09. Student Testing

Testing of students has occurred throughout the history of public education.
Testing provides valuable information to teachers on how well students are mastering the curriculum and what adjustments need to be made in lesson planning.
In recent years, however, politicians have used testing as the only measure of student achievement.
GAE believes that test results are an important component of the accountability process.
However, the professional opinion of the teacher concerning the student’s progress must be encouraged and respected.
High stakes test results should not be the only measurement of student progress, promotion, and the grading of schools.

GAE has many concerns regarding state and federal testing requirements.
Our Association has voiced those concerns, criticisms, and suggestions for improvement to decision-makers for many years.
During the 2000 legislative session regarding the Education Reform Act GAE stated, “The language regarding low performing schools is punitive and needs to be corrective.
We must begin by making low performing schools a high priority by providing the assistance and support needed for success.
Additional resources should be allocated enabling the addition of staff, lower class sizes, purchasing additional learning materials, and providing individualized learning opportunities.
Master teachers should be identified and provided incentives to teach in high priority schools.
Teachers, ESP, specialists, and the principal must have authority to make decisions to address problems and improve instructional needs.
Most of all, the staff must believe that support is available without fear of reprisal.
Every child can learn; however too often students do not arrive at the same learning level.
Therefore, we need to add programs to address the need(s) of each student.
A glaring missing piece of Georgia’s accountability law is the responsibility of the parent or guardian.
Children who are absent, neglected, abused, or hungry do not learn well.
One size does not fit all.”

A report issued by the Coalition for Authentic Reform of Education (CARE) stated, “The original intent of the Education Reform Act was to foster both excellence and equity.
The Act’s accountability system was intended to assist schools in creating high quality learning opportunities for all students, to hold schools responsible for high quality schooling, and to assess students’ mastery of core knowledge, skills, and habits of mind.
However, the reform is being used for high stakes decisions – no one test should be the sole determinant to decide whether a student graduates from high school.
Rather than raising achievement for all students, this narrow approach to accountability will increase the gap in opportunity and performance between groups of students while also resulting in higher grade retention and dropouts.”

An article on K-12 testing entitled “The Value of Formative Assessment,” published in 1998-99 stated, “The current wave of test-based “accountability” makes it seem as though all assessment could be reduced to “tough tests” attached to high stakes.
The assumption, fundamentally unproven, is that such tests produce real improvements in student learning better than do other educational methods.
Summative assessments, like the end of course exam, are not designed to provide the immediate, contextual feedback useful for helping the teacher and student during the learning process.”

Georgia’s Education Reform Act of 2000 grades schools on two levels – absolute test scores and progress.
Test scores should be only one measure of student achievement.
The teacher’s assessment cannot be overlooked.
GAE opposes emphasizing test scores to the point that teachers are encouraged to teach to the test and the curriculum suffers.
Teachers need increased professional development opportunities in understanding how tests are developed and how to prepare students for the test. GAE believes that the worst-case scenario is for test scores to be used by politicians as a political tool instead of a corrective measure.

Passage of the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) by Congress requires continual use of assessments.
The Georgia accountability plan, approved by the U.S. Department of Education on May 19, 2003, outlines steps to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements.
Statewide assessments include: Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in reading, English, language arts, and math; the Georgia Alternative Assessment (GAA); and the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) in English/language arts and math.
Assessment results for the 2002-03 CRCT in grades 4, 6, and 8 and the GHSGT in grade 11 will be used for AYP purposes.
Thereafter, assessment results for the CRCT in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and a revised state accountability assessment system for high school that is in full compliance with federal requirements for NCLB and state law will be used for AYP purposes.

Test scores should be used by educators to measure how well children are achieving the curriculum and what adjustments must be made.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s four education reform laws as well as NCLB mandate decision- making from the top down instead of empowering educators to make classroom instructional and management decisions.

Georgia can learn a valuable lesson from the Texas education reform movement.
In Texas test scores are overemphasized, and teachers are required by administrators to improve scores.
Teachers can easily accomplish this task, and in Texas student test scores on state mandated tests have increased.
However, the increase has occurred at the expense of student learning.
The number of college students in Texas required to take remedial preparation courses has dramatically increased.
Although politicians are content and braggadocios, student learning suffers, and that is a disservice to children.

Georgia is requiring too many tests.

We must establish a limit on the number of test days and compel decision-makers to develop tests to fit into that requirement.
Teachers need time on task, and GAE members have told us loud and clear – just give us time to teach and help children learn.
In other words, abolish all non-instructional duties, limit the number of instructional days that can be used for testing, and trust the teacher to evaluate the student’s performance instead of basing grade level advancement on an absolute test score.
GAE will continue to advocate for the best interest of the student and lobby to change requirements that are detrimental to student achievement.