Teacher Union Head Cautious On PSSA Results

Students spend more than 100 classroom hours a year on test preparation.

By Andrea Sears of Public News Service PA
for The Post Publications

HARRISBURG PA – The latest school-level scores on statewide standardized tests show some improvement over 2015, but a proclaimed education advocate in Pennsylvania cautions they don’t tell the whole story.

A slightly higher percentage of public school students passed the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment – or PSSA – and Keystone Exams during 2016. Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, claimed test scores offer only a snapshot of education in the state.

“They don’t tell us everything we need to know about our schools,” Oleksiak said. “So while we’re happy to see some of the progress being made, my question is always, ‘What is that costing us in terms of the things we are giving up in our schools?'”

By the time students graduate from high school in Pennsylvania, according to the association, they have taken more than 100 standardized tests. Those same tests, it added, also are used to measure teacher performance.

Oleksiak estimated students now spend more than 100 classroom hours a year on test preparation alone. To do so, he added, some sacrifice art, music and elective courses. “Things that our kids love, that keep them in school,” he said. “We need to focus on what we know works for our kids, and filling in bubble sheets on standardized tests do not do that.”

Change might be ahead. Congress during 2015 passed the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” a successor to “No Child Left Behind.” Oleksiak said he sees the new law’s modified testing requirements as an opening for positive change on the state level.

“We’re hopeful that our Department of Education and the Wolf Administration will look at this, and see this as an opportunity to take some of that emphasis off the high-stakes testing that’s going on in our schools,” he said.

Photo from Alberto G. via Flickr