Georgia’s 2020-2021 Testing Policy Changes

Students+taking+a+test.+Courtesy+of+US+News.

Students taking a test. Courtesy of US News.

In the past two weeks, Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods announced three new testing and grade weighting policy change actions for the 2020-2021 K-12 school year to ease standardized testing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

During this pandemic, many schools in Georgia are being faced with the decision of how they should continue with normal standardized testing. This issue is complicated by the fact that some teachers are teaching fully digital classes, while others are teaching hybrid classes (both in-person and digital). In early September, the U.S Department of Education released a letter on standardized testing, warning states to not expect waivers this year.

In the letter, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reasoned that standardized testing was a reliable and widely supported measure for understanding children’s performance in school and can advise personalized support for every child’s’ needs. Thus, with this reasoning, DeVos announced in the same letter that “states will . . . administer summative assessments during the 2020-2021 school year, consistent with the requirements of the law.”

In response to DeVos’ letter, according to the Valdosta Daily Times article, Dr. Woods, the George Superintendent, states, “Georgia will abide by federal law, but we are not going to layer additional stress and burden onto our students and teachers during this time…In this environment, these tests are not valid or reliable measures of academic progress or achievement.” Because of this, Woods believes the state must ease the burden of testing on students through three new policy changes to Georgia’s testing and weight grading standards:

     1. Lowering the 20% EOC course grade weight to 10%. 

At the Oct. 1 State Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Woods originally recommended that the current EOC 20% course grade weight be lowered to 0.01% (essentially zero). In an 8-4 vote, the State Board rejected Woods’s proposal and have since agreed to lower the EOC grade weight to 10% instead.

     2. Waiving promotion/retention consequences tied to Georgia Milestones. 

Student promotion/retention decisions will not be based on the 2020-2021 Georgia Milestones tests but other factors such as input from teachers and parents, placement committees, class performance, and other formative tools.

     3. Providing flexible options for administering the 2020 winter End-of-Course assessments. 

Districts will be given flexibility for assessing students during the winter mid-month or spring administration windows. Districts can also request extending their local testing window later in the school day to include afternoon and evening testing sessions and/or utilize a compressed testing schedule due to the updated Georgia Milestones test design, which includes a significant decrease in student testing time.

Some students like Tina Dong, a junior at Parkview High School who will be required to take the EOC for American Literature and US History, feels that these policy changes will be extremely helpful to her during stressful periods of balancing both digital learning with testing. 

When asked about whether or not she agreed with DeVos’ announcement and reasoning, Tina disagreed, “It’s obvious that our situation is very different than it was in previous years… It’s very difficult for many students, including me, to absorb the information that we’re being taught, especially when we’re stuck behind a screen, I think [Woods’ testing/grade weight policy changes] was a good call and one that needed to be made to accommodate these new conditions that we’ve been placed under.”

On the other hand, though she agreed in large part with Tina’s reasoning, Gabriela Casanova had a slightly different opinion.  Gabriela is a 9th grader at Parkview High School who will also be required to take the EOC. When asked on whether or not she would actually try on the exam if the grade weight was potentially zero, she stated, “I would personally, because I’m that type of person, but as speaking for my peers, not really…” That’s why she thinks “the EOC should be a little higher than zero.” 

Additionally, Gabriela said that she agreed with DeVos’ statements that tests were good measures for understanding children’s performance in school.

“It helps us [see] where some kids fall during these situations and where you can help them. I am kinda for the tests where it can be seen as data and not really graded and go against the students…” She hopes they can review “and see what they can work on next year. ” 

Regardless of opinions, as with many other events that have transpired this year, uncertainty clouds the air. For now though, as we continue forward through the school year, it’s only a matter of time before we can say for certain whether these policy changes were necessary or not.

 

Special Note: Interview responses were given before the EOC grade weight change proposal was given at the Oct. 1 State Board of Education meeting.