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No tests for youngest students relieves educators
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When the Georgia General Assembly passed its budget, it eliminated funding for several student tests.

Among other things, the legislature eliminated the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test for first- and second- graders and also eliminated the writing test for third- and fifth-graders.

For some education professionals, the elimination of the CRCT for the younger students is a welcome announcement.

“Whereas the other students are mature enough to take the test, it can be too much for the first- and second-graders to handle. Those students tend to have more anxiety over the procedures of the test, rather than the content,” said Susan Culbreth, Enota Multiple Intelligence Academy principal.

“We don’t know for sure if some of the students were just scared about taking the test, so they just bubbled in answers to get through. We use the data from standardized tests to help us improve our teaching practices, but we don’t know if we were getting true, valid data for those grades.”

While the standardized test may have been eliminated, school officials have other ways of checking up on students’ academic progress.

“The CRCT gave us a bigger-picture view of how are students were progressing, but it was still just a snapshot. We will continue to do benchmark testing as we have in the past,” Culbreth said.

“Those exams really give us so much more useful information — they show us where students are on the path to mastering academic standards. We use that data to determine where we need to adjust our teaching methods.”

Officials with the Georgia Department of Education also agree that eliminating the CRCT for those students won’t be a detriment, but both Culbreth and the state department conclude the elimination of the writing test for certain students can present a few challenges.

“Losing the writing test can be a difficult (cut) — it provided data to help (schools track) students’ progress,” said Matt Cardoza, state education department communications director.

“It also helped to show where students’ strengths and weaknesses are.”

To compensate for the loss, Culbreth says schools will be even more analytical on the local level.

“We know what good writing is and we know what we need to see from each child to be sure that they’ve mastered grade-appropriate skills,” she said.

“We will continue to use the same standards and have the same expectations (as the writing test). Our teachers work writing into language arts lessons, so I feel like we will continue to do a good job with (measuring students’ writing skills).”

While asking high school parents to pay $13 for their child to take the PSAT, the $86 fee for Advanced Placement exams may be too much for some to handle. Instead of paying the fee for AP exams for all students, the state will now only cover the cost for students who receive free or reduced lunch.

“We have seen tremendous gains not only in AP course enrollment and test-takers, but also in achievement levels. You’re always concerned that when families are asked to pay for something that fewer students will be able to participate,” Cardoza said.

“Our hope is that students will be able to continue to take AP courses and the exams.”

While students who take the AP exam may be eligible to earn college credit for the course, taking the exam isn’t a requirement to enroll in AP classes, Cardoza said.

“There is a lot of data out that shows how powerful an AP course is in itself,” Cardoza said.

“Even if students don’t take the exam, the rigorous curriculum can be a powerful tool. We certainly hope that even if students can’t take the exam, that they at least consider continue taking AP courses.”