Friday, July 24, 2015

Send Word to Harrisburg

If you are in Pennsylvania, and you care about the proliferation of our lousy Keystone and PSSA tests (our version of the federally-mandated Big Standardized Tests), then you have not just an opportunity, but an obligation.

The PA State House Education Committee is having public hearings about the state of PA testing next Wednesday, July 29 (10AM in room G50 of the Irvis Building, 450 Commonwealth Ave, Harrisburg, if you're in the neighborhood).

But if, like me, you have a life and obligations and commitments and you can't make it to harrisburg, there is an alternative. From our friends at Opt Out PA:

If you are an educator or district administrator in PA with a unique view on the negative impacts on high stakes testing, please consider submitting written testimony by Monday the 27th to the following contact: Jonathan Berger, Executive Director, Education Committee (R) PA House of Representatives at jberger@pahousegop.comAsk that your comments be entered into the hearing record, and your testimony will be disseminated to all committee members prior to the hearing. For resources on relevant legislation and opting out of high stakes tests visit

So, I know what I'm doing over the next few days.

I have no idea what the outcome (or intended outcome) of the hearing is supposed to be, nor how much attention the letters will receive. But even if they aren't read, handing a legislature a giant stack of print-outs with the note that they're all opposed to testing-- well, that matters.

It's easy to argue that there's no point in speaking up because the game is rigged and the outcome is already set. Maybe. But I still don't want to imagine the folks railroading education being able to say, "Well, we asked, and nobody said anything, so we figured it was okay." It's like the old sports saw about the number of shots you don't take. People who speak up may not always be heard, but people who don't speak at all go unheard 100% of the time. We should shoot for the better odds. Write a letter before Monday.


  1. Thanks for getting the word out Peter!

  2. This was the response from PA State Rep. Curt Sonney to my email regarding the test scores.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the change with testing and scoring, which was administered by PSSA in Pennsylvania's classrooms, grades 3 through 8, in English Language Arts and Mathematics. I have been in touch with the Department of Education and would like to share their feedback with you.

    This assessment was the first PSSA to be fully-aligned to the more rigorous PA Core Standards, which the State Board of Education officially adopted in fall 2013. The PA Core Standards are intended to better prepare commonwealth students for college and careers following graduation from high school.

    On July 9, at a public meeting in Harrisburg, the State Board of Education approved "cut scores" for determining student performance levels on the 2015 PSSAs. As the Secretary of Education, I recommended these cut scores, which a standards setting team of 58 Pennsylvania educators developed. These educators are subject matter experts, and represented different geographic regions, levels of teaching experience, and urban, suburban and rural communities. The team used a best practice methodology called "Bookmarking," a process that was undertaken with fidelity and reliability.

    To develop the cut scores, the standard setting team used preliminary, statewide aggregate student data. Superintendents and chief school administrators will receive school and student data files this week.

    Schools have been working hard to update curriculum and provide the best education possible for Pennsylvania students, with the ultimate goal of student success. PDE has supported schools in the transition by supplying training materials, including model curricula on the Standards Aligned System (SAS), and by providing outreach resources for communicating about the assessment and its results with their local stakeholders. I have attached PSSA's timeline for the implementation process, for your review.

    It is important to remember these scores represent a snapshot in time and are meant to determine a baseline for measuring future growth. Comparing this year's scores and level of performance on the new assessment with those from previous years is not a valid comparison and may not provide an accurate depiction of student learning or school performance. PDE anticipates that as students and teachers become more familiar with the new standards and resources are directed to classrooms, students' scores will steadily rise.

    If you should have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me or my district office. Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.