The state released results of the 2017 Georgia Milestones tests, and Cobb County saw about half its third, fifth and eighth graders on average scoring at proficient or advanced levels. (AJC File.)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia seeks waiver of Milestones tests again next school year

Gov. Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods are asking the federal government to waive the public school testing requirement for another school year.

“Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year,” the two said in a joint statement issued this morning. 

The state will submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education for the suspension of the 2020-21 Georgia Milestones tests, they said. They will also seek to waive the mandate for a school report card based on those tests, which Georgia calls the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Georgia appears to be the first state to make this announcement, they said.

The tests are the only statewide measure of student, teacher and school performance, and are required by federal and state law for accountability. Public schools are an essential service that consumes billions in tax dollars in Georgia alone.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos granted waivers for testing this spring after the coronavirus pandemic led to school closures across the country. All public schools in Georgia shuttered their buildings in March, most of them voluntarily but some following an order by Kemp.

The resulting “remote” learning was unsatisfactory for many parents, and some schools weren’t prepared for online learning over such a long period.

It is unclear whether or how much students fell behind. Educators note that the pandemic hit just as schools were finishing new material, and shifting to review before the tests.

This fall will be different, as students start learning the standards for their new grade level.


>>Should the Milestones tests be canceled? For some, they are a burden, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. For others, they are an essential measure of student, teacher and school performance that hold educators accountable. Let us know how you feel about it at CoronavirusEducation@ajc.com


February 28, 2020 - Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp addressed the newly formed Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force. State School Superintendent Richard Woods is seated second from left. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Schools are planning for reopening in the fall, but the costs to do so safely during a pandemic could be substantial. Meanwhile, the state Senate Appropriations Committee passed a new budget proposal Wednesday that reflects the economic impact of the pandemic with $1 billion in cuts to k-12 school funding.

Schools across the state are looking at the possibility of teacher furloughs and other cutbacks while trying to figure out how to cover the costs of schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be money spent on more busing, technology, disinfectant, hand sanitzer and masks, among other things.

>> RELATED | State releases guidance for how Georgia schools should open the fall

“Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom,” Kemp and Woods wrote. 

The Georgia Board of Education was prepared to consider renewal of the state’s $24.4 million contract with testing vendor Data Recognition Corp at a meeting today. But that item was pulled from the board’s agenda due to uncertainty about the state budget.

The Senate proposal slashes the budget for testing in half. 

Students board a bus at Burnette Elementary School in Suwanee on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Also on the school board agenda are two money-saving items. One would allow for shorter school days and for fewer of them. The other would strike the cap on class sizes.

Those waivers are needed “as a result of the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 and the downturn in the economy,” the item says.
“We are hopeful the federal government will recognize that the upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual’ and will accept our request for a standardized testing waiver,” Kemp and Woods wrote.

The two wrote that, effective immediately, the Georgia Department of Education is suspending the teacher evaluation rating system for the upcoming school year. The system is based on test results, attendance and classroom observation by administrators.

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