FORSYTH COUNTY — High stakes testing in Forsyth County Schools will have a much lower bar for students to scale this year as the impact of a global pandemic continues to disrupt.

Grades on the state’s mandatory End of Course tests traditionally count for 20 percent of a student’s final grade in the course. This year because of the impacts of COVID-19, the state is allowing districts to drop the weight to as low as 0.01 percent.

The Forsyth School Board last week voted to allow EOC scores to count for 10 percent of the final grade only if the EOC score increases the final grade. If the EOC score harms the overall grade, it will count a nearly negligible 0.01 percent of the final grade.

“We want to show compassion and understanding for different situations families are going through,” said Lee Ann Rice, associate superintendent. “We also feel we have to give the tests [because] the federal government requires it, and we want it to be worth our time and meaningful to students.”

EOC tests are given each spring in four high school subjects, algebra 1, biology, American literature and American history, as part of the state’s Milestones Assessments. An annual state assessment is required by the federal government to provide a measure of student achievement.

Rice said the decision to raise the weight above the state’s stance balanced the needs of parents and students.

She noted Forsyth Schools is in a unique position compared to most of the state’s 180 school systems. It was among the handful of districts opening classrooms in August and has had students learning in person almost continuously since then.

“We want to use the [EOC] data as we go into the next school year to show where students are academically and allow teachers to adjust their curriculum see where the gaps are,” Rice said.

She said Forsyth students have also scored higher on the EOCs than their statewide peers, with many students using those scores to improve their grades.

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On the other hand, Rice recognizes the pressure high stake testing causes, and recommended the “hold harmless” provision for those who may not do well on the EOCs.

“Some families feel very strongly the [EOC grade] should not count because their student is anxious and worried about all the things going on in their life,” Rice said.  

The testing window for the EOCs is May 3-7 and students will take the tests in school because a remote version is not available. The days will be online learning days for students not taking the test.

Last spring Georgia received a waiver for the 2020 EOC as the pandemic shutdown occurred during the testing season. This year a second waiver was rejected by the federal government. However, the Georgia Department of Education has submitted it again under the new administration.

If the waiver is approved, Rice said it will be up to the state to determine the EOC testing – if any. But until then, she noted, the district will assume the tests will be given.

“We have to rely on the state whether they are administering the tests or not [if the waiver is received].” Rice said. “I would assume not…but that’s a state level decision.”

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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