Student GMAS testing contract violates county policy

(SAVANNAH) Contracts between students and schools are common when it comes to behavior, but some schools in Chatham County have drawn up a different kind of agreement. That document tells students and their parents that students could be retained if they do not pass state-mandated tests. The Georgia Milestones Assessment System testing is underway in the county. Last week, a trio of schools sent agreements home with students that say “If I do not take my time on all parts of this assessment and display mastery of the standards, I can be retained and not promoted to the next grade for the 2017-2018 school year.” The Chief Public Affairs Officer for the school system says nothing could be further from the truth. Kurt Hetager reads the SCCPSS policy. “The key element is right here, “Where placement decisions, promotion and retention decisions based on a review of overall academic achievements requirements. School principal will use multiple measures for final determination of student promotion/retention, not just the test alone.” Hetager read.

Three schools in the system over-emphasized the impact of student performance on GMAS tests in agreements sent home last week to let parents know that test preparation was underway. Hetager says the contracts were not distributed in every school in Chatham County. “Isolated cases. Some of our schools have really over-communicated and over-emphasized and really, clearly overstated the vale of GMAS as it relates to the promotion and retention of our students for the school year.” Hetagar said.

Steps are underway to clarify the miscommunication with parents and students who received the agreements. “Our schools are working in those instances, uh, to communicate to parents, have done a parent call-out. they’ll be releasing a letter as well, to really clearly state what GMAS is and what GMAS is is that it’s one component o f many that the school uses for determining the final placement of the students.” said Hetager, who adds that the policy for testing in Chatham County aims to make testing a low-stress experience for students. “Our effort is not to have a scary test, the effort is to have an assessment.” Hetagar said.

GMAS is used in placement for students, but other factors determine whether or not students are promoted or retained. Hetager says there are a number of components that go into the decisions regarding promotion or retention. GMAS impacts students in grades 3 through 8 in English language arts and mathematics, while fifth through eighth grader are also assessed in science and social studies. High school students take an end-of-course assessment for each of the ten courses designated by the state board of education. GMAS testing in Chatham County Public School system continues through April 11th.

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