Myra Blackmon is a columnist for he Athens Banner-Herald, where this column appeared.

 

 

She writes:
It happened last year. They said problems were corrected. It happened again this year.

 

Once again, administration of the Georgia Milestones – those hideous tests that purport to measure student achievement and teacher effectiveness – was plagued with computer problems.

 

 

Only someone who has been asleep for the last three years should be surprised at this. Computer servers couldn’t handle the traffic, systems crashed, teachers wrung their hands, students wept in frustration.

 
As a result, test scores will not be used for retention or promotion decisions for students in grades 3, 5 and 8.

 

This isn’t accountability, friends – this is abuse. The Georgia Milestones abuse the money Georgia taxpayers spend on education.

 

Let’s put this waste and abuse into perspective. According to the state Department of Education, there are about 401,000 students in third-, fifth- and eighth-grade classes in Georgia public schools. Let’s assume their teachers spend 10 hours of test preparation, practicing and reviewing with each of these students. That’s four million hours of time that could have been spent building projects, reading books for fun, doing science experiments – in other words, actually learning.

 
Yep, four million hours of wasted time, all before the testing begins. And that’s in just three grades.

 

In those same three grades, there are about 15,000 classrooms across the state, (assuming an overall average class size of about 26) spending millions of student hours on unproductive, speculative practices. It isn’t the schools deciding to waste all this time and money, it’s the state legislature and the U.S. Department of Education.

 

When you translate that into teacher pay for that wasted time, we are quickly pushing $1 billion annually. If that money was being spent to pay teachers to do what they do best, instead of what federal and state mandates insist they do, we could be making huge gains in education. But we are so driven by the mandated metrics and extraneous requirements that we completely lose sight of what real learning looks like.

 

What are we thinking, allowing this nonsense in our schools?…

 

Georgia Milestones provide zero diagnostic data. There are no reports that Johnny does well with long division, but needs to work on reading comprehension, while Tamekia is really strong in earth science, but still needs to work on her understanding of the three branches of government. No, all we get is aggregate data – and it’s not available until several months into the next school year, far too late to do anything about problems in any given class.

 

The Georgia Milestones have become the Georgia Millstones, huge weights that break the backs of our children and their teachers. We must stop it. And we must stop it soon, lest we lose another generation to corporate profits and political junk science.