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Education Voters of Pennsylvania applauds Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver

September 9, 2015


Education Voters of Pennsylvania applauds Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver, which pauses the use of new PSSA scores to calculate School Performance Profile scores and teacher effectiveness evaluations


Harrisburg  (September 9, 2015) – Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a statewide organization dedicated to supporting policies that strengthen and support great public schools in every community to ensure opportunities for all children, applauds the delay in the use of PSSA scores to calculate SPP scores and educator evaluations.

“It is very encouraging that the current administration sought this waiver from the U.S. Department of Education and understands that raising the bar that measures what students should know through the implementation of the new PA Core Standards on the PSSA test is a process,” said Gobreski.  “Because this is a new test, aligned to new standards, this is a baseline year and it would be inappropriate to use these results to determine if a school or educator is doing better or worse than in the past. This is “Year 1” in terms of getting data on how schools are doing at meeting the new standards.”

In March of 2014, as part of a nationwide movement to create new standards (called the Common Core), the PA Board of Education replaced PA’s academic standards with new “PA Core Standards,” the first revision in 10 years.  These are very rigorous standards, which significantly changed the content that students in PA are to learn in public schools.

At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Pennsylvania students in grades 3-8 took new PSSA tests that were based solely on the new PA Core Standards. The 2014 PSSAs are very different from the PSSAs that students had taken in previous years.   The format and content of the tests were new and some content was tested a full grade or more earlier than on previous PSSAs.

Statewide, scores on the new PSSA s declined sharply. On average, in grades 3-8, the number of students scoring Advanced or Proficient dropped by 9.4% in Language Arts and by 35.4% in Math.  

“The tests have changed, not Pennsylvania’s students and schools,” said Gobreski.  “The scores demonstrate that the new tests are more rigorous and set to measure different standards than previous PSSAs because they contain new content. The scores also indicate that teachers and schools need time and resources to adapt and update the curriculum they are using to align to new standards. Students will need time and updated instructional materials in order to learn the new content on the tests and to develop further the problem solving and critical thinking skills that these tests require. These updates can’t happen overnight. “

“High standards for all students in Pennsylvania’s public schools are a good thing. Parents and community members should want students to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in college or the 21st Century workforce,” said Gobreski.

“If the state is going to raise standards and measure students, then the state must ensure that students have access to what they need to meet these new standards,” said Gobreski.  “It is essential that the state ensures that school districts have the resources necessary to update curriculum and instruction are up to date and students have had a chance to learn the new content before information from the PSSA tests can be used in a meaningful way, and even then, standardized tests should only be one tool in a tool box of looking at learning.”
MEDIA CONTACT:  Susan Gobreski, 267-972-8066