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Test should raise expectations
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The state of Georgia will be using new standardized tests in its public schools next year, and some students might not make the grade -- literally.
The state Department of Education announced this week that a new testing method called the Georgia Milestones Assessment System will replace the high school End of Course Test and the elementary/middle school Criterion Referenced Competency Test (a name that has always connoted more of bureaucratese than of educational substance anyway).
Georgia is paying CTB/McGraw-Hill, a company with both experience and high repute in the realm of educational publishing, a fee of $107 million to develop tests designed broadly along Common Core curriculum guidelines. Despite much political hyperventilation about Common Core -- which, by a few all but clinically paranoid accounts, is the jackbooted-thug New World Order of public education -- the need for a consistent nationwide apples-to-apples measure of learning achievement has been painfully obvious for years now.
Georgia sidestepped that particular minefield last year by declining to participate in a multi-state uniform test designed around Common Core -- which began as a cooperative creation of state officials in the first place. The ostensible reason, and in a poor state like Georgia probably a legitimate one, was that the $29.50 per student cost of the test was just too high.
But even if the cost of the Georgia Milestones tests is significantly lower, state education officials say the rigor of the tests will be anything but. The scores, they say, might be significantly lower than those we're used to seeing from the CRCTs and EOCTs of past years.
And, notes state education Superintendent John Barge, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"We need to know," Barge said last week, "that students are being prepared, not at a minimum-competency level, but with rigorous, relevant education to enter college, the workforce or the military at a level that makes them competitive with students from other states."
More good news is that by the 2018-19 school year, the tests should be administered completely online (as opposed to 35 percent online EOC testing last year). The efficiency, speed of assessment and cost savings of the whole testing apparatus being digital will be substantial, to say the least.
Sample test segments are expected in school districts some time over the summer, and teachers will be trained in how to administer the Georgia Milestones tests at both elementary/middle and secondary levels.
Barge is right: Easy tests that instill false confidence in students, educators and parents alike do nothing to prepare young people for careers or for further educational pursuits. Georgia must be moving forward in education before we can reasonably expect to move forward in anything else.

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