Category Archives: Richard Woods

The Push To Reduce Standardized Testing

Everybody (and their dog) says we are testing our students too much.  I’m hard pressed to find anybody that says otherwise.  Moving forward in the words of Elvis “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

U.S. Department of Education
Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan
One essential part of educating students successfully is assessing their progress in learning to high standards. Done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students. The Administration bears some of the responsibility for this, and we are committed to being part of the solution.

Administration Actions to Reduce Over-Testing

President Obama has directed the Department of Education (the Department) to review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. As a result, the Administration is undertaking the following …

Calling on Congress to Reduce Over-Testing in ESEA

As Congress works to reauthorize ESEA, it should ensure that the legislation provides the tools that parents, teachers, districts, and states need to assess the progress that all students are making each year, including measuring progress by each subgroup.  It is also important that we make these investments in a way that supports smart, effective assessments and reduces over-testing, including language requiring states to limit classroom time spent on statewide standardized testing. Further, legislation should require that information from tests be shared in a timely, user-friendly, and actionable way with parents, teachers, leaders, and students, where appropriate.

Richard Woods
Statement from Superintendent Richard Woods regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s Testing Action Plan
I am pleased that the President and U.S. Secretary of Education see what we at the state and local levels have seen for years: we test way too much. As I stated early on in my term, we must balance accountability with responsibility. That is why several months ago I called for a testing audit to determine ways we could eliminate unnecessary testing at the state and local levels.

In the days ahead, my team and I will look over this proposal and move forward with recommendations to provide relief from over-testing and over-burdensome accountability. Now that the federal government has signaled its willingness to provide flexibility, we as a state must act, in the interests of our students and teachers.

Maureen Downey – AJC Get Schooled
Feds now agree: Too much testing in U.S. schools. But states and districts mandate most tests.
Stung by mounting criticisms it was contributing to the over-testing of American students, the federal government released new guidelines this weekend calling for common sense in testing and a limit on time given over to exams.

A study by the Council of Great City Schools, released in tandem with the USDOE action plan, found, “… the amount of time students spend taking mandatory tests constitutes a surprisingly low percentage (2.34 percent) of the overall time they spend in school given the amount of controversy this issue has generated. At the same time, there are clearly a considerable number of tests, and these tests often pile up at critical points during the school year. But how much is too much, and where is this tipping point?”

The USDOE also cautioned against relying too much on test results to judge students, teachers or schools, stating:  “Assessments provide critical information about student learning, but no single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator, or a school. Information from sources such as school assignments, portfolios, and projects can help measure a student’s academic performance.”

The federal Testing Action Plan generally won praise even though most of the required testing occurs at the state and district level.

“We have continued to warn lawmakers about the over-use and over-emphasis of high-stakes standardized testing that has become toxic to our students,” said Sid Chapman, president the Georgia Association of Educators. “The testing culture that has now become pervasive in public education has actually become a hindrance to our students actually learning their subject matter. Educators did not choose this profession to drill students in high-stakes testing.  They want to teach, accurately assess, and look for the light bulb to come on.”

Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, said, “Through the Center for American Progress’ report ‘Testing Overload in America’s Schools released last fall, we documented there is an overemphasis on tests and test preparation in schools that does not put students first. Tests can provide important information for parents, teachers, and school leaders who need to know if students are on track to graduate from high school ready for college or career. But many students are simply tested too often, as frequently as twice per month and once per month on average. As we documented in our report, despite the widespread perception to the contrary, most standardized tests are required by states and school districts, not federal law. Although test administration takes a small fraction of learning time, tests have taken on outsized importance in schools and test preparation takes up valuable instruction time.”

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said, “I am pleased that the President and U.S. Secretary of Education see what we at the state and local levels have seen for years: we test way too much. As I stated early on in my term, we must balance accountability with responsibility. That is why several months ago I called for a testing audit to determine ways we could eliminate unnecessary testing at the state and local levels. In the days ahead, my team and I will look over this proposal and move forward with recommendations to provide relief from over-testing and over-burdensome accountability.”​

The report by the Council of Great City Schools, an organization of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, offers a lot of data on who is tested and when.

The report information is based on surveys of member districts, analysis of district testing calendars, interviews, and review and analysis of federal, state, and locally mandated assessments:

Among the findings:

•In the 2014-15 school year, 401 unique tests were administered across subjects in the 66 Great City School systems.

•Students in the 66 districts were required to take an average of 112.3 tests between pre-K and grade 12. (This number does not include optional tests, diagnostic tests for students with disabilities or English learners, school-developed or required tests, or teacher designed or developed tests.)

