Georgia school superintendent: DeVos’ testing decision ‘a complete disconnect’ from reality

(The Center Square) – Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said he will develop an action plan to eliminate the pressure from standardized testing after the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) said it would not be granting testing waivers for the current school year.

Georgia was the first state to request a waiver for standardized tests, which are used to determine students’ academic position, after schools closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While DOE waived the tests for the 2019-2020 school year, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told state education leaders Thursday they should “not anticipate” the waivers being granted again.

Georgia was one of several states that applied for the 2020-2021 year.

“The data from assessments can help inform personalized support to children based on their individual needs and provide transparency about their progress,” DeVos wrote in a letter. “There is broad and consistent support for assessments because there is general agreement among the public that a student’s achievement should be measured.”

Woods said DeVos’ decision “shows a complete disconnect with the realities of the classroom.” He plans to follow federal law, but Woods will be removing some of the consequences for the standardized tests.

“To our districts, families, educators, and students: don’t worry about the tests,” Woods said Thursday. “Given the unique environment we are in, they are neither valid nor reliable measures of academic progress or achievement.”

Federal law requires students to take 17 high-stakes tests. Public school students in Georgia must take the tests before advancing to the next grade.

After a survey of teachers in 2015 found mandated tests contributed to high attrition rates among teachers, state lawmakers reduced the number of high-stakes tests required for students.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 364, which eliminated eight mandatory high-stakes tests. That same year, the state board of education eliminated end-of-course standardized assessments.

The General Assembly has continued to show bipartisan support for reducing standardized tests.

In July, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 367, which cut in half the number of high-stakes tests high school students must take before they graduate.

Still, DeVos said the assessments allow parents to see how their children and schools are performing.

DeVos cited a recent survey by the Data Quality Campaign that showed nearly 90 percent of parents said they wanted information about how school closures affected students. She also said 77 percent of parents agreed that states should continue administering the tests.

Woods said the picture is not the same in Georgia. 

According to the superintendent, 96 percent of the 98,000 Georgians who gave input on the waiver agreed with suspending the tests. 

“This announcement from [DOE] disregards their voices and input,” Woods said.

The article was published at Georgia school superintendent: DeVos’ testing decision ‘a complete disconnect’ from reality.

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