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Georgia school chief pitches plan to slice away year-end tests

Georgia public school officials have released a plan calling for the number of year-end tests required for the state’s K-12 students to be drastically reduced and replaced with assessments and coursework tailored more to individual students.

Called “A Roadmap to Reimagining K-12 Education,” the eight-page plan outlines broad steps officials want to take to shrink the importance of standardized tests, give local school districts flexibility over evaluating student and teacher performance and free up money for technology and internet access.

Specifically, the plan proposes lobbying for changes to federal law that would allow schools to adopt “grade-band testing” in which students take year-end tests only in the 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades, as well as only once in high school. That would round out to fewer than a dozen tests overall, according to the plan. The staggered testing schedule would create “off years” in which students would be graded based on separate metrics that are not the typical high-stakes tests. Teachers would have more time to focus on making sure students learn the material, rather than worrying about preparing for tests.

“We cannot return to the status quo of over-testing and hyper-accountability,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “We must reimagine what our education system can and must become.”

The plan’s release follows a push by Woods to scrap year-end tests entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that federal education officials denied last month and which the state Board of Education balked at implementing on their own earlier this month.

Many of the plan’s goals would likely require approval from the federal government and state lawmakers, such as a proposal to make the Teacher of the Year an ex-officio member of the state education board.

Approval from state lawmakers would likely also be needed to implement funding proposals such as boosting money for transportation and allowing local sales-tax revenues to be used for purchasing electronic devices for online learning.

But other ideas could potentially be accomplished by school officials without need for oversight approval, such as a proposal to have every student graduate with advancedplacement, dual-enrollment or career credits.

The plan follows up on legislation passed and signed into law this year that eliminated five year-end tests for Georgia students and largely aligns with Gov. Brian Kemp’s push to deemphasize high-stakes standardized testing.

“Building on a moment that showed the best of who we are as Georgians, and on the work of the past several years, now is the time to cast a clear vision of what our education system can be – and how our children’s futures can unfold,” Woods said.

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