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School test legislation passes Georgia Senate

Legislation that could someday reduce the number of state standardized tests that some students must take was approved by the Georgia Senate Friday.

Senate Bill 211 by Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, requires the Georgia Board of Education to determine whether nationally-recognized tests that students are taking in addition to the mandatory state standardized End of Course Tests, such as the SAT and ACT, measure learning of the same content as the state’s tests.

The legislation, which now heads to the House of Representatives, also requires the state education board to create tests for first and second grade students that produce “real-time data analysis” throughout the year, so schools can track each student’s progress and place them into “flexible” groups based on “skill level.”

Teachers and school leaders complain that the state’s current standardized tests, the Milestones for younger students and the End of Course Tests for high school students, produce results that cannot be used to target their teaching because the tests are given after the course. Some school districts pay for private testing throughout the school year to get a better grasp on what their students know and are learning.

First and second grade students are not subject to the Milestones, but Tippins said his goal is to find tests for them that could be adapted for older students if Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump give states more freedom with testing.

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Under current federal law, students in third through eighth grade must take a standardized test, but the new U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has said she wants to give states more control over education, and Congress is moving in that direction. This week, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, introduced a measure that would give states more freedom over testing and other “accountability” issues.

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