Board passes resolution encouraging standardized test reform

Some local teachers believe that the weight of evaluations of schools, students and teachers should fall more on individual school districts, and less on state standardized tests.

And the State College Area school board is doing its part to advocate for state standardized testing reform.

The board unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month to send to state education representatives detailing how the district believes the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments and Keystone exams should be adjusted.

“The resolution is essentially a statement of the board’s position in support of legislation that would give school districts a better alternative than the current PSSA and Keystone exam requirements,” board member David Hutchinson said in an email. “We have heard a great deal of interest on the part of our local legislators in support of this, so our hope is that as a result of legislative action, by this time next year, the PSSAs will be a thing of the past, and the Keystone exams will be permanently removed as a high school graduation requirement.”

The PSSAs are administered in the spring and measure third- through eighth-grade students in math and English/language arts. Students in fourth and eighth grades are also assessed in science.

The Keystones are exams that test high school students in various math subjects, literature, English, biology, chemistry, U.S. and world history, and civics and government.

The resolution identified eight problems deemed by the board, but followed up with a series of suggestions the board thinks could better the assessments.

“The district also supports the idea of removing the state requirement that students pass the standardized test — Keystone exam — in order to pass a class, and I agree,” State High science teacher and State College Area Education Association President Eugene Ruocchio said. “It should be a local school district decision.”

According to the resolution, the board proposes “that for the purpose of state accountability,” schools be allowed to use a computer adaptive, formative assessment system that provides student performance information in regard to current grade placement academic standards, and that students be permitted to use as evidence of having met high school graduation requirements, and more.

“I concur with the fact that kids are over tested, as the district alludes to in the resolution (and) I also agree that the current testing window does not allow teachers to use the resulting data to adjust instruction since results are not received until after the school year is over,” Ruocchio said.

I also believe the district is taking the correct steps to address the fact that teacher evaluations based on these test results is a subpar measure of the effectiveness of an educator and an ineffective measure of a student’s academia. No student or educator should be judged on the performance of one test on one day of a 180-day school year.”

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo