House Bill 425: Should Georgia parents decide which tests their kids take and how?

Should parents be able to demand their children take tests with pencil and paper rather than online?

Short and simple, House Bill 425 seems straightforward, but it could create complex problems for school districts with its opt-out protections and its push for pencil and paper testing alternatives.

Passed easily by the House Friday and en route to the Senate, the bill contains tempered language at this point, although there’s at least one important “shall” in the mix.

Here is what the bill now does:

1. It encourages local school systems to give students the option of taking online assessments with a paper and pencil instead.

Why is that a problem?

The state of Georgia is in the process of moving all students to online assessments. That changeover has not gone as smoothly as the state Department of Education wanted, particularly in Fulton County last year. DOE wants online exams to speed up grading so schools find out earlier which students require retests or summer school.

Some parents contend their young children perform better with pencil and paper than with keyboards, and they want a choice. Now, many districts limit that option to students with a proven disability.

Concerns about the testing mode — pencil and paper vs. online — are increasing as more states put kids in front of computers to take their high-stakes assessments. Some evidence shows a learning curve, with students scoring lower in the transition years to online testing.

As Education Week reported last year: Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil—a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders.

My view: Online assessments measure student proficiency in two areas, their grasp of the material being tested and their computer fluency. Writing a tough essay becomes tougher if students lack computer competency.

I discussed this issue with another education writer who countered: We’re not going back. Kids will take tests on computers and quickly grow comfortable with it, as have college students. Students today are tech savvy earlier and earlier; they will get the hang of online assessment, and it will become the standard.

2.  The bill also instructs Superintendent Richard Woods to identify policies for local school systems to adopt when deciding how students opting out of Georgia exams will be supervised and, what, if any, alternative to the exams will be provided to them during the test administration.

The bill states that the guidelines “shall” prohibit a school system from “taking punitive action against a student, including, but not limited to, the adoption of sit and stare policies, in response to a student’s refusal to participate in a federal, state, or locally mandated standardized assessment.”

The bill defines “sit and stare” as any policy that requires students sitting out a test “to remain with their class in the test room or in another location without any alternate instructional activity.”

Why is this a problem?

Testing weeks in schools already necessitate all-hands-on-deck. So, there may not be spare teachers available to provide “alternate instructional activities.”

Georgia imposed statewide tests because it wanted districts held to the same standards. It needed a basis of comparison to know that the algebra taught in Austell was the same as what was taught in Albany or Acworth. And the state uses its Milestones and End of Course tests to gauge how well schools are performing.

If opting out of tests is encouraged and protected, as HB 425 attempts, more parents may choose to pull their kids out of tests. That will make it harder to compare districts — if you think test-based comparisons are valid in the first place — and it will render it near impossible to grade districts based on scores.

The End of Course tests count for 20 percent of final high school grades. If Georgia makes it easier to opt-out and more families do, would teachers have to offer another final project or performance measure for kids to replace the EOCT score?

The head scratcher to this legislative zeal to liberate students from standardized tests: Elected officials at the state and federal levels imposed mandatory tests on schools. Lawmakers in Georgia chose to make the tests count toward final grades in the high schools.

Now, they’re shredding their own handiwork, but leaving schools and teachers to patch it back together.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
Reba Smith3253
Reba Smith3253

I am a high school teacher.  The company that makes the tests do not adhere to the standards.  The study guide the state provides for 11th grade EOC does not align with the test.  The people the state  hires by the hour to read and grade essays do not have degrees.


Yet the 11th grade EOC is 20% of their grade.  College entry grades are dependent on third party contractors.  If I was a parent I would opt my kid out.


Paper and pencil causes the student to think and focus longer vs. clicking.

redweather
redweather

In my experience, students are not nearly as computer savvy as some people seem to think. Many students struggle to use the basic document formatting functions of Microsoft Word!

LJTCD
LJTCD

Education across the country is a nightmare. We have allowed politicians to rule what is best for children instead of the professionals. Teachers know their students best, yet administrators tell them what to do every minute of the day. Mind you, the days of great leaders in our schools are long gone. The new administrators have only taught an average of 5 years and opt out of the classroom because they can't handle it. They use the TKES evaluation system as a tool for retaliation instead of evaluation. It doesn't matter how much you throw at these young college graduates, they will continue to leave the profession at record rates. Teachers from Finland came here to teach and research why the U.S. has fallen so far behind. They all agreed that there is no respect for the teacher and no flexibility at all. They were shocked and stated the system will never work the way it is being handled.  It is very sad for all the educators who believe teaching is their passion. Between the politicians, irresponsible parents, and horrible administrators, children have no hope unless they attend  a school where the community is fully involved and their own parents value education. 

Kathryn Banks
Kathryn Banks

The computer tests shut off once the student reaches a predetermined number of wrong answers ... kids who are reluctant to test know this so they will answer incorrectly to get out of taking the test and it actually works. SPED students usually do much better with paper pencil tests along with thiose who have test anxiety so yes, parents and teachers should have the option to recommend paper pencil tests for those students! They take longer to grade and require a higher level of testing security which systems will argue takes too much time to complete. They also cost more so expect the powers that be to fight this bill tooth and nail! However, are we in this to help students succeed or not... which should be the ONLY consideration here!

Falcaints
Falcaints

Understand that classroom teachers have absolutely no say in any of this.  We simply follow whatever new method of insanity that is foisted  upon us by people who don't actually teach.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

If you are a voucher/private school tax credit proponent, then I am assuming you are for doing away with all test reporting to the state and letting each school make all testing decisions.

