Testing in Georgia on my mind (er, the chopping block)

Testing in Georgia on my mind (er, the chopping block)

By Dale Chu

In light of current events, it was bound to happen, but who knew it would happen so soon? Earlier today, Georgia became the first state to signal its intention to seek a federal waiver from 2021 testing requirements. In a joint announcement from Governor Brian Kemp and State Superintendent Richard Woods, the global pandemic is cited as an excuse to put tests on the chopping block because, “Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.” Never mind that the average testing price tag of $34 per student (with Georgia likely spending less than this) is a drop in the bucket in the over $10,000 annual per student spend in the state. The craven move by Kemp and Woods is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Without data from the Georgia Milestones assessment, the state is in essence giving up its ability to objectively measure the performance of Georgia students and schools, to say nothing of enabling research that supports student learning and school improvement. Perhaps more importantly, Georgia is forfeiting the power of annual tests to help level the playing fields between schools and the disparate populations they serve. It was one thing for Georgia to lose a year of state testing data. If they are allowed to do so for two consecutive years, one might as well consider this the end of statewide standardized testing as we know it.

Besides which, if the state was genuinely concerned about saving money where state tests are concerned, they wouldn’t have dropped out of PARCC back in 2013. As one of the lower-spending states in the now defunct consortium, Georgia was at the time spending a paltry $10.70 per student for ELA and math tests ($5.35 per student for each test).

As stunning as today’s announcement was, this isn’t the first time the duo has joined forces to take a swipe at testing for politically expedient reasons. Back in February, even before the coronavirus could be used as cover, state testing was already in their crosshairs. At a time when the projections of student learning loss post COVID look particularly dire, Georgia has inexplicably decided to raise the white flag when it comes to honestly understanding how well their students are faring. Indeed, Kemp and Woods write without irony, “The upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual.’” If their testing waiver is granted, the sentiment won’t be limited to just 2021; it will carry long-term ramifications for the integrity of Georgia’s school system and for the state’s children for years to come.

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