By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA - Legislation to reduce the number of standardized tests public school students must take in Georgia advanced in the state Senate on Monday.
Senate Bill 367, which would nix five tests and give the state Department of Education more leeway on how and when to administer two dozen other tests, passed unanimously out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
Under the bill, four tests would be yanked from the roster of exams Georgia high schoolers would 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.
The bill’s sponsor, Education Committee Chairman P.K. Martin, said end-of-year testing in Georgia has grown too rigorous.
“The testing has been too much,” said Martin, R-Lawrenceville.
Representatives from several teachers’ groups voiced support for the bill at Monday’s committee hearing, including the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE).
They highlighted how easing test requirements would help relieve stress on both students and teachers.
“We test our kids to death,” GAE President Charlotte Booker said. “There comes a time when we have to say enough is enough.”
Besides fewer tests, the legislation would require the remaining tests to be given within 25 days of the school year’s end instead of at any time, so that teachers could focus more on teaching class subjects rather than preparing for exams.
Additionally, the changes would allow school districts discontinue a practice comparing Georgia’s testing standards with other states, and let them abstain from “formative assessments” meant to see how much students learned in a school year.
Amid an outpouring of support from local educators, the bill prompted Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks to call for a deeper probe of how to tighten Georgia’s standardized testing regimen.
“I don’t know that it will be the best for education,” Wilbanks said. “But I think it will make a lot of people who are in education happy.”
The bill has backing from both Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods.
Kemp has made rolling back some standardized tests in Georgia a key component of changes he wants to see for the state’s public schools.
The governor has pushed for new restrictions for the popular dual enrollment college credit program and a $2,000 salary raise for teachers, following a $3,000 raise lawmakers approved last year.
Woods, meanwhile, said fewer tests and other changes outlined in the bill would make for a more accurate assessment of what students have learned over the past year.
“We are not getting rid of tests,” Woods told committee lawmakers Monday. “I think we are testing smarter instead of harder.”