Georgia school superintendent calls federal decision to resume testing during pandemic a 'detriment'

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods says he is "disappointed" by a decision made by U.S. education officials to require schools to resume standardized testing during the 2020-21 school year, despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government issued a series of waivers in the spring granting school systems the ability to postpone or cancel mandated federal testing. Georgia was one of the first states to suspend testing.

Woods and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp submitted a waiver request in June for the new school year, and were optimistic the waiver would be granted due to the effect the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have on the 2020-21 school year.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a letter to state officials stating that the federal government does not plan to grant testing waivers for the 2020-21 school year.

"I have to be completely candid with my thoughts on this decision. It is disappointing, shows a complete disconnect with the realities of the classroom, and will be a detriment to public education," Woods wrote in a letter sent to FOX 5.

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This means students will likely need to complete the Georgia Milestones EOC tests for this year.

Though testing is a federal requirement, Woods said he has worked with the governor and the legislature to get the state requirements in line with the federal minimum. 

Despite the reforms, Woods called the decision from USED "definitively a setback."


"Continuing to administer high-stakes tests during these unprecedented and uncertain times is, sadly, more about adults than the needs of students and teachers.
Those who push the rhetoric about moving forward with high-stakes summative testing during a pandemic show total disregard for the realities faced by our families, students, and educators," Woods wrote.

"Make no mistake – these test scores will not be used to support teaching and learning, as the proponents suggest. They will be used to undermine our public education system, understate the heroic efforts of our teachers, and undercut any opportunity we have for a full K-12 recovery."

Federal testing is a requirement by law, but Woods said he would make sure they are not high-stakes and continue to put students and teacher safety first.

"I repeat: do not worry about the tests. Worry about meeting the students and teachers where they are. Worry about a safe and supportive restart. Worry about the well-being of your students and teachers. Worry about doing what’s right."

Georgia was the first state in the nation to publicly announce its intent to apply for a testing waiver for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Georgia Association of Educators supported that decision. President Charlotte Booker released the following statement to FOX 5 in June: 

"The Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) fully agrees with Governor Kemp and Superintendent Woods in their seeking a waiver of the 20-21 Georgia Milestones test. GAE feels this is the correct course of action to take with the unprecedented uncertainty facing our schools for this coming school year.  We also realize that should the waiver be granted, there will be funds available.  We ask legislators to reinvest those savings to help shore up other COVID-related education cuts such as school counselors and nurses."

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