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Georgia senators unanimously agree to cut five state tests
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Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay

ATLANTA — Georgia state senators are joining the push to cut standardized testing for public school students.

The Senate voted 53-0 on Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 367, which would cut four tests in high school and one in middle school.

The measure would drop four of eight end-of-course exams in high school. Economics would be one of the now-required tests to go, and the state Board of Education would decide the others — possibly geometry, physical science and American literature.

Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman P.K. Martin, a Lawrenceville Republican, told senators that overtesting is the No. 1 complaint he gets.

“This places too much pressure on our students, on our teachers,” Martin told senators. Both Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods are backing the bill, which moves to the House for more debate.

The federal government requires high school students take at least one test in math, science and English/language arts. The current American history test is not required by the federal government, but Georgia would keep it. All eight courses would still be required for graduation.

The law also would require the state to cut test questions that allow Georgia to compare with students in other states, in an effort to shorten the length of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests. Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Marietta Republican who has sought national comparisons, said earlier tests that can't be compared to other states would be a mistake, but voted for the bill Tuesday. Supporters of the bill say high school students take ACT and SAT college tests, and a small sample of Georgia students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Cutting the number of high school tests would raise the stakes even more on the remaining tests, putting all the weight on them as the state calculates academic ratings for schools and districts.

The proposed legislation also would let the state Board of Education drop the high school exams from being considered in course grades. Now, the board requires that a test count for one-fifth of a student's overall course grade.

For younger students, the plan would drop a fifth-grade social studies test not required by the federal government but would hang onto an optional eighth grade test in Georgia history.

The measure would require students be tested in the last five weeks of the school year, trying to push back state testing, on the belief that the move would provide more instructional time for teachers. The law already requires districts to test as late as possible.

The plan would let the state conduct an inventory of tests given by local districts, typically used to benchmark progress toward meeting state standards, in an effort to eliminate redundant tests and suggest the most effective tests. State officials are discussing a voluntary benchmark test that the state would pay for, but it's not mandated in the proposal.