ALPHARETTA — Student testing costs will rise despite the state's decision not to use a standardized exam being developed for use nationally under the Common Core academic standards, Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday.
Deal said Georgia can anticipate spending more money on testing and noted the challenge will be to design one that not only measures student progress but shows that progress as comparable to students around the country.
"This is not an easy undertaking," Deal said, answering questions after a ceremony celebrating EY's new Global IT Center in Alpharetta.
Last week, state officials announced Georgia was withdrawing from a partnership among several states working to create a test tied to Common Core, which creates basic requirements for math and English language arts.
Dozens of states, including Georgia, have embraced the standards which they helped develop under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. That has not stopped some conservative and tea party groups from criticizing the standards, which they say amount to federal intrusion and threaten student privacy.
Although the federal government has not been involved in creating the standards, it has encouraged states to adopt them under its "Race to the Top" grant competition.
Deal has said he supports having rigorous standards but that the state couldn't afford the high costs associated with the test that is being developed by the group of states that formed the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. State officials said the test would have cost Georgia about $27.5 million more per year when the state's entire testing budget is about $25 million.
"Part of the excessive costs associated with the PARCC initiative is that it was moving away from a multiple choice to a more written response," Deal said. "That obviously takes more time to grade and certainly the costs that are associated with that are understandable. What we are challenged to do, I think, at this point, is to come up with some modification of our current system."
Meanwhile, Deal expressed confidence that Georgia would not lose $9.9 million of its $400 million Race to the Top grant because the state's new evaluation system has yet to tie teacher and administrator pay to performance.
State Schools Superintendent John Barge has said the state was not ready to implement a statewide merit pay system.
"We cannot allow the federal government to dictate what's best for Georgia's teachers and students," Barge said in a statement. "We will take our time and get it right the first time, even if that means not getting $9.9 million of this federal money."
Deal said Barge had assured him the Department of Education was moving toward that goal.
"I have every expectation that he is will do what he has promised me that he is going to do," Deal said of Barge. "I have no reason to believe that this isn't something we can accommodate and satisfy them as to the progress we're going to make."