Georgia bill relieves standardized testing

The “Quality Basic Education Act” recently passed unanimously in Georgia’s Senate and made it through the House, reducing the effect and scope of standardized tests in the educational system.

At the close of 2015, the state of Georgia distributed a survey for its teachers to find out, among other things, what they believed contributed to the state’s problematically low rate of retention (44% of Georgia teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years). Topping the list were standardized testing and evaluation methods, and Senate Bill 364 aimed to address those concerns. The bill, which will change the weight of standardized testing from 50% to 30% of teachers’ evaluations and reduce the number of standardized tests from 32 to 24, passed on March 15.

Critics of the bill either call for more drastic measures or alternative solutions. Some Georgians believe that 30% is still too high; others want the freedom to opt out of standardized tests entirely. A few organizations such as Students First, approve of the evaluation methods in the recent past, but for the most part, educators, students, and parents alike are joining a rising call against Georgia’s overzealous use of standardized testing.

“I try to remain clear of politics as a teacher,” said Dr. Anthony Pattiz, a teacher at Sandy Creek, “but I told students: ‘I really think you and your families ought to support this bill that’s going to try to reduce the emphasis on testing so that you have fewer of these tests and so teachers feel like they have more freedom and flexibility to serve their students.’”

This bill is illustrative of a growing sense that testing, while it is a good way of measuring progress on certain standards, may be putting too much emphasis on the wrong lessons that students can take from their education. Stress, fear, and a focus on memorization and regurgitation put strain on both students and teachers and have contributed in part to the climate of Georgia’s troubling teacher exodus. If all goes well, this could turn the tide on Georgia’s teacher shortage and help make Georgia a more welcoming place for one of America’s most underrated professions.

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