NCSS de­nied re­quest for waiver of 2017 Mile­stones As­sess­ment Sys­tem

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New­ton County School Su­per­in­ten­dent (NCSS) Sa­man­tha Fuhrey re­ceived a let­ter from Ge­or­gia School Su­per in­ten­dent Richard Woods deny­ing her re­quest for a waiver of the 2017 Ge­or­gia Mile­stones As­sess­ment in grades third through eighth.

In the let­ter, dated Oct. 6, Woods said NCSS’s re­quest “presents sev­eral hur­dles which, un­for­tu­nately, we are un­able to over­come at this time.”

“Ge­or­gia Mile­stones serves as the foun­da­tion of our state’s Col­lege and Ca­reer Ready Per­for­mance In­dex (CCRPI) and the CCRPI, in turn, is in­stru­men­tal in New­ton County’s Strate­gic Waiver con­tract,” Woods said. “State law does not al­low the State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to waive ac­count­abil­ity re­quire­ments, which in­clude ad­min­is­tra­tion of the state test­ing pro­gram (OCGA) 20-2-82).

Fuhrey, in a state­ment, ex- pressed her dis­ap­point­ment in the re­sponse.

“I am very dis­ap­pointed in the re­sponse from State Su­per­in­ten­dent Woods; I be­lieve our IOWA pre and post-as­sess­ment model bet­ter demon­strates how stu­dents have grown aca­dem­i­cally over the course of a school year,” Fuhrey said. “Dr. Al­li­son Jor­dan, Di­rec­tor of Test­ing, Re­search, and Eval­u­a­tion, is re­view­ing the feed­back pro­vided in the cor­re­spon­dence and reach­ing out to the United States Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion for ad­di­tional guid­ance.”

Ac­cord­ing to Woods, the 2016-2017 school year has been es­tab­lished as a “tran­si­tional pe­riod” as states are work­ing to “de­velop and im­ple­ment their plans for the Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act (ESSA)” and states are “re­quired to con­tinue to meet the re­quire­ments of the El­e­men­tary and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Act (ESEA), as reau­tho­rized by No Child Left Be­hind.”

Al­though Ge­or­gia was granted con­tin­u­a­tion of its ap­proved ESEA waiver, which al­lows the state to uti­lize CCRPI in lieu of cal­cu­lat­ing Ad­e­quate Yearly Progress, Woods said the state re­mains “un­der the man­date of ad­min­is­ter­ing the same as­sess­ment to all stu­dents en­rolled in our pub­lic sys­tem in grades 3-8 and high school” and as a re­sult, Ge­or­gia’s State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion “does not have the au­thor­ity to waive fed­eral law.

While Su­per­in­ten­dent Woods de­nied New­ton County School Sys­tem’s re­quest for the wa­ver, he added, “the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the IOWA As­sess­ments re­mains a lo­cal de­ci­sion and noth­ing pro­hibits New­ton County from uti­liz­ing the tests to in­form in­struc­tional prac­tices. The is­sue be­comes one of com­pa­ra­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity.”

Fuhrey, with full sup­port of the New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion (BOE), re­quested the waiver be­cause of con­cern that teach­ers were spend­ing too much of what should be in­struc­tional time ad­min­is­ter­ing state re­quired as­sess­ments.

Ge­or­gia law charges the State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion with de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing an as­sess­ment that re­sults in data dis­tricts can use to im­prove in­struc­tion,” Fuhrey noted in her re­quest let­ter. “Re­spect­fully, the 2015-2016 Ge­or­gia Mile­stones ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to achieve this goal and re­sulted in the sub­stan­tial loss of in­struc­tional time for stu­dents in grades third through eighth. The state has not pro­vided ac­tion­able data that can be used to re­duce stu­dent achieve­ment gaps.”

Ac­cord­ing to Fuhrey, her pro­posal to use the Iowa as­sess­ments was and is aligned to ESSA and Ge­or­gia law re­lat­ing to stu­dent as­sess­ments.

“Use of the Iowa as­sess­ments would al­low the New­ton County School Sys­tem to en­sure both fed­eral and state re­quire­ments are met, while pro­duc­ing mean­ing­ful and timely in­for­ma­tion to stake­hold­ers,” Fuhrey ex­plained in her let­ter. In ad­di­tion, use of the Iowa would pro­vide New­ton County’s teach­ers with “real-time data that pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about the strengths and weak­nesses of their cur­rent stu­dents.”

NCSS ad­min­is­tered IOWA in Au­gust, and Furhey said it yielded pos­i­tive re­sults.

“The first ad­min­is­tra­tion of the IOWA, con­ducted in Au­gust, yielded timely, ac­tion­able, re­li­able and valid data di­rectly aligned to those in­di­ca­tors that re­flect a child’s cur­rent level of per­for­mance. The re­sults of the as­sess­ments were avail­able to school staff within 24 hours of the test ad­min­is­tra­tion. Such an un­prece­dented, quick turn­around pro­vided teach­ers with in­for­ma­tion about stu­dents’ strengths and ar­eas for im­prove­ment. Un­like the Ge­or­gia Mile­stones End-of-Grade As­sess­ments which pro­vides data af­ter stu­dents have moved to the next grade level, the IOWA as­sess­ments pro­vide our teach­ers and lead­ers with cur­rent data that en­able them to ad­dress the spe­cific needs of each stu­dent.

“Al­though we are re­quired to ad­min­is­ter the Ge­or­gia Mile­stones End-of-Grade As­sess­ments to stu­dents in grades third through eighth, we plan to ad­min­is­ter the IOWA post-as­sess­ment in May 2017 in an ef­fort to pro­vide teach­ers and par­ents with timely in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing stu­dents’ aca­demic growth dur­ing the 16-17 school year.”

Fuhrey

Woods

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