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Assistant professor quoted on test-based accountability

Since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act, many education officials have questioned the reliability of using standardized test scores as an indicator of school quality.

Richard Welsh, an assistant professor in the department of lifelong education, administration and policy in UGA's College of Education, was recently quoted by the AJC on Georgia's new scoring system proposal, which will offer schools extra points for offering courses in music and art and reduce the number of "indicators" measured by the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Georgia's current accountability measures have proved unattainable for many schools, especially in neighborhoods with high poverty. As a result, schools have cut back on activities that do not contribute directly to higher test scores.

"There are few feasible alternatives to test-based accountability," said Welsh, who studies the current and proposed school grading systems in Georgia and other states.

To address these issues, Georgia officials are working with nearly 50 organizations and agencies to create a new scoring system. In addition to the changes implemented by the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new proposal will offer schools extra points for high test scores, as well as for offering non-core classes and enrolling students in Advanced Placement courses.

Welsh sees Georgia's proposal as an improvement. While the No Child Left Behind Act ignored poverty and other disadvantages and blamed teachers for low test scores, the new system will give schools credit if they show its students are learning faster, for instance, by increasing test scores more than similar students at other schools.

So far though, said Welsh, no one has come up with a better measure than testing. He added that the next version of Georgia's report card is as good as or better than what other states are considering, and it can always be adjusted.

"I think we continually inch toward a more perfect measure," said Welsh.

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