Brian Kemp

Brian Kemp

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled legislation Tuesday, Feb. 4, that would reduce the number of standardized tests public school students must take in Georgia and untie the link between scores earned on those exams to their final grades.

The changes figure into the governor’s push to roll back some standardized tests instituted over the past decade, both at the federal and state levels.

Kemp’s announcement followed a series of meetings last fall with teachers who raised concerns over the rigor of the state’s standardized tests.

At a news conference , Feb. 4, Kemp said the testing changes aim to ease the amount stress put on students, teachers and parents. He said the tests do not best reflect student learning progress and place a “substantial burden” on teachers who already have heavy workloads.

“When you look at the big picture, it’s clear,” Kemp said. “Georgia just tests too much.”

Four tests would be yanked from the roster of exams Georgia high schoolers have to take. Another test in social studies would be nixed for fifth graders.

Tests to be eliminated would include American literature, geometry, physical science and economics.

Kemp’s legislation would also give the Georgia Board of Education “flexibility” to decide whether end-of-the-year exams would affect a student’s final grade in a course.

The tests would also have to be given sometime within the last five weeks of the school year instead of at any time, so that teachers can focus more on teaching class subjects rather than preparing for exams.

Additionally, the changes would include extending the amount of time high school students have to complete a required writing test, discontinue a practice of comparing Georgia’s testing standards with other states and let school districts abstain from “formative assessments” meant to see how much students learned in a school year.

Legislation to make the testing changes is being carried by Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman P.K. Martin IV, R-Lawrenceville.

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods fully backed the test trimming Feb. 4. He said the changes will free up time for teachers to dive more into subjects and avoid focusing on redundant material only for the sake of an end-of-year test.

“Our children remember our teachers,” Woods said. “They do not remember the tests that they took.”

Woods added after Tuesday’s (Feb. 4) news conference that he believes the lessened test load should not affect graduation requirements or lower graduation rates.

Kemp and Woods previously announced changes ending tests for the courses that gain college credits, including the state’s dual enrollment program and advanced-placement classes.

The legislation announced Tuesday (Feb. 4) also follows a bill filed in the 2020 legislative session that would put new restrictions on the state’s popular dual enrollment program by capping the number of course hours students could take for free. The legislation, House Bill 444, cleared the Senate floor the previous week.

Kemp is also pushing for a $2,000 salary raise for teachers, following up on a $3,000 raise lawmakers approved last year. Some influential lawmakers, however, have cast doubt on whether another teacher salary increase should be passed this year amid budget cuts Kemp has ordered for many state agencies.

Don Stilwell is editor for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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