Legislation on school tests, teacher evaluations reaches state House

A bill by the Georgia Senate that decreases the state’s emphasis on annual testing in schools got a hearing in the House of Representatives Wednesday, after passing the Senate by a unanimous vote last week.

Senate Bill 364 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, reduces the weight of student “growth” in teacher evaluations to 30 percent from the more than 50 percent required under current law. It allows some of the growth measure to be replaced with something besides test results, and it reduces the number of state-mandated tests. It also sharpens the focus on younger students, introducing tests in reading and math in first and second grades.

Parents and school officials testified for the bill in the Senate last month, but the only testimony in the House Education committee hearing Wednesday came from Tippins and from state Superintendent Richard Woods.

Many of the committee’s questions involved the local tests currently required in courses for which there is no state standardized test. What would replace these “Student Learning Objectives” that each school district designs for classes such as art or physical education, members of the House committee wanted to know.

Tippins said his focus was on core subjects, such as reading and math, which are tested by the Georgia Milestones. His legislation would leave it up to school districts to determine how to evaluate student growth in non-core subjects.

“If people talk about deficiencies in education, they’re not talking about art, music and PE,” he said.

Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, a member of the committee through which the bill must pass, asked why Tippins set the student performance measure at 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Tippins said there was no compelling research that led him to that number. Some wanted it lower, he said. “I do feel like it has be enough to be meaningful.”

Committee chairman Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, said he’ll hold another hearing, this time with testimony from the audience, at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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