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New policy requires fewer tests for some Georgia students
Those who take certain advanced classes will no longer take state end-of-course exams in same subject
Georgia students taking certain advanced classes in high school will take fewer state tests under a new state policy. (SPECIAL)

Georgia students taking certain advanced classes in high school will take fewer state tests under a new state policy.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to stop requiring students who take certain Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses to take state end-of-course exams in the same subject, part of a continuing national and state backlash against testing.

The rules will apply to students taking American literature, U.S. history and economics. The state estimates that it will eliminate 58,000 tests in those subjects. One student might be exempted from one, two or all three tests depending on what advanced courses he or she takes.

All high school students must still take state exams in ninth-grade literature, algebra, biology, physical science and geology. The first three of those are required by federal law. The latter two are required by state law. But there's no analogous AP or IB course in those subjects to substitute for the state tests, which count for 20% of a student's grade in a class.

The change itself isn't very big, but could be a dry run before asking lawmakers to change state law to eliminate tests not required under federal law. State Superintendent Richard Woods has made that a goal.

"Today's change is another step toward more reasonable, student-focused testing in Georgia — and getting our testing requirements in line with the federal minimum," Woods said in a statement. "When a student passes a course at the advanced level of AP or IB, we know they're prepared to move forward."

All eight courses will still be required for high school graduation.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican like Woods, also supports the change.

"This proposal is a simple, reasonable solution to reduce burdensome and costly double-testing for advanced courses in Georgia high schools without compromising accountability in classrooms," Kemp wrote in an August letter.

The state has given the current end-of-course tests since 2014. Before then, Georgia gave different tests in the same subjects. That testing system was set up by a 2000 law aimed at creating a rigorous core curriculum and giving standardized tests to make sure what students were learning.

From 1991 through 2011, Georgia also administered a separate state graduation test that determined whether a student could graduate from high school.

Both end-of-course and high school graduation tests grew out of an education reform movement. The exams began in the South and spread to 25 states by 2012, but states have since been dropping such requirements, and only 13 states now require them, according to the Education Commission of the States.

Georgia also uses the tests to help calculate school ratings for high schools. Instead of test scores, course grades will now be used. Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Frick said it's impossible to use scores from AP or IB exams because of how long it takes to grade those exams.

The state already allows high schools to substitute grades from high school students taking dual enrollment courses for college credit in the school rating system.

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