Lower PSSA scores spur some school districts to call for less testing

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Education shared preliminary test data for its new, Common Core-aligned tests — and the results weren’t pretty.

As a result, some area school districts are lobbying Harrisburg to dial back the number and consequences of standardized tests, sooner rather than later.

Pottsgrove School Board Director Rick Rabinowitz said the new scores make it hard to gauge school progress.

"The trend was up for most of our schools. And we’d been working very hard to continue to improve," said Rabinowitz. "It’s like pulling the rug out from under us."

In response, Pottsgrove passed a resolution asking legislators to "minimize the amount of mandated testing" and urging its own faculty and administrators to stay focused on "quality teaching of quality content, and to minimize time spent on preparation for standardized testing."

Rabinowitz said he is also worried about how lower scores will affect teachers, who are evaluated partially on test scores and progress.

Based on the PDE’s preliminary data, last year’s PSSAs — reading, math and writing tests administered to 3rd through 8th graders — show a drop in average test scores across the board. For math, the test scores declined an average of 35.4 percent across those grades.

In addition to changing questions on the tests to align with Pennsylvania Common Core standards, state officials changed the "cut scores" — or what score constitutes a passing grade. Some administrators argue that this unfairly deflates scores. The department has said that comparisons with previous years are moot and that this year should be treated as a baseline.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks