Senate passes legislation to end high-stakes standardized tests

Casey Cagle

The Georgia Senate passed legislation to move school systems away from high stakes standardized tests and toward locally designed assessments Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Casey’s office proclaimed that “Georgia will stop teaching to the test” after Senate Bill 362 passed. The bill is designed to have 10 school districts around the state serve as pilots for a statewide program that would let districts use local decision-making and formative assessments instead of high-stakes standardized tests.

It must be passed by the House of Representatives by the end of this year’s legislative session, however, to have a shot at being signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.

“Freeing our educators to focus on individual students instead of teaching to the test will allow us to transform our schools into engines of economic opportunity that prepare every student for a rewarding career,” Cagle said in a statement.

The bill, which Cagle is championing, stands out not only because of the changes it would bring to education in Georgia but also because it comes in an election year that sees the lieutenant governor running for a higher office.

The lieutenant governor focused on the education aspect though.

Standardized testing and curriculums, as well as the high stakes involved with the tests, is a controversial subject in education circles. In the past, for example, it has come up in light of test cheating scandals and during the debate over Common Core.

Cagle said the bill would restore some freedom to classrooms.

“This legislation will make the state of Georgia a national leader in eliminating high-stakes testing, and we will continue to push for greater freedom and flexibility to ensure that our schools prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to be professionally successful,” he said.

If the legislation becomes law, educators would be directed to accept individual accountability for student success, but they would not have to use a single standardized test to measure that success. Teachers would be allowed to use individualized learning plans that Cagle’s office said would show how students are being educated.

New research-based formative assessments with summative components, similar to the SAT, ACT and Accuplacer, would be used instead of standardized tests.

The pilot districts for this program would be chosen by the State Board of Education through a competitive process based on criteria set by the board.

“I’m excited for the future successes our school systems will experience when given true freedom from high-stakes testing and flexibility to adapt their curriculum and lesson plans to the needs of individual students,” Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins said in a statement.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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