Testing Time in PA

Today is testing day in Pennsylvania. Our students have been prepared and the teachers are ready. This year the DOE required each teacher to complete a 45 minute webinar and quiz about the ethics of this PSSA test. I don’t mind, I did it and it was a good review of the procedures. As a special area teacher I am assigned to a classroom to assist if needed. My duty would be to escort a student to the extended time area in our library.

It bothers me  that there are still administrators and teachers in this country who will change student answers on a test or guide them to correct selections. That is totally unethical. Pennsylvania is changing the teacher evaluation system. If approved, a large portion of a teacher’s evaluation will be based upon student test scores. How will that equate to a classroom teacher who teaches math to a music teacher whose subject is not standardized for testing? My main problem with this is that teachers who have a great lesson, may not share that with their colleagues, some people may be more tempted to give student answers to the state tests so their kids score higher therefore a better evaluation and salary. Do they really think this will weed out unethical actions or ineffective teachers? Don’t blame the teacher unions, blame administrators who do not remediate or dismiss poorly performing teachers.

Our school has done very well over the past 15 years of testing and I am very fortunate to work here. We prep our kids just like other schools. We let them bring water, gum and snacks, so do other schools. The students here work very hard at achieving good scores. It is important to our students, teachers, administrators and even more important to parents. The parents are very active in their child’s schoolwork, the school curriculum, PTO and the community activities.

Research shows that involved parents leads to higher test scores. This is so important for a child’s education and their future. This is an upper socio-economic community and many homes only have one parent working. We have dads that volunteer in the library, moms that help build sets for our play and even grandparents come to school to help one teacher read essays and make comments to the students. (These are retired certified English teachers who live in the community)

I know this is not happening in most schools around PA and it is a shame. Some families must have both parents working to economically survive. Many grandparents are the caregiver to their grandchildren and the only rest they get is when the kids are in school. I wish our government could find a way to really help the struggling districts. They have teachers who care, parents who want to get involved, but work and and some administrators who try to create a positive atmosphere. It is a struggle for them to get new textbooks or digital equipment. My district is fine financially, academically and athletically.

Perhaps we need to adopt another school and help them, mentor them in some way to assist them to more success. I really do not know the answer, but this is so important to help ALL children to succeed, not just put it on a logo or letterhead. I am a few years away from ending my teaching career and know how blessed I have been here at Unoinville-Chadds Ford. I wish you all success with the PSSA testing. Happy Spring!

Comments

  1. Wesley Fryer

    The issue you raise about teachers in content areas and grade levels that are not tested, and the evaluation system, is key. When the testing data guru from Florida was in Oklahoma testifying before our education committee, he revealed in Florida 70% of the teachers do not teach in a grade level or content area that is tested. Therefore the state has to invent a formula to calculate the grade those teachers will receive based on student test scores. This is ridiculous. In Oklahoma are policymakers are still trying to figure out that formula.

  2. Robin Martin

    I read somewhere that some states are considering letting those non-tested subjects create their own standardized test! I say WHAT are you thinking? If it is tied to evaluation and salary then the system is truly flawed.
    In addition, we have noticed that some grade levels are full of bright students that perform well on these tests and the next year or so the students struggle as a whole. Where does that figure in? Sometimes you get a grade level that is very academic and some years you get some that are challenged.
    So now PA has invented PVAS – to monitor a schools growth. So if your students overall were 92% last year and 93% next year it is not as significant as a school who was 73% and improves to 79%.
    So it seems like if we test them more they will improve. GMADE, GRADE, MAP, Algebra Prognostic, IOWA, PSSA, SAT, PSAT and more.
    Seen on a school sign “We will resume teaching your children when the state tests are over”. Says it all.

  3. Jutti

    I am no longer a teacher. For some reason I am still getting the DEN email even though I have let them know. I hadn’t planned on retiring when I did but that’s a whole other story.

    I am happy that you teach in a community where you can count on support from parents and grandparents. I did not. Most of my students came from homes where other languages were spoken. And, in most cases, both parents had to work to support the family. The children and their parents were wonderful to work with.

    Once “No Child Left Behind” was passed, education went down the tubes. I was lead science teacher at my elementary school. I used to have after school workshops for teachers. We would discuss such topics as setting up experiments, students keeping science notebooks, etc. Then my district, the Los Angeles Unified School District, decided that elementary students should have a science test in each of the subject areas: life science, earth science, and physical science. The results of these tests were given to the principal. Then, the workshops became, “What will be on the test?” I don’t blame the teachers. I remember giving the life science test after carefully covering all the material. The test basically was all about food webs. That had been covered in two or three pages of the science textbook!

    The district also did the same for math. Quarterly math tests. And, the district math pacing plan covered so much material there was little time to give the students a chance to really master the material. Teachers had to give up doing most of the hands on type math activities.

    Also, we had regular reading and composition assessments. My last year of teaching I started keeping a log of how much instructional time was lost to testing. I calculate that between the district mandated tests and the state tests we lost two months of instructional time!

    I miss working with the kids. I do NOT miss the politics! If I had school-age children and could not afford a good private school that is still educating children, I would home school them. I hope that at some point parents will wake up to what is being done to their children and insist that USA schools go back to educating children. Yes, I believe in accountability but this has gone too far!

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