ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp and state Superintendent Richard Woods were joined by lawmakers, parents and teachers early Tuesday afternoon, as they announced a plan to cut five mandatory standardized tests for Georgia public school students.
Kemp's office issued a release on Monday to "announce legislation to reduce high-stakes K-12 testing in Georgia."
After touting his accomplishments geared toward helping teachers across the state over his first year in office -- including a $3,000 raise for K-12 educators -- Kemp emphasized that his administration was moving forward in the education arena.
"We are keeping our foot on the gas," he said.
The plan he outlined on Tuesday, he said, would eliminate five "high-stakes" standardized tests over and above federal minimum guidelines in the state.
In addition, Kemp said, the plan would limit the timing of standardized testing to the last five weeks of each semester.
Currently, students in Georgia between the 3rd and 12th grades are required to take 24 standardized tests across a variety of subjects.
The federal government requires 17 tests.
By getting rid of a 5th grade Social Studies test and four tests at the high school level, Georgia students would only need to take 19 tests between the 3rd grade and the 12th grade.
One of the problems with the high-stakes standardized tests, Kemp said, was that they may not be fully reflective of a student's performance in the classroom or indicative of a child's ability.
Woods said that he, too, had deep concerns about high-stakes testing.
The reductions, Woods said, would give teachers more time to actually cover course material and to provide a classroom foundation rather than "teaching for the test."
"We must make tests smarter, not harder," Woods said.
Kemp said that anticipation and concerns about standardized tests were, in some cases, actually making students physically sick.
This, he said, was something that he had to do something about.
The Republican officials said they were trying to cut the length of statewide tests and evaluate local tests in order to ensure they obtain proper benchmarks of students' progress.
Both Woods and Kemp oppose the current amount of testing, part of a national backlash to what is often characterized as excessive standardized testing.
"When you look at the big picture, it is clear, Georgia simply tests too much," said Kemp. "For students, these tests may not accurately reflect their personal progress. For teachers, they're substantial burdens on top of an already substantial workload."
"I woke up with a smile when I read it," said Verdailla Turner, president of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers.
She said that teachers statewide have been asking for this.
Turner said she also believes the test scores do not reflect a student's achievements and eat up valuable time teachers could be using to assist students.
"Tests don't tell us everything that we need to know, but we are so happy that the governor is moving in this direction because the public has a tendency to think the test scores are low, not understanding who made that test, what that test measures," Turner said.
Kemp also proposed giving individual school districts more flexibility in setting test dates to provide more time for teaching.
Newton County Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said that over the years, the state moved from no standardized testing to the other extreme -- and she says that along the way, the art of teaching was lost.
"It is nice to see we are swinging back to the center and perhaps our teachers will be able to teach and our students will love, love, love coming to school," Fuhrey said.
Among the testing changes, Kemp also announced he wants to remove certain requirements in the Georgia Milestones testing that would keep Georgia in line with federal requirements, but again aim to reduce testing time and increase instruction time.
This is only a proposal. The next step is an introduction in the General Assembly.
The head of the Senate's Education Committee spoke at the governor's press conference on Tuesday in support of the plan. It is gaining support under the Gold Dome, with Kemp wanting the measure addressed during the current Legislative Session.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.