The elephant in the room when discussing graduation rates is Pennsylvania’s Keystone exams. This year’s sophomores will have to pass tests in algebra, biology, and English to earn a diploma when requirements take effect in 2017. If they fail, they can repeat the test or try to pass a “performance-based assessment” that takes an estimated 10 hours to complete.
The District has estimated that only 22 percent of this year’s seniors would meet the new graduation standards. Even in high-performing districts, barely 70 percent of students are passing biology Keystones.
Social media monitoring by Pearson, the London-based company that runs PARCC testing in New Jersey, has tipped administrators off in some North Jersey school districts to students who might be cheating on the tests.
But it's the monitoring itself that now has some parents worried.
In 2014, Pennsylvania parents opted about 100 kids out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSAs. This year, that many are opting out of tests just at the Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, a middle school in North Philadelphia.
In some cases, parents and teachers object to the tests for philosophical or political reasons. But many Feltonville parents have a more immediate concern: their kids can't understand them.
Among the lineup of speakers at a forum on high-stakes testing Thursday night, two young people stepped forward to share firsthand knowledge of the toll that the state's annual standardized assessments can take on learning in the classroom and life beyond high school.
“My mom opted me out,” said Guillermo Santos, a 6th grader at Masterman, facing a room of 90 to 100 educators, parents, and students crowded into a conference room at the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St.
Have standardized test scores declined for a third year in a row in Pennsylvania?
We’re not likely to find out before the gubernatorial election next week.
This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has waited longer than usual to publicly release any data on test scores or school performance.
Philadelphia students in District-run schools lag 7 to 14 percentage points behind the average for big cities in math and reading achievement in 4th and 8th grades on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the only test that compares students across the entire country.
Two icons of the progressive education movement spoke in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to decry standardized testing and urge that a “justice-oriented framework” drive school reform instead.
“Test score gaps are used to label schools as failures without providing resources or strategies to eliminate the gap,” said Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools, an education journal and publisher.
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared on Parents United for Public Education's website.
by Tomika Anglin
On Dec. 13, 2012, the School District of Philadelphia recommended 37 schools for closure. There were impassioned pleas and hard-worked proposals. There were well-written reports of community input. There was anger. There were tears. There were rallies, chants and marches. There was organization, mobilization and solidarity. And then the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools. They voted against our children. Against their safety. Against their education. Against their future. So what do we do now as parents and a concerned community? How do we impact this bureaucracy that is called the School District of Philadelphia? How do we impede this assault on our children’s future?
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has taken over the probe into possible widespread cheating on state tests at Philadelphia's Wagner Middle School in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The investigation had previously been the purview of the School District of Philadelphia. District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed the switch, saying the state informed the District of its plan at the end of September. No reason for the change was given, Gallard said.
Superintendent William Hite says the Philadelphia School District is "close to wrapping up" its piece of a far-reaching investigation into cheating on state tests, adding that some city educators may soon be disciplined.
"I feel very strongly about the evidence that is there," Hite said.
"We're intending to send a very strong message publicly about individuals who are found to have participated in cheating our students."