•The average student in these districts will typically take about eight standardized tests per year, e.g., two No Child Left Behind tests (reading and math), and three formative exams in two subjects per year.

•In the 2014-15 school year, students in the 66 urban school districts sat for tests more than 6,570 times. Some of these tests are administered to fulfill federal requirements under No Child Left Behind, NCLB waivers, or Race to the Top (RTT), while many others originate at the state and local levels. Others were optional.

•Testing pursuant to NCLB in grades three through eight and once in high school in reading and mathematics is universal across all cities. Science testing is also universal according to the grade bands specified in NCLB.

• Testing in grades PK-2 is less prevalent than in other grades, but survey results indicate that testing in these grades is common as well. These tests are required more by districts than by states, and they vary considerably across districts even within the same state.

•Middle school students are more likely than elementary school students to take tests in science, writing, technology, and end-of-course exams.

•The average amount of testing time devoted to mandated tests among eighth-grade students in the 2014-15 school year was approximately 4.22 days or 2.34 percent of school time. (Eighth grade was the grade in which testing time was the highest.) (This only counted time spent on tests that were required for all students in the eighth grade and does not include time to administer or prepare for testing, nor does it include sample, optional, and special-population testing.)

•There is no correlation between the amount of mandated testing time and the reading and math scores in grades four and eight on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

•Test burden is particularly high at the high-school level, although much of this testing is optional or is done only for students enrolled in special courses or programs. In addition to high school graduation assessments and optional college-entry exams, high school students take a number of other assessments that are often mandated by the state or required through NCLB waivers or Race to the Top provisions.


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An Ignominious End to John Barge’s Political Career was exceptionally good today.  (Sign up for their daily email updates)

By | Oct 23, 2014 | GaPundit Daily, Georgia Politics

It is being widely reported that Republican (in name only) State School Superintendent John Barge will endorse Democrat Valarie Wilson today in a campaign event.

Sitting State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge (R) will join State School Superintendent Candidate Valarie Wilson (D) to make a special announcement and host a press conference on Thursday at 12 p.m. in front of Tucker High, 5036 LaVista Road, Tucker.

This brings Republican State School Superintendents who ended their political careers at their own hands to three. If you recall, Linda Schrenko ran for Governor in 2002 and was later convicted of embezzlement; Kathy Cox filed for personal bankruptcy in 2008 and resigned in 2010 to take a job in the private sector. Now Barge, who ran for Governor this year and appears to have spent the rest of his time seeking employment elsewhere without much success.

Two things about this. First is it shows that the election for State School Superintendent is not about who is the best candidate – it’s about the bureaucratic educational establishment retaining control of the Georgia Department of Education. The term “bureaucrats” does not include teachers, though many will follow the lead of the administrators who are supporting the Democratic candidate – by bureaucrat, we mean primarily people who draw a check from the Department of Education or a local school system and do not teach students.

It is the bureaucrats who are threatened by a candidate who will take a carefull look at how much money is spent by DOE outside the classrooms and seek to move more of that spending toward classrooms.

It is within the very large Department of Education, which educates exactly zero students, that Democratic activists will be hired and burrow in to career positions where they will outlast any State School Superintendent and affect education outcomes for years into the future.

It is the state’s educational bureaucracy that has delivered the results we have gotten for our tax dollars. Electing yet another bureaucrat like Valarie Wilson will mean that Georgians continue to get more of the same results.

The second issue is that the State School Superintendency has become a stepping stone – from Schrenko who sought the Governor’s Office, to Cox who left to work in the private sector, and now John Barge, who has spent the better part of at least this year seeking higher employment.

It is well-known that John Barge has been an absentee Superintendent for months, turning the office into a mobile campaign, and now seeking out-of-state employment and holding press conferences with other politicians in the middle of the day on a Thursday, when he should be at work.

So I have two questions for Dr. Barge.

First, what kind of deal did you cut with Valarie Wilson to help her win election as Georgia State School Superintendent. Since your job search appears to be going nowhere – either in Cobb County or in Utah –the most-likely scenario, in my opinion, for your endorsement, is that you cut a deal.

If no deal has been cut, will Barge and Wilson both pledge that Barge will neither be offered nor accept, a position as an employee, consultant, or contractor, with the Georgia Department of Education if Valarie Wilson is elected?

Second, will John Barge reimburse the taxpayers the cost of his job search, including his absences during the Gubernatorial campaign, and the time he’s spent on his job search instead of performing the job he has?

