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Fewer tests?
Proposed bill would decrease number of standardized tests in Ga. schools

MACON — A bill proposed in the state Senate could decrease focus on standardized testing in Georgia.

The Senate Bill 364, authored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins, would reduce the number of tests that Georgia students take from 32 to 24, the Telegraph reports reported. It would also decrease the role of test results in teacher and administrator evaluations.

"The goal is to raise the efficiency and effectiveness of education in the state of Georgia," Tippins said.

State school Superintendent Richard Woods was among many who are backing the bill. It was also approved by Michelle Gowan, who taught for 30 years in Bibb County elementary schools before taking a role as curriculum director at the Academy for Classical Education.

Gowan lauded the proposal as a return to "common sense" and said that while educators see the value in testing as a tool, assessments have become overemphasized.

"What we have done is swing the pendulum so far that we do more testing than instructing, it seems," Gowan said.

Under the current system, students take Georgia Milestones assessments in all core content areas from the third grade on. If Tippins' bill passes, it would eliminate science and social studies exams in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades while adding a different form of reading and math assessment for younger students.

Also, the weight of student test scores would be reduced from 50 percent to 30 percent in teacher evaluations.

The move would allow teachers to focus their energy more on the yearlong education of students than the "snapshot" of testing day, said Tony Jones, director of research, evaluation, assessment and accountability for Bibb County schools.

"It eliminates the pressure of a single event," Jones said.

The Georgia legislative session is expected to run through late March.

Jones noted the importance of testing as a measure for student growth that can shape future instruction. He said the proposed changes would lead to more "purposeful tests" that could, in turn, provide more useful and meaningful data while relieving the burden of educators.

"This bill reflects my best efforts to try to further the interests of education," he said.

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