The size of the group, and the fact that state school board members only learned about it through a press release Monday, led to criticism at the monthly state school board meeting Thursday.
“The bigger the committee, the more likely the outcome is status quo,” said Mike Royal, chairman of the school board, which is appointed by the governor. He said committees this large are “usually a CYA committee,” and said the board would be forming its own task force.
Given the controversy surrounding tests, Woods said he wanted input from a lot of people before making changes. He also vowed to pursue alternative testing even if Georgia isn’t selected for the demonstration project, which could include federal dollars. Woods also committed about $100,000 in state Department of Education dollars to a grant program for school districts that want to experiment with testing, and said he might ask lawmakers for more money.
(A spokeswoman for Woods said the department was planning to apply for the federal demonstration project before the criticism from Deal, but she acknowledged that wasn't expressed as strongly as it could have been in the draft of the plan that went to him.)
The task force would be implementing the will of the Georgia General Assembly, which this year passed Senate Bill 211. It calls for a "research based formative assessment with a summative component" — education jargon for more frequent tests, like quizzes, that could be rolled into a final grade at year's end. Among the criticisms of standardized tests is that they take time away from teaching while offering little useful feedback for teachers, coming as they do at the end of a course.
Woods’ deputy superintendent over testing, Melissa Fincher, sized up the challenge of finding an alternative tool that can be used both to inform teachers and hold them accountable.
“I do not anticipate that everybody will be thrilled with whatever the outcome is,” she said.