Education

Ga. Republicans, D.C. Democrats Reevaluating School Testing

Democrats and Republicans may agree on the state of school testing.
Democrats and Republicans may agree on the state of school testing.
Credit Judy Baxter / flickr.com/judybaxter

It looks like there could be one area where Democrats and Republicans agree these days: school testing. Members of both parties say kids could be taking too many exams.

Last month, the Georgia Department of Education, led by Republican Superintendent Richard Woods, launched a statewide audit to see if children are over-tested.

Over the weekend, the Obama administration hinted at the same idea when it released a Testing Action Plan to help schools reduce the number of tests they give. President Obama even posted a video on Facebook decrying the national focus on high-stakes testing.

“Our kids should only take tests that are worth taking, tests that are high-quality, aimed at good instruction and make sure everybody’s on track,” the president said.

So, does that mean Georgia Republicans and D.C. Democrats may have found some common ground?

“Well, on the surface, yes it does,” Woods said. “I guess the devil’s in the details.”

Woods says he’s encouraged by the Education Department’s guidelines, which focus on high-quality tests and spending less time on test preparation.

“I’d prefer more of a diagnostic approach, which would be offered in smaller increments, in smaller tests during the course of the year,” he said.

The plan also encourages school districts to relax the rules around teacher evaluations, which in many states are now tied to students’ test scores. Woods said that has always concerned him. 

Craig Harper, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, says test scores don’t necessarily reflect a teacher’s effort with his or her students.

“It doesn’t take into account all the other factors that go into a student’s achievement,” he said. “It’s much broader than one teacher, one classroom. To use a single test to tie to a teacher’s performance is misguided.”

Before opting in to the federal plan, Superintendent Woods says his department will fully review it.