Audit: Georgia lawmakers should revise state education review standards

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(The Center Square) – Georgia lawmakers should consider revising the state’s four-year cycle of reviewing education standards, a process that can yield revisions potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

That’s according to a new finding from the Georgia Department of Audits & Accounts, which conducted an audit at the behest of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It found the four-year review cycle to be “unusual,” as other states studied have longer cycles, and state law does not define how to calculate the four-year cycle.

Revising the cycle “could be done by increasing the number of years in the cycle or eliminating the requirement and allowing” the Georgia Department of Education, the State Board of Education, “and the state school superintendent to set the schedule,” according to the audit.

“If the cycle remains in law, the General Assembly should more clearly define the required timeframe and specify how the cycle should be calculated,” the audit found. “We also recommend that GaDOE work with SBOE to establish a schedule of subjects to be reviewed over a set time period.”

The four-year review mandate dates to the development of the Quality Core Curriculum in 1985. However, the state typically conducts reviews for reasons unrelated to the requirement and governors often initiate reviews due to national education initiatives, such as Common Core, or at the state school superintendent’s direction.

“While we determined the primary reason each review of content standards was initiated, additional reasons often play a part,” the audit found. “For example, most of Georgia’s reviews are driven at least partly by the desire to stay current with educational content and practice.”

The four-year standard has generally not been followed due to more frequent English language arts and math reviews. However, officials did not review the state’s science and social studies curriculum standards for 12 years until 2016.

“Since 2015, costs of revisions to core content standards have ranged from $520,000 for a minor revision to nearly $11 million for a substantial revision,” the audit revealed.

The state has reviewed standards 11 times, including eight core content area reviews, since 2010. The most extensive state costs were related to assessment changes, normally accounting for more than half of revision costs since 2015, and most stem from Georgia Milestones Assessment System updates.

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