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Fewer tests ahead for Georgia schools under legislature-backed bill
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

By Beau Evans

Capitol Beat News ServiceState Politics

Georgia students would have fewer standardized tests to submit to at the close of each school year under legislation that passed out of the General Assembly Thursday.

The change eliminates four year-end tests in high school and one in the third grade from the trove of assessments required annually for third graders through seniors in Georgia.

State school officials would decide which four tests should be eliminated for high schoolers. Third-grade students would not have to take a social studies assessment.

Senate Bill 367 cleared the state Senate by a unanimous vote after changes were made in the House late last week. It now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

The version of the bill that passed Thursday is scaled back from its original language, which aimed to give local school officials more leeway in deciding whether the tests should count toward students’ final grades and how to compare results to schools outside Georgia.

Year-end tests currently count for 20% of a student’s grade but members of the state Board of Education could move to revise that percentage if they wanted.

Under the bill, state education officials would be allowed to study whether some tests are redundant and if they could be eliminated. It would also require local school districts to compile data on how their students fared with the testing to compare performance with schools in other states.

Additionally, schools would have to administer tests within 25 days of the end of spring semester for elementary and middle school students, and on a date to be determined by the state Board of Education for high schoolers.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. P.K. Martin, came after many teachers and school professionals in Georgia urged the governor and state education officials for fewer tests.

Kemp made the bill by Martin, R-Lawrenceville, part of his agenda for the 2020 legislation session that wraps up this week. He has also pushed for rolling back some standardized tests overall in Georgia.

The governor has already taken steps to waive all tests for the upcoming school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. That decision first requires federal approval.

Martin said Thursday that his bill would “serve the students and teachers in the state very well.”

Some House lawmakers expressed skepticism about reducing year-end tests before voting to approve the measure. Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, worried fewer tests could dampen students’ motivation to score high marks.

“There’s a fine balance between accountability and just doing away with tests,” Nix said at a hearing last week.

But the measure drew support from teacher and school administration associations that have framed the large amount of annual testing as a burden for teachers and students.

Margaret Ciccarelli, legislative services director for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, touted how Georgia students churned out good work in recent months despite being forced to continue their studies remotely after classrooms shut down due to the virus. “I want to lift that up as a demonstration of commitment and accountability,” Ciccarelli said last