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BoE: Number of tests may change in near future
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Are students being tested too much?

That’s what one Effingham Board of Education member wanted to know after results of the Georgia High School Writing Test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills were presented.

“I just feel we’re testing our kids a lot,” school board member Troy Alford said. “Are we testing them too much? I don’t know.  There’s just so much pressure put on these kids.”

Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff noted that the amount of testing does come up for conversation among school officials.

“We don’t take testing lightly,” he said. “That is a constant area of concern and balance. But there is an accountability function that we are all held to, and I think the board has a high expectation of where they expect this system to go. And this is one way to gauge how you get there.”

The system also may increase the number of tests it administers. But those tests, called benchmark assessments, won’t be counted toward a student’s grade. Those tests, developed in consultation with teachers, will show how much progress a student is making in a course.

“If there are gaps in performance, we’re isolating what they missed so teachers can address that,” Arnsdorff said.

The school system scans about 75,000 testing documents a year, and the total cost of the tests run about $15,000 annually.

“Basically, we’re a testing company,” Arnsdorff said.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse said the state is looking at doing away with the state high school graduation test and relying on end of course tests.

“We don’t know if down the road there is going to be a national assessment that states are going to give,” Shearouse said. “I think people have concerns. But how do you measure student progress, other than teacher opinion. That is still very valuable. But certainly, you need that assessment piece as well”
And the tests also serve a purpose, according to Arnsdorff, as the school system measures how its students and teachers are performing.

“The bar has been raised. Our staff has risen to that, and our students are rising to that. Our performance levels are much better than they ever have been.”