Loophole for teachers? Bill would let students skip state testing with doc note

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An education bill awaiting Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's signature is raising concerns it could be used as a legal loophole to help educators cheat the system.

Senate Bill 355 allows students to opt out of taking mandatory state tests if they are diagnosed with a life-threatening or serious health condition or if they have a doctor’s note.

Some argue it would be easy to score a doctor’s note and warn -- in a state rocked just three years ago by a cheating scandal -- it could be used as a way for educators to nudge certain students to skip on test day, to keep classroom scores up.

“It’s not an improbable scenario that, at least in some places, there would be a concerted and organized effort to encourage certain parents to opt out,” Kelly Henson, leader of Georgia’s teacher credentialing agency, said.

In Georgia, schools are judged on their test results and the temptation to influence scores could become an issue, Henson told FoxNews.com on Friday.

He added that if his office receives complaints about an “orchestrated effort” to coach some low-performing student to call out sick on test day, he would take the complaints to the state’s attorney general for review and possible prosecution.

The bill’s author, Sen. William T. Ligon Jr., told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it would be a stretch to imagine widespread abuse since doctors, rather than schools, would be in charge of which students could opt out of the tests.

Georgia has been trying to repair its reputation following one of the largest test-cheating scandals in U.S. history. In 2013, 35 educators were indicted on charges that included theft, racketeering and making false statements. They were accused of doctoring test results in order to keep their jobs and get bonuses.

A state investigation dating back to 2005 found evidence of cheating in 44 schools with nearly 180 educators involved.

A spokesman for Deal said the bill is still under review. The governor has until May 3 to either sign the bill into law or veto it.

Calls made to Ligon by FoxNews.com for comment were not returned.