ATLANTA – Georgia will not grade schools and districts using state test results for the second year in a row, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday, saying federal officials had waived the requirement for the state accountability system.
Georgia will not compute its College and Career Ready Performance Index, a numerical system that the governor’s office then uses to assign letter grades to schools and districts. The index is based mostly on test scores.
Last year, the state couldn’t produce the index because it didn’t administer its Milestones tests to students in grades 3-8 and high school. This year, the federal government is requiring Georgia to give the tests, but districts won’t be graded on how students do.
“The intent of these accountability waivers is to focus on assessments to provide information to parents, educators, and the public about student performance and to help target resources and supports. This is particularly crucial this year, due to the COVID pandemic,” the Department of Education wrote to Georgia in the letter granting the waiver, saying the federal government discourages states from using them for student grades, school ratings or teacher evaluations.
Test results for schools, districts and groups of students will still be available, said Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. The state will also provide data on test participation rates, chronic absenteeism, and access to computers and high-speed internet connections.
State Superintendent Richard Woods has instructed school districts that they can’t deny course credit or deny promotion to the next grade to any student who has been attending class virtually and declines to come in-person to take a test citing health and safety concerns. Normally, schools that don’t get 95% participation are penalized, but the federal government has waived that rule this year.
The tests given to Georgia high school students normally count for 20% of a student’s grade in Algebra I, U.S. history, biology and American literature and composition. But the state education board reduced that to 0.01% of the grade for this school year.
“Classroom teachers and building administrators can hopefully get some relief since the test results of students this year will be used purely as a gauge of student learning,” said Woods, who has opposed giving the tests at all.
The state said it’s working with districts to make texting flexible, including allowing testing on more days, creating separate sessions for virtual students, and allowing tests to be given in alternate locations.
The state uses test data to identify low-performing schools that need more help. The state will generally keep aiding the schools identified when tests were given in 2019, next identifying the group in fall 2022.