relevance.

Normally, the tests count for a fifth of high school students' grades, but State school Superintendent Richard Woods will ask the state Board of Education next week to reduce that multiplier to near zero.

In early September, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she was unlikely to grant states another waiver from federally-mandated standardized tests. In a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, she said states should not anticipate another pass on testing like they got last spring as schools reeled from the coronavirus. The word “not” was underlined.

Her decision this time provoked a prickly reaction from Woods, who said it “shows a complete disconnect” from the reality of schooling during a pandemic.

Last spring, Woods had successfully petitioned DeVos to waive the requirement to give Georgia’s Milestones tests at the end of the 2019-20 school year, and he was joined by Gov. Brian Kemp when he subsequently requested another waiver for this school year.

After the DeVos’ September announcement that the next round of tests will likely have to be given, Woods said he planned “to reduce the pressure” of the tests and “take the high-stakes power of the tests away.”

His latest move, which appears as a rule amendment on the agenda of the state school board for its Oct. 1 meeting, appears to do just that. The end of course tests, given at the end of each semester or school year for “core” high school subjects like English and math, normally count for 20% of the course grade. The rule amendment would cut that weighting dramatically.

“It is recommended that the rule be amended to provide that the EOC percentage weight to be included in a student’s final grade in the course assessed by the Georgia Milestones EOC be reduced to .01% for the 2020-2021 school year,” the agenda item says.

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