It’s official: Feds waive Georgia Milestones

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
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

Georgia state school Superintendent Richard Woods had already postponed high-stakes testing indefinitely, but on Tuesday his office revealed that the 2020 tests will never have to be given.

The U.S. Department of Education approved his request to cut the current round of mandatory standardized state tests known as the Milestones.

Testing was to begin soon, but with the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has been inviting states to seek waivers. The exams are the core of the federal and state public school accountability system.

Georgia, like every state, has an agreement with the federal government to measure school performance. The agreement is manifested in a state law that mandates two dozen Milestones tests in English, math, science and social studies starting in third grade. That is seven more than the federal minimum, and lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp are trying to cut that back. (This year, Georgia lawmakers were voting on eliminating four of the Milestones tests in high school and one in elementary school, but they paused the legislative session for the public health emergency, leaving potential changes up in the air.)

Several weeks ago, Woods announced he was delaying testing but noted he lacked the authority to dismiss the tests altogether.

The new federal permission means the high school End of Course tests, the End of Grade tests for younger students and a host of other tests will not have to be given.

“No state testing — including Georgia Milestones EOGs and EOCs, GAA 2.0, and GKIDS — will be administered in Georgia for the rest of the school year,” the state education department said.

It also means there will be no school report cards for this year, since test scores comprise the majority of the results. The report cards, known as the College and Career Ready Performance Index, typically come out in the fall.

This doesn’t mean students will not be tested. All the big metro Atlanta school districts do their own testing throughout the school year to gauge whether students are on track. Many if not all of the rest of the districts in the state already have, or will have, similar local measures in place by the fall so they can determine which students need help catching up after months of school closures.

“Not having the state test doesn’t mean students won’t be assessed,” said Jason Miller, the superintendent of the Lee County School System near Albany in southwest Georgia. “It just won’t be to the level that it normally would be.”

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