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Ga. on track for new school tests next year
Assessments will require students to show their work
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Nine months after dropping out of a national testing consortium, Georgia is still considering testing options for the next school year.

“The testing program is changing,” said Melissa Fincher, director of testing for the state Department of Education. “I think the fact that it’s going to include open-ended items is significant and will have a significant impact in the classroom.”

Georgia was one of 22 states to initially join the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, but ended up pulling out of the consortium in July. The move reportedly came about because the designed tests would cost the state around $27 million, or as high as $29.50 per student.

Those costs were only for the English/language arts and math components. The state would still have had to find testing providers for other subject areas.

The Department of Education is still receiving bids for test development. Proposals should be collected in time for the state school board’s May meeting.

“And then the new contract will begin July 1,” Fincher said.

There’s a sizable “bank” of testing items from which to choose, and Georgia has an agreement with Kentucky to share material development. State leaders are looking at a similar agreement with Florida.

One of the areas needing additional resources, though, is the inclusion of open-ended testing questions.

“Multiple choice will still be there,” Fincher said. “But we can no longer stay in ‘multiple choice land,’ as I call it.”

Having standardized tests require students to show their work is more in line with current curriculum and classroom standards.

Georgia has adopted the Common Core standards in English/language arts and math, which are touted as requiring students to showcase their thought processes rather than rote memorization.

Though the state is no longer part of the national PARCC consortium, the new tests should be similar.

“This should not come as a surprise to anyone,” Fincher said. “We’ve been talking about this for three or four years.”
And what will those cost savings from withdrawing from PARCC look like?

“We haven’t seen the price tag,” Fincher said. “But it will likely be significant.”

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