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Student Testing: High standards and a well-designed curriculum


Today’s students are put through an unprecedented number of tests and other assessment measures. While assessment of student growth and achievement is generally identified as the key purpose for today’s extensive testing systems, the reality is far more complicated, often leaving students, parents, educators, and policymakers confused and frustrated. Pennsylvania needs a system of assessments that measure students’ knowledge of the curriculum and identify where students need additional instruction or assistance.

Below is an archive of Partners for Public Education web posts about student testing.

Story Archive

Partners Post: May 2018

May 2018

Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers are working to finalize the 2018-19 state budget, a spending plan in which the governor has made school funding a top priority. Gov. Wolf is pushing hard to increase funding for public schools and reverse the nearly $1 billion in funding cuts enacted in 2011

More time learning, less time testing

August 2017

School students in Pennsylvania will spend more time learning and less time testing in the classroom this school year.

Gov. Wolf announces plan to reduce time spent on standardized testing

August 2017

Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Aug, 14 that his administration plans to reduce the amount of classroom time devoted to standardized testing in Pennsylvania’s public schools by 20 percent.

An alternative to the Keystone Exams for students in career and technical education programs

June 2017

CTE students will be able to demonstrate competency through multiple pathways that directly relate to their chosen vocation and future career goals.

Poll: ‘Too much emphasis on testing’

May 2017

While there is not much polling on the topic, the 2015 PDK/Gallup Survey of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools found that 64 percent of Americans (and 67 percent of public school parents) say there is “too much emphasis on testing.”

A bipartisan overhaul of testing

May 2017

A package of five testing reform bills based on research and policy ideas developed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) has been introduced in the PA General Assembly.

Rethinking the Keystone Exams

May 2017

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course tests in algebra, biology, and English literature, and state lawmakers are rethinking their academic impact,

A smarter approach to testing? Yes, please.

May 2017

This issue of Partners Post explores a bipartisan movement in Pennsylvania to take a smarter approach to student assessments, and what it means for students.

Bill would allow school boards to determine use of Keystone Exams

April 2017

Legislation has been introduced in the state Senate to allow school boards to decide the academic impact of Keystone Exams.

Making sense of PSSA and Keystone Exam scores

October 2016

More students are scoring proficient or advanced this year on the PSSAs than in 2015 in nearly all categories of English language arts and math, according to the PA Department of Education.

This election will impact public education

September 2016

The standardized testing policies that impact the students you care about are put in place by the people we elect to public office. That’s one reason why this year’s election is so important.R

More than one way to assess college and career readiness

September 2016

A recent report from the Pennsylvania Department of Education concluded that a one-time exit exam is not the only way to determine if a student has mastered a subject or is ready for post-graduate success. That could mean changes are coming to Pennsylvania’s Keystone Exams.

Reshaping PA’s student testing system

September 2016

The Pennsylvania Department of Education named four workgroups of educators, policy experts, and community leaders to make changes to how standardized tests are used.

Changes coming to standardized testing in PA

September 2016

For years, parents and educators have been speaking out about the negative impact of high-stakes standardized testing on students and schools. This year, change is in the air.

The Keystone Exams are in May

April 2016

Next month, middle and high school students across Pennsylvania will take the Keystone Exams, end-of-course tests in algebra, biology, and English literature.

Bill would delay use of PSSA scores for three years

February 2016

State Rep. Karen Boback has introduced legislation that would impose a three-year moratorium on the use of PSSA scores in high-stakes decisions involving students and educators.

New law delays Keystone Exams graduation requirement

February 2016

The state Legislature unanimously passed — and Gov. Wolf signed — legislation delaying the use of the Keystone Exams as graduation requirements until 2018-19.

Talking to your child’s teachers about the PSSAs and Keystone Exams

October 2015 

Parents and guardians may have questions for their children’s teachers about the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSAs) and Keystone Exams.

Pennsylvania delays use of PSSA scores to measure school performance

September 2015 

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced that Pennsylvania received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to delay the use of PSSA scores in the PA School Performance Profiles.  

Poll shows Americans want less standardized testing

September 2015 

A new poll shows that an increasing number of Americans have growing concerns about the emphasis on standardized testing in public education, and question the effectiveness of standardized testing in our schools.

Future of Pennsylvania graduation requirement remains uncertain

August 2015 

Pennsylvania students who took Keystone Exams in the spring will receive their results in the coming weeks, but pending legislation in Harrisburg could delay the high-stakes implications of the exams for the next two years.  

What this year’s PSSA scores mean (and what they don’t)

August 2015 

Last spring, Pennsylvania students in grades 3-8 were the first to take a new set of PSSA exams, developed following the state’s adoption of the PA Core Standards in fall 2013.

The Keystone Exams are this month

May 2015 

School districts across Pennsylvania are administering the Keystone Exams in algebra, biology, and English literature this month. Pennsylvania students must demonstrate proficiency on these tests to earn their high school diploma.

From the hill: Governor urges less emphasis on high-stakes testing

April 2015 

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to revamp Pennsylvania’s school accountability system to focus less on standardized test scores and more on ensuring that all students get the “thorough and efficient” education guaranteed to them by the state constitution.

Testing tips to help students succeed

April 2015 

Standardized tests can be stressful for students, parents, and educators. Parents and other caring adults can employ strategies to help make test-taking less stressful for students:  

Is your child taking the Keystone Exams next month?

April 2015 

While Congress debates federal testing policy, state lawmakers in Harrisburg are also taking a second look at the Keystone Exams, end-of course tests required in algebra, biology, and English literature. 

Keystone Exam remediation can cost students a well-rounded education

March 2015 

Time spent in Keystone remediation often comes at the expense of elective courses in art, music, technology, and engineering. 

High-stakes tests harm students, teacher testifies

February 2015 

High-stakes tests like the Keystone Exams are harming students, testified seventh-grade Cumberland Valley teacher Jake Miller. Those who fail the test must take remedial courses so they can retake the tests, causing them to miss out on elective courses in art, technology, agriculture, and engineering.

Quick hits: A new governor and the Keystone Exams

January 2015 

What would you tell Gov. Tom Wolf? 

Understanding Pennsylvania’s Keystone Exams

January 2015

The tests are given three times a year — in the winter, spring, and summer. Students receive a score of Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, or Advanced. Scores are mailed out following completion of the exam.

Understanding Keystone Exam remediation

June 2014 

Last October, the Pennsylvania Board of Education passed regulations that require all students to take state exams, initially in three subjects – algebra, biology, and English literature. Known as the Keystone Exams, these end-of-course tests will be administered up to three times each year, in the winter, spring, and summer.

Assess your knowledge on school assessments

May 2014

It’s a term and activity of increasing importance and some concern to parents, students, and educators. Understandably, parents have questions and want to understand today’s assessments. 

Paid for by PSEA