State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that Georgia is withdrawing from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test development consortium.
The group was one of two multi-state coalitions – the other is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – that formed to develop standardized tests based on the Common Core State Standards by the 2014-15 academic year.
The standards have been adopted by Georgia and 44 other states with the goal of establishing national expectations of what students should learn, and when, in English language arts and mathematics.
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson responded to the development by saying that the district will continue undaunted on its mission to raise student achievement.
"We appreciate Gov. Deal and Dr. Barge being proactive in addressing this issue and have confidence in the state's efforts to develop effective common assessments for the academic standards needed for our students,” Wilson said. “Our school system will continue to develop our internal assessments, aligned with state guidelines, to monitor the progress of our students on a timely and informed basis, increasing their likelihood of success. This announcement doesn't change anything in our drive toward increasing the rigor and relevancy of what we teach in Bulloch County."
Georgia had started as a lead state in the partnership, known in education circles as PARCC. But over time, concerns about the high cost of the consortium’s test caused state education leaders to rethink Georgia’s membership in the group. The Peach State’s exit leaves PARCC with 20 member states, including Florida and Tennessee.
Instead, the Georgia Department of Education issued a news release Tuesday saying the agency will work with educators across the state to create standardized tests aligned to Georgia’s current academic standards in mathematics and English language arts – known as the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards – for elementary, middle and high school students. Additionally, Georgia will seek opportunities to collaborate with other states.
Creating the tests in Georgia will ensure that the state maintains control over its academic standards and student testing, whereas a common assessment would have prevented the state education department from being able to adjust and rewrite Georgia’s standards when educators indicate revisions are needed to best serve students, the agency said.
“After talking with district superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, lawmakers and members of many communities, I believe this is the best decision for Georgia’s students,” Barge said. “We must ensure that our assessments provide educators with critical information about student learning and contribute to the work of improving educational opportunities for every student.”
Barge was one of the state school chiefs serving on the governing board for the consortium, but he frequently voiced concerns about the cost of the PARCC assessments. The PARCC assessments in English language arts and math are estimated to cost significantly more money than Georgia currently spends on its entire testing program.
He also expressed concerns over the technology requirements for PARCC’s online tests. Many Georgia school districts do not have the needed equipment or bandwidth to handle administering the PARCC assessments.
Deal said: “Assessing our students’ academic performance remains a critical need to ensure that young Georgians can compete on equal footing with their peers throughout the country. Georgia can create an equally rigorous measurement without the high costs associated with this particular test. Just as we do in all other branches of state government, we can create better value for taxpayers while maintaining the same level of quality.”
The state education department says the new Common Core-aligned assessments will be developed for students in grades three through eight and high school, will be reviewed by state teachers, will require less time to administer than the PARCC tests, will be offered in both computer-and paper-based formats, and will include a variety of types of items, such as performance-based and multiple-choice questions.
“We are grateful to Georgia educators who have worked hard to help develop our standards and assessments,” Barge said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them to develop a new assessment system for our state.”