School leaders ask for options on testing mandates

SAT, ACT, ITBS results could be used for data under new legislation



FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Officials with the Fulton County School System are strongly supporting legislation which could help districts reduce the testing burden on students, and provide more choices beyond the state’s singular assessment – the Georgia Milestones tests.

Last month, Fulton Superintendent Jeff Rose and school board member Katie Reeves testified in front of the state Senate Education and Youth Committee on behalf of Senate Bill 211, which gives local systems more options in meeting testing mandates.

“We support accountability and the concept of testing when used appropriately. We believe testing is a valuable tool to learn where our students are academically and how much further they need to go for improvement,” Rose said during the Feb. 23 hearing.

The bill passed the Senate on Crossover Day, March 3, and is now under House consideration.

SB211 is sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and authorizes, among other things, the State Board of Education to conduct a review of state and nationally-recognized assessments. These include the SAT, ACT, Measures of Academic Progress, ACCUPLACER, 98 Stanford Achievement Test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

School systems with flexibility waivers, which include most systems, could then select approved assessments to meet state and federal mandates for student testing.

The bill states “the proposed solution shall provide for local school system the greatest extent permitted under federal law.”

During the committee hearing on SB211, Rose also urged lawmakers to allow systems options in how they assess student performance.

“Students and teachers throughout Georgia are overwhelmed by over-testing and the loss of instructional time. We advocate that assessments should be limited to only those required under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Rose.

ESSA, which was passed by Congress last year, significantly cuts the number of federally mandated assessments for students to only 17 assessments in core subject areas.

However Georgia continues to mandate students take 38 assessments each year, in addition to those mandated at the local level. These high stakes tests, which determine student promotion, final grades, as well as teacher evaluations, are part of the Georgia Milestones (End of Grade in grades 3-8 and End of Course in high school).

School leaders have also expressed concern the Milestones provide little useable data. The tests are given toward the end of the year for most systems, with results not returned in time to make adjustments for the current year.

For this reason, Fulton school leaders are asking for decision-making power in how to best meet the needs of their students.

“When passing ESSA, the new federal education law, Congress expressly wanted to return control and decision-making to the local boards of education across the country,” said Reeves, whose district includes Milton and Alpharetta.

“This bill would allow local districts in Georgia to determine the best assessment for their students. It would allow Georgia to live up to the true spirit of the law.”

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