Georgia submits new education plan to feds

Revised proposals put Deal, Woods at odds over testing



ATLANTA – Flexibility in student testing and the impact of scores continues to be a thorn in the side of state and local educators who have spent years finding the right balance for students.

Georgia recently submitted its plan on how to implement new federal education rules, but disagreement over the plan’s testing and accountability measures divides the Georgia Department of Education and the Governor’s Office.

In 2015, federal education officials put the last nail in the No Child Left Behind coffin, passing the Every Student Succeeds Act in its place.

States had the past year to submit plans on how it would achieve the goals set by ESSA, which significantly reduces mandated testing and the perceived overreach of the federal government.

The law mandates state governors be given 30 days to review the plan, but it does not require the governor’s approval or signature for submittal.

While the vast majority of states have the joint blessing of their education chief and governor, Georgia joins several other states where governors have opted not to sign onto the ESSA plan.

The disagreement between Gov. Nathan Deal and State School Superintendent Richard Woods is tied to accountability and local control. In a series of letters between the two state leaders, Deal pushed for more targeted testing, beginning in kindergarten, and driven by the local school system, while Woods maintains systems have pushed for fewer mandated tests.

Disagreement also revolves around Georgia’s annual “report card” on school performance – the College and Career Ready Performance Index. The revised plan puts more emphasis on performance and achievement, and less emphasis on “exceeding the bar” for underperforming student groups.

For example, the revised CCRPI would place less emphasis on enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and more emphasis on the performance of students in these classes. Anecdotally, the points received on the CCRPR for AP participation may have caused schools to push unprepared students into rigorous courses.

A spokesperson for the Georgia School Board Association says the differences run deep.

“The disagreement on the CCRPI goes to the inputs or outcomes argument,” said Angela Palm, legislative director for the GSBA. “These are fundamental, philosophical differences that will not be resolved in a quick public discussion, if there is a resolution.”

Local control and flexibility in testing has long been an issue for local school systems. Fulton County School leaders have been at the forefront of the debate, even writing some of the language in Senate Bill 211, signed into law in July, which gives systems more flexibility in testing.

Fulton Schools is now one of the 30+ entities invited to be part of the Governor’s Assessment Innovation and Flexibility Task Force to further implement flexibility.

“Serving on the task force allows Fulton County Schools to continue showing support for flexibility and accountability in testing to strategically focus our district’s time, energy and resources on innovative and flexible programs that meet the needs of students,” said Susan Hale, spokesperson for Fulton Schools.

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