The Glynn County board of education discussed Tuesday night the recent concerns from some local parents who asked that their students be allowed to exempt this year’s Georgia Milestones Assessment tests.
The Milestones test began this week for certain grades, and earlier in the school year parents from several schools requested that their students be allowed not to take the test and to instead be accommodated with an alternate location or other school work during the testing periods.
At the end of last week, following a meeting on April 9 when school officials and board members met with parents and heard their concerns, the parents were notified that the school system administrators were required to test the students if they attended school on the testing days.
That decision was reversed on April 14, the last school day before certain Milestones tests began, when parents were notified that their students would be accommodated.
Jim Pulos, assistant superintendent for student achievement, said at the board meeting on Tuesday that local school systems are not receiving clear guidance from the state on this issue and that federal law currently states that schools are required to give students the test.
“It’s an ambiguity that puts us in this position,” he said.
This year, the state legislature passed House Bill 425, part of which instructs the Georgia Department of Education to identify policies for local school systems to adopt to determine how students opt out of Georgia exams and what accommodations should be made.
But that bill has yet to be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
“Now we’re waiting to see what happens with HB 425,” Pulos said.
Brian Weese, the parent of a local student, attended the board meeting Tuesday night along with several others who have been involved in this push to allow parents to decide when their child opts out of the test.
In an address to the school board, Weese thanked them for the final decision that was made but questioned why that decision came so late.
“It took a vigorous social media campaign Thursday night, active discussion on talk radio Friday morning and calls to our state representatives to receive the accommodations our children deserve,” Weese said.
Parents had a variety of reasons for asking that their students opt out of the Milestones tests, including fear that the tests place too much pressure on students when they’re told by classmates and teachers that failing could result in being held back a grade. Others worry that younger students are disadvantaged because the test is only administered on the computer, even though the students haven’t taken a typing class.
Some also feel that the tests are not a valid measurement tool for whether students advance to the next grade.
Once Gov. Deal makes his decision whether to sign HB 425, Pulos said the school system will have a better idea of how it should move forward with a potential policy for how to handle parental requests for students to opt out the test.
School board member Millard Allen said the school board has no option but to wait for that decision and then for further guidance from the DOE.
“We need to have some sort of policy, but we have to know what to base the policy on,” Allen said.