State School Superintendent Richard Woods is asking federal lawmakers to back off what he calls a “measure, pressure and punish” model mandated by federal education policy.
The testing requirements mandated by federal — and state — lawmakers following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (also called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) are hurting more than they help, and are very expensive, Woods said in a Tuesday meeting of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders in Athens.
Additionally, Woods on Tuesday released a letter he’s sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Georgia congressmen and members of the U.S. Senate and House education committees, asking for relief from testing requirements.
Georgia recently signed a $108 million contract with an outside vendor to design and deliver the federally mandated tests, and that doesn’t count the millions of dollars Georgia has spent for such tasks as educating the public on the new tests, he wrote.
Under state law, students’ scores on those tests will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of their teachers, even though the tests won’t count at all for students this year as the state adopts brand-new tests called the “Georgia Milestones” developed by McGraw-Hill Education.
Duncan last year encouraged
states to ask for a waiver on counting the tests being developed in Georgia and other states to meet the new federal requirements. In September, then-Georgia School Superintendent John Barge announced that the tests would not count for students, and said he would ask the federal government to waive for a year the requirement that the tests count as part of teacher evaluations.
However, it is now Georgia law that the tests will be used to grade teachers. Under legislation passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, test scores will count for half of a teacher’s grade, and will count for 70 percent of the grade for principals and other administrators.
Instead of the “autopsy” model it is now using in terms of testing, the state should be doing more diagnostic testing, to help teachers and students identify areas of strength and weakness, Woods told a packed meeting hall in Athens’ Classic Center Tuesday morning.
“We must treat our teachers as the professionals they are,” he said. “Not only are our students suffering from an over-emphasis on testing, but our teachers are.”
Already, half of new teachers quit the profession within five years of beginning, and the heavy emphasis on standardized testing won’t help, he said.
Woods wants to do an internal audit that will tell just how many tests students now take, and how much instructional time is lost as a result, and he also wants a cost-benefit analysis, Woods wrote in his letter to federal lawmakers.
“With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act comes an opportunity to address the valid concerns of students, parents, teachers, and communities regarding the quantity and quality of federally mandated standardized tests,” Woods wrote in the letter. “As a nation, we have surrendered time, talent, and resources to an emphasis on autopsy-styled assessments, rather than physical-styled assessments.
“With the reauthorization of ESEA comes an opportunity for a real paradigm shift in the area of assessment,” Woods wrote. “Instead of a ‘measure, pressure, and punish’ model that sets our students, teachers, and schools up for failure, we need a diagnostic, remediate/accelerate model that personalizes instruction, empowers students, involves parents, and provides real feedback to our teachers.”
Georgia's State School Superintendent
Richard Woods has over 25 years of pre-k through 12th grade experience in public education. > Read Full Bio