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Sunday May 24th, 2015 1:31PM

Georgia mulling company to develop statewide exam

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia officials facing a short timeline to replace the statewide student test could take a major step on Thursday.

Members of the state Board of Education may recommend that the state hire an unnamed company to develop the new test at their monthly meeting in Atlanta. The proposal would make some sweeping changes to statewide testing in Georgia, making the tests more difficult and moving all testing online within five years.

State officials said procurement laws in Georgia prevent them from naming the company until the Department of Administrative Services publishes the award and other bidders have a chance to respond. The cost also won't be revealed until that time.

The state committed to rolling out a new test during the 2014-15 school year in return for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind act. Pressure to meet that deadline increased in July when Georgia dropped out a multi-state consortium that is building a test to meet the rigid standards of Common Core.

State officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal and State School Superintendent John Barge, said then that Georgia could find a more affordable rate than the consortium's predicted cost of $29.50 per student tested.

Melissa Fincher, director of testing for the Department of Education, said the tight timeline to build a new test isn't ideal but added that the state isn't starting from scratch.

Dana Rickman, policy and research director for advocacy nonprofit the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said getting the exam right is essential to every piece of education reform underway in the state. Student performance is based on statewide testing and is central to new teacher evaluation standards and judging the success of Common Core's curriculum changes, she said.

``We're moving into an area of greater transparency and accountability, but all of that is based on the assessment,'' Rickman said.

The state's budget for the coming year include an additional $8 million for testing students, bringing the total pot of money for testing to around $23 million, Fincher said. That also must pay for other exams.
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