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State school superintendent candidates split on Common Core in first debate

The candidates vying to lead Georgia’s K-12 education agency split on a set of national academic standards the state is implementing and tried to appeal to teachers Tuesday during their first debate of the general election.

Democrat Valarie Wilson and Republican Richard Woods didn’t directly address each other during the 90-minute talk in Atlanta, answering questions from a panel and some written by audience members.

Common Core, the tougher academic standards developed by the National Governors Association and adopted by Georgia lawmakers, have been delayed or halted in several states. Some Georgia Republican lawmakers pushed for the state to withdraw from using them, but agreed to a legislative review committee after backlash from business interests and educators.

Some Georgia schools began rolling out the standards several years ago, and the state has contracted a publisher to develop a new test students will take this school year in line with the requirements.

Wilson, a former chair of the Decatur School Board and former president of the Georgia School Boards Association, said she would continue implementing those. Georgia students have to complete in the state, region and internationally, she said.

“I would propose that we continue to move forward but that we work closely with districts across the state,” Wilson said.

Woods said Georgia districts need more flexibility than the standards allow. In an interview after the debate, Woods stopped short of saying Georgia should withdraw from using Common Core.

But he said the department should review and control the standards. He also said the state is too dependent on testing and suggested the timeline should be changed so students take exams earlier in the school year to guide teachers in the classroom.

“We need to take stock and make sure we’re getting what we really want our kids to learn,” said Woods, a former Irwin County teacher and administrator.

Common Core hasn’t been a strictly party-line issue in Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal has expressed some support, and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was one of the governors leading the effort to create a set of national standards.

The Georgia standards remain under review by the state Board of Education and a legislative committee.

By Kathleen Foody
The Florida Times-Union

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Delay new test, says Republican school chief candidate

The candidates vying to lead Georgia’s K-12 education agency split on a set of national academic standards the state is implementing and tried to appeal to teachers Tuesday during their first debate of the general election.

Republican Richard L. Woods wants a two-year delay of the new standardized test Georgia is moving to this school year.

Woods, a retired educator from Irwin County who is running for state school superintendent, called for the delay during a debate Tuesday against his Democratic rival, Valarie Wilson.

The debate, hosted by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, was heavy on detailed policy and featured no interaction between the candidates. Wilson, the former chairwoman of the City Schools of Decatur school board, largely stuck to the script she used to win the Democratic nomination: more state funding for school districts, staying with the national set of academic standards known as Common Core and making public education a higher priority.

Wilson, participating in the debate on her 56th birthday, did not join Woods’ call for delaying the new test.

Only Republicans have been elected to statewide office in recent years. If Woods continues that trend and wins, his policy suggestions could shake up public education in Georgia.

“We are implementing something that has not been fully field tested,” Woods said of the new test.

John Barge, the current superintendent — who defeated Woods when the two ran against each other in the Republican primary four years ago — disputed that. “That’s completely misinformed,” Barge said, adding that questions from the new test have been field tested for several years.

In addition to postponing the new standardized test, Woods said he’d be open to allowing districts to take one of two tests — one that would assess student progress in the new ‘integrated’ math that has raised hackles in some districts and another that would include standard or ‘traditional’ math.

The math part of the new test being planned is based on the ‘integrated’ model, though some districts teach traditional math.

Georgia was in a group of states developing a new test tied to Common Core. But state leaders pulled Georgia out of the group, citing the likely cost of that test. Barge said he and his staff anticipated that when he took office, and, “We’ve been working on Plan B” — the alternative test to be rolled out this year — “for years.”

Barge also threw cold water on the notion of offering two standardized tests.

CTB/McGraw Hill has a five-year, $107.8 million contract with Georgia to create the new standardized test, to be called Georgia Milestones. Offering a second test would mean paying a lot more.

“We can’t afford to offer both assessments,” Barge said … “It’s just not logical.”

Although some superintendents have concerns about the new test, which is expected to be tougher to pass, no superintendent wants his or her school board, not to mention parents, to believe the district is afraid of a more rigorous assessment.

Already, superintendents are answering questions from frustrated parents who wonder why end-of-course test scores in integrated math courses like coordinate algebra and analytic geometry are so low.

One worry is that “we can see some pretty low pass rates,” said Garrett Wilcox, superintendent of schools in Vidalia City. Those low scores will give parents and others the false impression that teachers are not performing well, Wilcox said.

“These teachers are working harder than they ever have with a more needy population” of students, Wilcox said.

That’s a point Wilson made frequently during Tuesday’s debate.

“I think the state of Georgia has some of the best teachers in this country,” Wilson said. “It’s critically important that we continue to invest in these teachers.”

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