Testing under scrutiny in Pa. House hearing

Jul 30, 2015 by

Botched Testing

Botched Testing

By Karen Langley –

HARRISBURG — Concerns about the statewide testing of students in Pennsylvania dominated an hours-long hearing Wednesday before the House Education Committee.

During testimony from educators, panel members heard worries that testing is detracting from the quality of education while adding to its cost.

Officials from the state Department of Education described the tests that Pennsylvania students take. They focused on two: the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, which is taken in math and English language arts in grades 3 through 8 and in science in grades 4 and 8; and the Keystone Exams, end-of-course assessments in algebra 1, literature and biology that are scheduled to serve as a high school graduation requirement, though one with exceptions, beginning with the class of 2017.

The use of the Keystone Exams to assess student readiness for graduation has come under criticism. In June, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would delay their use as a graduation requirement by two years, until the 2018-19 school year. Gov. Tom Wolf supports the proposal, said his spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan. House Republicans, who hold the majority, are examining the proposal, said spokesman Steve Miskin.

At the hearing, Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, said he has heard from superintendents about the cost of support for students who don’t pass the exams. He said he sees “growing momentum” in the General Assembly to reconsider tying graduation to passing the exams.

“It just seems too much of a coincidence for nearly unanimous commentary from superintendents and administrators in these school districts,” he said. “Nearly all of them have the same story, and that is, you’re going to spend a fortune to try to remediate students who will have an unbelievably complicated time trying to pass these Keystone exams.”

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association supports a delay in using the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement.

The State Board of Education would object to severing the tie between passing the Keystone exams and graduating from high school, said board chairman Larry Wittig, who told the panel: “If you take away the mandatory part of it for the student, the student then has no incentive to do the best that they possibly can.”

Mr. Wittig told the lawmakers that various exceptions, including the ability of superintendents to waive the requirement, mean it will not keep students from receiving diplomas.

“Nobody is not going to graduate because of this,” he said.

The Education Committee chairman, Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, said he believes there is too much testing in the schools, and that he may write to federal officials about testing requirements.

“Maybe the federal government needs to re-evaluate what they’re doing as well,” he said. “Every test we issue in Pennsylvania is federally required.”

Source: Testing under scrutiny in Pa. House hearing | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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