More lawmakers tackle testing in teacher evaluations

The use of student test results to grade teachers has garnered more attention from Georgia lawmakers, with the filing of a third bill seeking to diminish the role of tests.

Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, filed House Bill 1061 Friday. It seeks to reduce the weight of test results in teacher evaluations to 30 percent of teachers' job review. Currently, tests must count for at least half.

Many teachers say they cannot control test results and over reliance on them is driving them out of the profession. Testing proponents counter that tests are an objective measure needed to hold teachers accountable for student academic growth.

The proposed weighting by Dickson, a retired superintendent, is similar to the weighting proposed by Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, chairman of the Senate Education and Youth committee. A second, brief hearing on Tippins' bill, Senate Bill 364, occurred Friday, when it passed unanimously out of his committee with minor changes for clarity.

Tippins’ bill will go to the Senate Rules Committee, where members can vote to send it to the full Senate for debate and a vote. If the Senate passes the bill, it will go to the state House of Representatives.

A similar bill, by Sen. William T. Ligon, Jr., R-Brunswick, would reduce the weight of tests to 10 percent. Senate Bill 355 must go through Tippins' committee, and has not been scheduled for a hearing.

The proposal from Ligon, the majority caucus chairman, differs significantly from the other two in that it guarantees a right for parents to opt their children out of testing. Tippins’ bill reduces the number of tests. Dickson’s bill does not address the amount of testing.

Teachers have reached boiling point over tests and the evaluations based on them. Forty-four percent of teachers quit in their first five years on the job, and a Georgia Department of Education teacher survey released this year with more than 53,000 respondents chiefly blamed over-testing and the use of the results in evaluations.

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