Make 2016 the year you preview the PSSA

A friend texted me that today PSSA scores were sent home. As my daughter opted out for the first time, I asked her if the state still sent us anything. Her response was, "Yes, and it is gloriously blank!" I rushed out to find my younger daughter's PSSA report. Here is what an opt out report looks like:

Aside from all of the NS (No Scores), it states, "Your student was not assessed due to a parental request." I cannot emphasize the number of hours children sit for these tests. If you take a close look at the photos above, you may ask yourself how 8, 14, 16, 18, and 20 points for EACH section can give the state, our schools, parents, or the children, themselves a real picture of their proficiency. Vocabulary was only 8 possible points - if a child scored 6/8, that is a 75% For those who are good test takers, getting these scores back reinforces their feeling of success, but what about the rest of the kids? The public has been sold a bill of goods, which has been pushed on us by a Washington DC PR firm, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson.

In Pennsylvania, Secretary of Education, Pedro A. Rivera sent home this letter with PSSA scores:

He writes, ..."a change in your student's score should not be interpreted as a decline in their learning or in their teacher's performance." Many teachers are wondering why these tests are even part of their performance measures.

Mr. Rivera also writes, "The tests' more rigorous standards included more complex, multi-part questions, and required more thoughtful reasoning by the students..." As a parent, the state requires you to preview the PSSAs before opting your child out. I read the 6th grade test last year. It is not "rigorous," unless you use the actual dictionary definition of rigor: the difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something.

Nor does the new test require more thoughtful reasoning. However, the complex, multi-part questions were present, and they were more confusing.  If test writers hired by the state wanted to stress kids out and artificially lower test scores, they created the perfect test.

Some parents I know say they want their children to get lots of practice for SAT tests, so they don't opt out. I understand that worry, but wouldn't it be even more powerful to lobby the best colleges and universities to weigh SAT scores less on applications? All it would take to disempower the College Board would be for colleges and Universities to go test optional. For the exorbitant tuition fees parents (and often times students) pay, shouldn't these schools take the time to read our kid's essays or to interview them?

Another reason some parents worry about these tests is the ethically questionable Keystone exams lurking over all of our heads - the ever present threat to the diplomas of our children.  I blogged here about the cockamamie reasons the PA legislature passed the Keystone as a graduation requirement.

"...Retired Senator, Jeff Piccola said... "It is important to note that the Keystones are the first instance that the students are held accountable for their academic achievement since Pennsylvania began developing these standards in the 1990's. Heretofore,  the PSSA's could be blown off by the individual students because it didn't count anything for them. And I recall visiting schools in various school districts and elementary school students can be cajoled, and bribed, and encourgaed to do well on the PSSA's, but by the time they get to 8th grade they've figured out they have no stake in the exam..." (Emphasis mine.)

When do parents and citizens get to VOTE on these ideas? It has been almost 15 years since No Child Left Behind was passed, and it is clear that PSSA and Keystone results are merely reflections of the state set cut scores. In this post, Diane Ravitch reports what we have known all along. "High school grades are much stronger predictors of undergraduate performance than are test scores."

Of course they are.

Parents, it is time for us to think this through. Do we want more "rigor" and fake critical thinking? In 2016, preview the test. Read it for yourself and if you still want your kids to take the PSSAs, go for it. My hunch is that you will leave wide-eyed and ready to contact your legislators demanding they put an end to these exams, especially the Keystone Exams, which are sure to leave many children behind and without a high school diploma.


  1. If you would like to see a list of colleges that do not require ACT or SAT scores for some or all applicants, go to


Post a Comment

Popular Posts