#Cobbsider
#Cobbsider

@AvgGeorgian 

You unionistas think test results are only valid if they support your political biases.

taylor48
taylor48

You failed to respond to the question, if you are a supporter of vouchers/tax credits, do you support requiring them to adhere to the same testing and reporting guidelines as traditional public schools? If not, why?

#Cobbsider
#Cobbsider

@taylor48 

UnAverage Georgian doesn't pose questions: he rails against accountability and parental choice, because he fears any innovation which might lead to competition for education dollars. 

And an exodus from unionized schools, a decrease in union dues revenues, and thus decreased funding for the Democrat Party and ultra-left causes. 

All else is moot.

taylor48
taylor48

You have still failed to answer the question. Do you, as a supporter of vouchers for private schools, also support accountability measures for those schools that receive tax dollars. You can try to deflect with your cries of "UNION!!" all you want, but I'm truly curious to know what your answer is. I have a hypothesis based on your refusal to answer and your constant deflection, but I don't want to be accused of making assumptions that aren't true. My public school teachers taught me that.

#Cobbsider
#Cobbsider

@taylor48 

In a free market, where parents choose the public or private school best suited for their child, each would be free to choose schools which do or do not test.

That's the ultimate accountability measure.

Michelle Davis
Michelle Davis

I also have to say that it's ridiculous that kids can do great all year long, make straight A's , and then fail the grade because they didn't pass one test! One test, that has stuff on it that they have never seen and don't know at all.

Elizabeth Hunt Haley
Elizabeth Hunt Haley

I had a teacher tell me once me she took one of the newer tests and failed because it had stuff on it she's never seen before.

Michelle Davis
Michelle Davis

Yes ma'am. I had multiple teachers tell me that. So, why would we want our kids to take that and risk failing that entire grade? No thank you! Lol

Carter Feingold
Carter Feingold

teachers know what standards will show up on tests..theres no reason children shouldn't know what will be on tests if the teacher has done his/her job.

Michelle Davis
Michelle Davis

That's so untrue! With the testing that they do every year in march, April, or may, the teachers do not know what will be on there. Ask around, talk to some people, they should tell you exactly what was said here.

Michelle Davis
Michelle Davis

If they keep common core, then yes I absolutely agree!

Aimee Marie Germain
Aimee Marie Germain

It is absolutely ridiculous to propose that parents decide what tests their children take rather than educators.

Michelle Davis
Michelle Davis

It's not the teachers who are making them take some tests!

Tim Buffkin
Tim Buffkin

Politicians are coming up with tests and our education system. Teachers are mostly against today's crap system. That's why good teachers are quitting teaching and going to other fields.

Terry Case
Terry Case

Tim Buffkin Rarely any teachers are doing that.

Tim Buffkin
Tim Buffkin

Terry Case I know of quite a few actually. And I know others that majored in education but didn't go into it bc of the pay and crap system.

Bobby Lamb
Bobby Lamb

Conservatives want dumber Americans because less educated people tend to vote Republican. Example: Many had no clue the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same.

Branden Kummer
Branden Kummer

I'm sorry, but in which direction does the public education system swing?

Bobby Lamb
Bobby Lamb

Elizabeth Hunt Haley Agree with you about premiums and deductibles, but should all the other benefits be repealed?

#Cobbsider
#Cobbsider

Bobby, you've stayed dumb without outside assistance.

Paul Gibson
Paul Gibson

Your high on something. Democrats answers to our failed education is to throw more and more money Into education and say look at we did! All the while our education system has fallen to around 27th. That is fabulous. Right?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

How much does a good private school education cost per year?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Where is the republican plan? I am assuming you voted for them based on their detailed replacement plan.

Terry Case
Terry Case

Conservative aren't the stupid ones.

#Cobbsider
#Cobbsider

For legislators, the easy answer would be to ask the teachers' unions -- GAE/NEA and AFT -- what they think about this bill.

And then enact the opposite.

Union bosses can always be counted on to ignore any education consequences and do what's best for union revenues.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@#Cobbsider

Haha, Hi Eduktr union hater.


Do you have a profession?


If so, do you have a professional organization to which you belong?

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Well parents who "think" their kids who probably stare at their phones or an iPad or other electronic screen for 10 hours a day will do better on a paper test, sure go ahead because parents "know" better.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

Well, since parents get everything else they want, why not this too? Heaven forbid that they should require that their child follow school and state requirements. I'm not a fan of testing. However, I'm even less of a fan of parents who want to baby their children and remove all stress from their lives. That's not how life goes.

Casey Pope
Casey Pope

Yes, parents should be able to decide what is best for their kids unless you believe the government knows better. My future third grader will test on paper; he doesn't need an extra hurdle (keyboarding skills) during this stressful time. If his teachers are expected to differentiate, the state can.

Yvonne Miller
Yvonne Miller

Well it depends how much importance colleges put on these exams for applications. Let's face it. It's entirely up to the colleges what is important and what is not. Change that and you can change the college application process.

Kristen English Barksdale
Kristen English Barksdale

The focus of this bill is really the Georgia Milestones and any future statewide testing. Last I checked, colleges don't care how an 8-year-old child does on GMAS. As a teacher, I would much rather have eight additional weeks to cover content than lose that time to statewide testing and then follow it up with a week of final exams.