G-ASD welcomes less PSSA testing

Andrea Rose

Gov. Tom Wolf and state Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera announced plans this week to reduce the length of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests by 20 percent in grades 3 through 8.

“As I have traveled the commonwealth on the Schools That Teach tour, I have heard from parents, students and educators concerned about the amount of time devoted to taking standardized tests,” Wolf said. “This reduction will ease the stress placed on our kids, and will allow students and teachers to focus more on learning than on testing. This change should also reassure parents that we’ve listened to their concerns about over-testing.”

"We are pleased," said Dr. Robert Crider, chief educational officer of Greencastle-Antrim School District. "We were one of the districts that was on the Schools That Teach tour and were visited by Rivera last spring. It was a topic with him. It shows they are listening to the voices from the field."

Beginning this school year, students and teachers in grades 3 through 8 will spend an average of 20 percent less time on statewide testing, and an even greater reduction – nearly 25 percent – for Pennsylvania’s youngest students.

The department has identified and removed two sections – one in math, one in English language arts – and additional questions from the science section, which could eliminate up to two full testing days for some schools.

The math assessment will be shortened by 48 minutes for students in grades 3 through 8 by removing a section of multiple choice questions.

The English language arts assessment will be shortened by 45 minutes and the science assessment will be shortened by 22 minutes.

Crider said the reduction may not sound like a lot, but could mean three or four hours for some students.

"We have many students that are spending extreme amounts of time on these assessments," he explained.

Standardized tests are mandated under federal law, and can serve as important tools for schools to review their progress and achievement. However, standardized tests not only interrupt learning, but can also be disruptive for students, even those in non-testing grades.

"Our teachers are extremely pleased to have additional instruction time," Crider said. "We're spending many school days in assessment, rather than instruction. Some people have said the educational pendulum has been swinging either toward too much testing or not enough. Maybe this is a sign that we are coming back to middle ground."