Georgia school chief: Governor’s accountability ideas rely too much on testing

Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods at a happier interaction than their recent exchange over the state’s accountability plan. (AJC File)

Not everyone agrees with the vision for Georgia’s education system submitted today to the U.S. Department of Education. Including Gov. Nathan Deal.

Georgia was among 33 states facing a deadline today to turn in their school accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind.  Seen as an antidote to the overly prescriptive NCLB and its reliance on test scores to determine whether schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, ESSA returned more discretion to states.

But in a five-page letter earlier this month, Deal suggested the Georgia Department of Education didn’t use that discretion wisely in some areas, especially in how it planned to hold schools accountable for student performance. “I am greatly concerned that the draft Every Student Succeeds Act plan, submitted to me for review on Aug. 14, reflects a missed opportunity to set high expectations for Georgia students and to move toward even more effective innovation in K-12 education in our state.”

While DOE authored the accountability plan, it sought feedback from Georgians, and the wide range of responses, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act, shows why consensus is hard-won in education.

My AC colleague Ty Tagami explained Deal’s concerns:

The governor told Woods his plan lacked ambition, noting in a Sept. 6 letter that the plan’s testing requirements “should be revised and strengthened.”

Deal also said he thought allowing schools to get credit for non-core courses such as art would allow schools that already offer these courses to “pad” their scores, and suggested that other schools that instead use their resources and student time for supplemental reading and math instruction to at-risk students would be penalized. Deal also wrote that encouraging schools to offer Advanced Placement courses without requiring the external check of an AP exam could lead to watered down courses because, he wrote, it “creates an incentive for schools and districts to enroll students in AP courses where there is little monitoring and regulation of quality ….”

Woods responded to Deal with his own five-page letter. Here is an excerpt:

Your requested changes to the College and Career Ready Performance Index model – which was developed by a widely representative committee of Georgians and vetted by national experts – would remove or adjust all indicators that do not incorporate test scores. This would lead to a CCRPI measure based nearly 100 percent on test scores, which is essentially no different from AYP.

The AYP system failed to result in meaningful improvement in student outcomes. The state should be extremely cautious about adopting an accountability system that returns to a disproportionate emphasis on test scores and the unintended consequences associated with such a system – this would be a huge step backward for our state.

As an educator and school leader who has worked under the compliance models of both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, I would caution that the unintended consequences of adopting some of your requested changes would take us back to the days of impossible expectations for schools, narrowing of opportunities for students, declining/stagnating performance, and overemphasis on testing.

Georgia is experiencing remarkable success, a testament to the work and dedication of educators as well as our commitment to pursue a path of flexibility, opportunity, innovation, and improvement. Georgia’s ESSA plan supports our continued efforts down that path.

The efforts of the thousands of stakeholders who gave feedback on this state plan reflect the key truth that Georgians are demanding more from their education system. They are demanding a holistic approach that supports the whole child. They are demanding a system that produces students who are not only college and career ready, but also ready for life. They are demanding more than can be measured by a high-stakes test.

I deeply believe this plan meets those demands. All of Georgia should be proud of the plan we will submit to the United States Department of Education, as it is a plan that has been crafted by Georgians, for Georgians.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

7 comments
willteach4shoes
willteach4shoes

The DOE made the right move in disregarding Governor Deal's recommendation that AP and IB courses only be included in school accountability CCRPI scores if students are required to take the national exam at the end. In addition to returning to the tried and failed method of tying all school progress to standardized tests, Gov. Deal's suggestion neglects the fact that students who take AP and IB courses simply perform better: Their graduation rate is much higher, they matriculate in 4-year colleges at higher rates, and they graduate sooner and in greater percentages with higher GPAs from college. Whether or not they take the exam, AP students benefit from the increased rigor that the courses require. All AP teachers have to have their syllabi approved by the College Board Course Audit system, which ensures high standards, and my former AP students inform me that they are consistently better prepared and more successful than their college classmates. Georgia schools need to continue to encourage students to challenge themselves with advanced course work, so the DOE is correct in keeping that data a factor in school performance.


EdJohnson
EdJohnson

So, State Superintendent Richard Woods interrupts Gov. Nathan Deal’s angling to create more “chronically failing schools” hence his “data-driven” rationale for privatizing the schools?

Lynn Mcdonald
Lynn Mcdonald

We elected Woods as our state super not Deal.

Kathy Pitts Dorough
Kathy Pitts Dorough

Deal isn't interested in improving education. He's interested in making money off of it one way or another. Period. And he knows squat about how education works.

Jenna Schuh
Jenna Schuh

Didn't we just do this we a Lady named Hall?

Christi Healan Scaife
Christi Healan Scaife

That's the problem, too many POLITICIANS that think they know what's better for schools and students, than professional EDUCATORS who work with kids or have a background in a school system.