Tests Leaked in Georgia

K-12 Testing

Gwinnett County, Georgia, implemented new "Gateway" exams over widespread parental opposition. Then, even after the exams were leaked to the press, the district still administered the grade promotion tests.


The county had claimed that its security was tamper-proof, but copies of the test appeared in newspapers around the suburban Atlanta county just before the mid-April testing. The source of the leak has not been located.


In the wake of the leak, the Atlanta Constitution became perhaps the first major daily newspaper in the country to explicitly oppose the use of high-stakes exams. Testing, the paper editorialized on April 13, 2000, “should never become the sole determinant of whether a student graduates or moves to the next grade. Instead, teacher judgment in concert with a child’s portfolio and class projects ought to matter as well.”


The state has authorized districts to use the state test for grade-promotion decisions, though it does not require them to do so. While the state defines its exam as “basic skills,” Gwinnet authorities claim the Gateway test is “world class” and not “basic skills,” meaning more children will be at risk of being retained.


The Constitution also argued that the newly legislated state plan to rank schools “A” to “F” is likely to cause more harm than good. The editorial noted that the scores will simply mirror socio-economic levels, as poverty and race strongly correlate with test scores.


In the state’s new accountability program, teachers at “A” and “B” schools will receive bonuses, while schools with grades of “D” and “F” will face interventions which can lead to dismissal of school personnel. Student test scores will also be considered in teachers’ annual evaluations.


Meanwhile, according to parent Lisa Amspaugh, “The Gwinnett County school police have begun harrassing members of the parent opposition group, using the release of the test to the press as an excuse. Although the school police have openly admitted that the test had to be taken by someone within the school system, the school police are now going after all outspoken opponents of the test, although none had access and can not be considered suspects for the actual theft. They are showing up at workplaces unannounced, demanding people answer questions, and have asked several group members to take polygraphs. It is the latest tactic to try to stop the opposition from growing stronger than it already is.”


Reach Lisa Amspaugh at amspaugh@excelonline.com; (770) 963-2431; www.cpoga.org.