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General Assembly approves fewer tests with less influence on teacher evaluations

Educators are heralding the passage Thursday of Senate Bill 364, which reduces both the number of tests and the impact on teacher/principal evaluations. (Check out the upcoming Sunday AJC as I wrote an editorial on the bill.)

As the AJC's Ty Tagami reports this morning:

Senate Bill 364 would reduce the amount of testing tied to teacher performance and lessen the weight of the results in their evaluations.

Student test "growth" --- the change in scores over time --- currently counts for at least half of each evaluation, but that would drop to 30 percent under the legislation. The bill also would reduce the number of Georgia Milestones tests from 32 to 24.

Proponents say the changes would result in less exam preparation and rote learning, but critics say schools would find it harder to identify weak teachers.

A version of the bill was adopted unanimously by the Senate in February. The House amended it, then passed it unanimously and returned it to the Senate to approve the changes. The bill's main sponsor, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, agreed to the changes and got a 47-2 vote of final approval Thursday.

Here are some reactions this morning:

State School Superintendent Richard Woods:  I commend the state Senate and House of Representatives for passing Senator Lindsey Tippins’ bill – SB 364 – because it reflects many of the issues I’ve felt all along are burdensome to student learning and the recruitment and retention of our best teachers. Reducing the number of state-mandated tests students must take, and reducing the percentage that student test scores count for teachers’ and leaders’ evaluations, are common-sense moves toward allowing our teachers to be creative and teach rather than focus on a test. We must support these actions for the future of our students and the future recruitment and retention of our best teachers.

Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman: For the first time in many sessions, we feel that legislators gave public education its due and presented our children and educators with some wins. GAE worked with Sen Tippins from day one to ensure the bill addressed our issues. It is definitely a big step in the right direction. Public educators all over the state have every right to rejoice as the legislature acknowledged the need for a better way of evaluating Georgia’s teachers. GAE would like to thank Sen. Tippins for recognizing how unfair and subjective the current process was and his willingness to listen and work with us. We’d also like to thank the members of the House and Senate Education Committees for their unanimous support on this issue.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.