ATLANTA (AP) – State standardized tests do not count in the grades of public high school students in Georgia this year after members of the State Board of Education turned around and agreed Thursday with state regulator Richard Woods.
The board voted 10-3 Thursday to let the exam in algebra, American literature and composition, biology and American history count for 0.01% of a student’s total course grades. That is down from the normal 20% and the 10% that board members had proposed last month. Districts can still choose to count tests to a higher value.
Woods argued that because some districts started late and some students only received online tuition, it would be unfair to students to possibly lower their grades with a state exam. Because Georgia awards college-based HOPE scholarships, some students who see grades go down may lose scholarship money.
“The fact is, we’re in a pandemic and districts are struggling to provide regular instruction,” Woods told board members Thursday. “Our test and accountability tools are designed to measure a traditional instructional environment. Needless to say, this is not a traditional instructional environment. “
Because this is a change from the proposal the board made last month, there should be a new public comment period with the board again in December. Board members, however, generally agreed that they should stick to any decision made on Thursday, as some students will take the tests in December at the end of a semester’s courses.
Woods, an elected Republican, would not take tests at all this year, but U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she would not again waive federal test requirements. Deputy Superintendent Allison Timberlake said during the debate on Wednesday that Georgia could once again apply under incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden’s incumbent government not to give samples this spring.
“The Biden administration will hopefully be more receptive of all accounts to provide some flexibility with testing and accountability,” Timberlake said.
A minority of board members said that if the tests do not count for anything, the students do not test and the tests do not give any indication of what the students have learned. Board member Trey Allen of Martinez said he feared districts struggling the most would most likely reduce the value of the test to near zero.
“Information that comes from these tests, we really need,” said Marietta board member Scott Johnson. “Parents need this information. This department needs this information. “
One problem Woods cited was that students who took virtual classes to avoid coronavirus exposure might be required to appear in person for the proctored tests.
“It will force families who have chosen a virtual instructional option to send their child to school or take the academic consequences,” Woods said. “For medically fragile children, the decision may be more far-reaching.”
The debate on the issue in October revealed fundamental disagreements between the board and Woods over his efforts to dismantle Georgia’s system of classifying students, schools and teachers. Woods wants to cut sharply on state tests and get them to count for less, while board members appointed by previous government. Nathan Deal supports the system of responsibility that Republicans spent decades on.
Following this meeting, Woods conducted a non-scientific study that received 93,000 responses, with 86% of the responses supporting his position. A further 11.3% supported the board’s position, while the remaining 2.3% supported keeping the current 20% test weighting.
Woods proposed setting the value of the tests at 0.01% because state lawmakers earlier this year refused to let the value of the tests be lowered to zero.
With Woods’ backing, lawmakers earlier this year removed four high school tests and a middle school test previously required.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.