Shorter Standardized Tests Begin This Week for Many Pennsylvania Students

April 09, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – As many students begin taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSAs) this week, changes implemented by the Wolf Administration for this school year are reducing the test by as much as two days, giving students and teachers more time in the classroom for learning.

“We want to put the focus back on learning in the classroom, not teaching to a test,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Standardized testing can provide a useful data point for a student’s performance, but our focus should be on teaching students for future success, not just the test in front of them.

“Students, parents, teachers and others have told us that too much time in the classroom is used for test taking. These changes respond to those concerns, reducing testing time, while maintaining the rigor of the assessment.”

As previously announced, this school year the Department of Education removed two sections of the PSSA – one in math, one in English language arts – and reduced the number of science questions. Testing time is shrinking by an average of 20 percent for students in grades 3 through 8, and an even greater reduction – nearly 25 percent – for Pennsylvania’s youngest students.

The math assessment has been shortened by 48 minutes for grades 3 through 8 by removing a section of multiple choice questions. The English Language Arts assessment has been shortened by 45 minutes and the Science assessment has been shortened by 22 minutes.

More changes are coming to the PSSA. Starting in 2019, the testing window will be compacted from three weeks to two weeks and shifted to late April, giving students more time to learn before taking the test.

“The Department of Education is committed to hearing from stakeholders across the commonwealth on issues impacting our classrooms – from pre-kindergarten to postsecondary,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “In addition to changes to the PSSA, stakeholder contributions have been critical to the development of the state’s ESSA plan, as well as the Future Ready PA Index that will take effect next year.”

The PSSA changes arose from discussions between the Pennsylvania Department of Education and stakeholders for nearly a year as it developed its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan. The Wolf Administration worked with stakeholders to review the proposed changes and ensure the assessments retained their rigor, accuracy, and alignment with Pennsylvania state standards.

Standardized tests are mandated under federal law and can serve as important tools for schools to review their progress and achievement. However, noting that standardized tests not only interrupt learning, but can also be disruptive for students, even those in non-testing grades, the department plans to continue to identify ways to further reduce those disruptions in coming years.

Additionally, 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, scheduled to launch in the fall, 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, the Future Ready PA Index, and Pennsylvania’s ESSA Consolidated State Plan are available on PDE’s website.

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