PA Gov. Wolf announces plans to cut standardized testing by up to 25 percent

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by Brian Washington

Pennsylvania educator Jackie Mills, with the Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District, says the thing she loves about teaching is watching students learn and seeing that light bulb “pop on” above their heads. And now thanks to Governor Tom Wolf, she may witness more of those magic moments.

Wolf announced earlier this month he’s going to work with state education officials to reduce the amount of classroom time students spend taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams. His changes, on average, could reduce the amount of time students spend taking the test by up to 25 percent.

“I am hoping it frees up some time that we can, as educators, do some more fun things with kids to help them learn,” said Mills, an 8th grade math teacher with almost 20 years of experience.

I feel like now I am so regimented by what’s on the test and making sure that I am covering everything on the test that it’s taking the fun out of being in math class.

Parents, students, and educators all agree that public schools spend way too much time on testing. According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents thousands of current, retired, and future educators, the amount of time lost to standardized testing is staggering:

  • 12 hours of classroom time lost to taking PSSAs and Keystone Exams each year;
  • 20-50 hours of classroom time spent overall on student assessments each year; and
  • Up to 110 hours of classroom time lost to practice tests and test-taking strategies in high-stakes tested grades

By the time students graduate from high school, they will have taken, on average, about 112 standardized tests that carry high-stakes consequences—impacting school performance profiles, teacher evaluations, and whether students can graduate from high school.

“We want to make sure that our testing policies work for our students, teachers, and support professional,” said PSEA Vice President Delores McCracken, a paraprofessional from the Council Rock School District.

Public schools are places where students learn. By creating more balanced, researched-based, and appropriate use of standardized tests in Pennsylvania’s public schools, we can find the right balance—and do what’s right for our kids.

Mills hopes that the state will continue to work with educators to reform current testing policies to ensure public schools can inspire students to  learn.

“Because I have them at 8th grade,” said Mills. “And if they are turned off about learning at that age, then my fear is they will have nowhere to go from there.”

The governor’s new changes are expected to take hold in the spring.

Reader Comments

  1. Way to go PA! Too much time testing and preparing for testing has detracted from learning opportunities more and more in recent years.

  2. It’s about time! Teachers are unable to be teachers. With all this testing, they are more like robots. As a former teacher, I am thrilled that this will happen. I absolutely loved teaching but hated that I couldn’t be creative and teach the kids what they really need to learn to be successful in their futures.

  3. As a retired teacher, I am delighted about this. We spend far too much time testing children and not enough time teaching them.

  4. The governor may want to cut down on testing, but my district just added more. Instead of doing the bench mark/practice tests 3 times a year we are now doing them every two months/5 times a year. This practice test takes about 2.5 hours for each subject/10 hours times 5 equals 50 hours/ a week and a half. Parents and educators need to continue the push to eliminate high stakes testing

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