July 30, 2015

Educators testify on the failures of standardized testing

Elementary teachers Daniel Bloch (Upper Dauphin) and Linda Hicks (Oxford Area) traveled to a July 29 hearing in Harrisburg with a simple message for legislators: Pennsylvania's standardized testing system deserves a failing grade.

Bloch and Hicks testimony - July 2015

The educators described an alarming "new normal" for schools because of excessive standardized testing, one that we know all too well: schools crippled by unrealistic testing schedules, stressed out, anxious students, changing academic standards, and limitations preventing educators from using creative strategies to engage students.

"My students are more nervous and agitated leading up to and during the PSSA exams and keep in mind – they’re nine and 10 years old," Bloch said during his testimony. "Teachers say this again and again, but it feels like no one is hearing us: These assessments cause too much pressure and stress for kids." Read Bloch's full testimony here

"Educators and students gain very little constructive feedback as a result of assessments, beyond percentages and raw scores," said Hicks. "Assessments do not provide any specifics as to where our schools or students are lacking or where they have their greatest strengths, nor do they provide any meaningful feedback that I can use to drive my instruction to benefit students during the school year. More and more it feels like these results are being used to penalize educators rather than to improve instruction or drive professional development." Read Hicks' full testimony here.

Hicks was also featured in the March 2015 Voice cover story, "Toxic Testing."

"I hope that the members of the House Education Committee heard these educators' words loud and clear," said PSEA President-elect Jerry Oleksiak. "Standardized testing is killing public education. We need to get back to teaching students, not just teaching to tests."

Challenges ahead
Making matters worse, the State Board of Education recently adopted new cut scores for 2014-15 exams, since this year's PSSAs were realigned to the new PA Core Standards. These new cut scores will result in a statewide drop in test scores - as a smaller percentage of students scoring proficient or above. Building-level scores will be released later this summer. 

PSEA is analyzing the new cut scores and their implications for schools, students, and educators – and will share information as it becomes available.



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