Governor Wolf Touts Standardized Test Reduction Benefiting Students, Parents and Teachers

August 17, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – As students and teachers prepare for back to school, Governor Tom Wolf joined Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and education advocates for a Schools that Teach event in Pittsburgh to announce students and teachers will spend at least 20 percent less time on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) this school year.

“Parents, teachers, and students have expressed concerns to me about the amount of time devoted to standardized tests,” said Governor Wolf at Pittsburgh Morrow PreK-8. “This reduction to the PSSA is an important step to giving students and teachers more time for learning while maintaining the accuracy of the test and reducing the burden on the kids.”

“Our state is listening to parents about what we want in the education of our children,” said parent Cynthia-Grace Devine-Kepner.  “As a parent, I am thrilled with the reduction in the time commitment to the standardized test which can be stressful to many children. This change allows our kids to focus more on learning in the classroom which will help them to better prepare for success throughout their life.”

“I am relieved that teachers’ voices were heard when we emphasized the pressures that are put on our students and teachers with the abundance of testing,” said Lorena Mitchell, a seventh-grade math teacher at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8. “A reduction of 20 percent of testing time could equate to two full days that I can use in my classroom to help maintain structure and focus on educating the students.”

Beginning this school year, students and teachers in grades 3 through 8 will spend an average of 20 percent less time on statewide testing, and an even greater reduction – nearly 25 percent – for Pennsylvania’s youngest students. The Department has identified and removed two sections – one in math, one in English language arts – and additional questions from the science section, which could eliminate up to two full testing days for some schools.

“We are grateful to both Governor Wolf and the Department of Education for their willingness to listen to the voices of educators from across the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Anthony Hamlet, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. “This decrease supports the steps we took as a District to reduce the amount of time our students in grades K-5 spend taking tests.”

Currently, the PSSA exams take place during a three-week testing window identified by school districts and this schedule will apply to the shortened assessments in 2018. For test administration in 2019, the Department of Education anticipates shortening that window and moving it toward the end of the year to provide educators more time for curriculum instruction and to minimize disruptions to classes. The Department identified the PSSA changes during discussions with stakeholders for nearly a year when developing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan. The plan is a federal requirement to replace the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The Department worked extensively with experts and stakeholders to make this change to the PSSAs and ensure that the exams are still accurate and maintain rigor,” said Secretary Rivera. “Although standardized tests are still required by the federal government and can provide meaningful information to schools and parents, we know that there are other equally important indicators of student success.”

Governor Wolf has fought for Schools That Teach and has made investments in children and schools a top priority.

Over the past three years, Pennsylvania has:

  • Increased state funding by more than $800 million at all levels after devastating cuts in the past that is bringing teachers back to the classroom and restore educational program.
  • Established a Fair funding formula to reduce the inequity in state support and taking Pennsylvania off a shameful list of states without a way to fairly fund their school. Pennsylvania was one of only three states in the nation without a fair funding formula.
  • Doubled early childhood education access to provide nearly 8,800 more children access to Pre-K and Head Start programs to get a good start to their education.
  • Increased graduation rates to among the highest in the nation for four-year high school from 85.5 percent in 2013-14 to 86.1 percent in 2015-16.

Additionally, 42 percent more credentials were earned by students in industry-recognized programs and

Pennsylvania has become a national leader in STEM education, helping workers compete in the 21st century economy and build economic prosperity for working families.

Also this year, the Department introduced the Future Ready PA Index, a new, public-facing school report card that expands the indicators used to measure performance, extends the comprehensive approach to ensuring student and school success. The Index will place additional emphasis on academic growth, evaluation of school climate through a robust chronic absenteeism measure, attention to both four-year and extended-year graduation rates, and assessments of postsecondary readiness.

Details about the PSSA reduction and the Future Ready PA Index are available in Pennsylvania’s ESSA Consolidated State Plan, on PDE’s website. The plan is open for public comment until August 31, 2017.

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