What Lower Standardized Test Scores Mean for Pennsylvania

Sep 14, 2015

Throughout Pennsylvania parents of elementary and middle school students are opening their mailboxes today to find standardized test scores for their children and their schools that are much lower than they were last year.  The drop has been nearly unanimously attributed to a more difficult set of tests that are more closely linked to Pennsylvania’s Common Core standards than they have been in the past.

“I would caution any parent from over interpreting these scores…this is a new baseline,” Heidi Ondek, Superintendent, Quaker Valley School District said.  “It may take years before this is a reliable enough measure to base too much on instructionally.”

Ondek encourages parents to talk to their child’s teacher about their son's or daughter's progress, and she encourages everyone in the community to look at multiple measurements when assessing schools.

The federal government seems to agree.  All schools in the state have been given a one-year waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.  Without the waiver, many schools would find themselves at least on a federal watch list if not worse.

“A one year pause is not enough,” Joseph Zupancic, Canon-McMillan School Board member said in calling for more data to be collected over time before the new PSSA can be used as a measurement of progress or success. “So we that we can take another set, another year, and compare apples to apples instead of the apples to oranges that we can get now.”

Schools were not allowed to review the tests before they were given, but Ondek said sample questions were presented to districts.  “It’s difficult to know whether in fact there is a healthy and strong alignment between the PA core standards and the assessments themselves,” Ondek said.

Ondek thinks there is some value to the state’s new core standards and believes that if the tests truly are a good indication of a student’s progress toward those standards, then they will eventually be a good measurement tool.

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