Starting with the class of 2017, all Pennsylvania students must pass three-end-of course, subject-based exams. If students fail to show proficiency on the exam twice, the state has developed a project-based assessment system.
Districts are tasked with administering these alternative assessments, which will be scored by statewide panels of teachers, principals and curriculum specialists.
But districts are struggling with how to schedule students to complete the assessments, Assistant Superintendent for EducationJack Silvasaid.
“It’s a disaster coming across the state,” Roy said.
Bethlehem educators have been meeting to discuss what the assessments will mean for high school schedules, students, course offerings and vocational technical students. But officials have not landed on a solution on how to administer the assessments and not have students lose out on an elective or class time.
“We can’t figure it out yet how we’re going to make this work to the benefit of our students,” Roy said. “We’re really concerned. This is a major, major issue for high schools across the commonwealth.”
Silva worries it is discouraging to students to force them to spend more time on what they’re struggling with and divert them away from their passion.
For now, officials are focused on finding the least disruptive way for students to complete the assessments. It could mean students miss out on electives or they are pulled out of regular class time to finish the assessments, Silva said.
“It has many troublesome exit and entry points” in terms of scheduling, he said. “… I’m not convinced (of the benefit to students) at this point.”
The Nazareth Area School District has been piloting ways to offer the assessments, Silva said.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association in February testified before the House Education Committee in support of bills that remove the Keystones as a graduation requirement and halts the development of more exams.
“School boards believe that assessments do not need to have high-stakes consequences to send meaningful signals to students and schools or to provide policymakers with useful information,” association President Williams LaCoff said. “Testing should inform and enhance instruction, not impede instruction.”
The association also wants to see the project-based assessments cut due to the additional costs, time and staffing it takes to implement online and other concerns.
Sara K. Satullo