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SB 364 Gets First House Hearing

04 Mar 2016 12:57 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)

Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins' (R-Marietta) assessment bill, SB 364, (substitute version attached), was heard for the first time in the House Education Committee Wednesday.  We expect that the bill will be heard again next week and could be voted on at that time or at a later date.  Following is a summary of the House hearing.

Chairman Lindsey Tippins began his presentation to the House Education Committee on SB 364 by noting that this legislation needs to pass in order to support teachers and the education workforce at large. Chairman Tippins noted that he has heard from many constituents and others across the state that public education is failing the teachers in Georgia and there hasn’t been a substantial policy change on assessments or teacher evolutions in nearly 50 years. Chairman Tippins framed his discussion in the context of what he believes needs to change and noted that like any good policy initiative, it will take time to get to the point where the public at large is satisfied with the policy. He remarked that SB 364 was designed to craft a model that is best for the local school district, and that the legislation seeks to reframe the conversation about student and educator efficiency and increased effectiveness in public education. He closed his remarks by clearly stating that this legislation is moving forward in one form or another, as it is one of the Senate Republican Caucus’ top priorities this session.  

Chairman Tippins briefly overviewed the high level changes in SB 364 to public education:
  1. Reduces TKES student growth from 50% - 30%
  2. Reduces LKES student growth from 70% - 40%
  3. Reduces state mandated tests from 32-24 by eliminating social studies and science tests in grades 3-4 and 6-7. Students would be tested in these subjects in grades 5 and 8.
  4. Makes SLOs a local adoption
  5. Requires that a student attend 80% of the available classes to be counted in a teachers growth measures
  6. Reduces the number of observations for tenured teachers with a proficient or exemplary rating
  7. Requires an annual summative assessment for each student
Chairman Tippins continued by noting how the legislation is designed around education inputs rather than education outputs and is intended to be a “minor reduction” in testing.  He also noted that Georgia requires three times the amount of testing that federal government requires.  SB 364 is crafted to allow for teacher and educational flexibility, but is also based on the notion that all students should be evaluated properly. Finally, the Chairman expressed that he will not negotiate on mandated reading/math skills by the time a student enters the 6th grade. He cautioned the committee that the State and the Department of Education do not need to hold teachers accountable for areas outside of their control, and that the most effective model he has seen is the use of frequent formative assessments. He closed his presentation to the committee by detailing the provision in the bill that allows the local system to keep their current model of testing/evaluation if they can show the DOE through data/results that the model is working.

Following the Chairman’s remarks, the Committee posed questions to both him and State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods, which are summarized below:  

Chairman Coleman asked Supt. Woods to give a brief overview of the State required tests:
Supt. Woods responded that local systems can require additional tests (benchmark testing) that is directly tied to accountability, and that the Department does not mandate the systems to perform more tests. The committee received a copy of a matrix showing the state required tests v. federally required tests v. an aggregate of what local school systems test.

Rep. Tommy Benton asked Chairman Tippins if there had been discussions in the Senate process about using MAP in the bill?
Chairman Tippins responded that the bill addresses this in K-5 grade, but that the local system, the education committees and other thought leaders have to determine which assessments give the teachers and the administration the best feedback.

Chairman Randy Nix specifically asked about a provision on page 3 relating to the student growth (30%) a minimum of 20% on state assessments, and what the thought process was from going from 50% -20%.
Chairman Tippins responded that the other 10 percent is multiple indicators of student achievement (20% has to be Milestones) and remarked that a single test on single day in a high stakes format is not the best indicator of student growth or achievement.

Chairman Randy Nix continued by asking about the provision on Line 79, which eliminates the state board approval of SLOs.
Chairman Tippins interrupted Chairman Nix and told the committee that the proposed legislation is eliminating SLOs as they are designed today, but that they are not eliminating the approval process.

Rep. Margaret Kaiser asked if there is going to be flexibility for formative assessments for charter schools?  
Chairman Tippins responded that a clarification needs to be be made in the current version of the bill for public charter schools, and that particular issue hasn’t been discussed yet.

Rep. Mike Dudgeon asked Supt. Woods if he could offer his vision of SLOs/student growth for five years from now?
Supt. Woods responded that he envisioned the Department looking at one growth measure, where they would still have pre/post tests, and that the administration would work with the teacher to give them flexibility at the local level to determine success. This drastically cuts down on the required number of tests (next year is only two growth measures).

Rep. Mike Dudgeon continued by remarking to the committee and the audience that the legislation is not dramatically decreasing testing days as opponents would contend, but rather the proposal is to move from 32 testing days to 26 testing days.

Rep. Valencia Stovall asked specifically about lines 13-14, relating to development. She asked if there had been consultation with stakeholders that would include parents/students?
Chairman Tippins responded that the parents are the stakeholders, and that if the parents want to be involved then they will be involved.

Rep. Amy Carter expressed her concerns about the testing window (she thinks that testing would be too early in the school year) and voiced concerns for seniors who are graduating and taking tests late in the year, along with the 3rd and 5th grade “testing gap.”

Chairman Randy Nix closed the hearing, as a sponsor of the House counterpart to the bill, and expressed his thanks to Chairman Tippins and Supt. Woods for their hard work thus far on the bill. Chairman Nix said that his only reservations about the current form of the bill are that there is not an appeal process for the teachers to adjust their evaluations. Chairman Nix closed by saying that he hoped a hybrid bill of his legislation (HB 1061) and SB 364 could be put together to move the state’s teachers forward and remove onerous and burdensome provisions on them in the future.
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