Education

Education Department OK’s New Testing Pilots For Georgia Schools

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states can apply for waivers from federal standardized testing requirements.
As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states can apply for waivers from federal standardized testing requirements.
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The U.S. Education Department has approved two testing pilot programs some Georgia school districts will use.

The department OK’d the Georgia MAP Partnership and the Putnam County Consortium. They each include 10 school districts. The idea is to give smaller tests throughout the year as opposed to one big high-stakes assessment at the end of a year or course.

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states can apply for waivers from federal standardized testing requirements. Currently, states are required to test students in grades 3-8 once each year in English/Language Arts and math and once in high school. Schools also have to test students in science once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. The waiver program, called the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), requires applicants to outline alternative testing plans that would provide the same information as yearly assessments.

The U.S. Education Department didn’t approve the Cobb County School District’s assessment model. Cobb developed its own program called Cobb Teaching and Learning System. It’s a digital system where teachers can create tests through a shared database of approved questions. They can also record students’ grades and track other metrics, like which questions kids most often miss.

In a letter addressed to State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, the education department said Cobb’s model “doesn’t meet a significant number of the requirements and selection criteria for IADA.” The department expressed concerns about implementing Cobb’s model across the state. The letter said Cobb can address the department’s concerns and reapply in the future.

The education department also approved North Carolina’s alternative assessment program.

“I’m pleased that Georgia and North Carolina are rethinking how to assess student achievement in ways that are more relevant and connected to the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “This pilot program gives states that are willing to try a new approach an opportunity to assess student achievement without sacrificing rigor or skirting accountability.”

Louisiana and New Hampshire are the only other states that have been granted flexibility as part of IADA so far.