In 1999, Pennsylvania adopted academic standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening and for mathematics.
These standards identify what a student should know and be able to do at varying grade levels. School districts possess the freedom to design curriculum and instruction to ensure that students meet or exceed the standards’ expectations.
The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment is a standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards.
It measures how well students have achieved in reading, mathematics, science and writing according to Pennsylvania’s world-class academic standards.
By using these standards, educators, parents and administrators can evaluate their students’ strengths and weaknesses to increase students’ achievement scores.
Every Pennsylvania student in grades three through eight and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in fifth, eighth and 11th grades is assessed in writing. Every Pennsylvania student in fourth and eighth grades is assessed in science.
According to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students must be 100 percent proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The PSSA results allow schools and districts to evaluate their students’ progress to make full proficiency a reality.
NCLB also requires states to determine annually whether schools and districts in Pennsylvania make adequate yearly progress, AYP.
Performance and participation on the PSSA are among the components used to make AYP determinations.
Individual student scores, provided only to their respective schools, can be used to assist teachers in identifying students who may be in need of additional educational opportunities, and school scores provide information to schools and districts for curriculum and instruction improvement discussions and planning.
Carolyn Dumaresq is the acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This description of PSSAs from the department’s website is printed by permission.