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Politics 2018: Legislation creates pilot to free schools from Milestones testing


It’s an election year so expect to hear about topics designed to woo voters. This is one of them. Legislation today from Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, who is running for governor, backs away from the annual state exams, the Georgia Milestones.

The bill proposes a three-to-five year pilot program in which up to 10 districts would experiment with alternatives to the Milestones. Senate Bill 362 states that those alternatives "may include, but shall not be limited to, cumulative year-end assessments, competency based assessments, instructionally embedded assessments, interim assessments, performance based assessments, or other innovated assessment designs approved by the State Board of Education."

Here is the official release on SB 362:

Today, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee, introduced legislation to allow school systems to stop teaching to the test. This legislation will empower 10 leading school systems to pioneer an innovative statewide system that allows educators to abandon high-stakes standardized testing in favor of meeting the needs of individual students with formative assessments and local decision making.

Cagle made clear this effort is aimed at ending the practice of measuring our students’ academic performance with one-size-fits-all testing. Too many educators are pressured to teach to the test while ignoring other valuable indicators of individual student performance. For many students, these tests are failing to accomplish their intended purpose of evaluating student progress.

Cagle’s initiative is the first step in a plan to replace Georgia Milestones standardized testing and CCRPI with a complete, objective accountability system. This will empower local schools to take responsibility for the academic performance of their students and incorporate greater community involvement in the classroom.

Senate Bill 362 directs teachers, principals, and supporting faculty to accept individual accountability for our students without being forced to rely on and be measured by one single summative assessment. Individualized learning plans will give our educators a comprehensive view into how our schools are educating students. These newly designed measures will also empower our state to replace duplicative standardized testing for high school students with more relevant assessments like the ACT, SAT, and Accuplacer.

“Georgia’s education system should be built around the individual needs of each student - not an outdated standardized testing model,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. “It’s critical that we stop teaching to the test. Individualized learning plans will lead to measurable academic checkpoints, putting our students first and freeing teachers from bureaucratic mandates.”

“Lt. Governor Cagle’s vision for education is transforming schools across Georgia, providing our students with even greater opportunities for academic excellence. I’m excited for the future successes our school systems will experience when given true freedom from high-stakes testing and flexibility to adapt their curriculum and lesson plans to the needs of individual students and communities,” added Senator Tippins.

The AJC has a story that expands on the legislation and describes prototype formative-to-summative tests already developed by a tiny, rural school system.


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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.