The debate around the PSSA, the PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment
By Terri Akman and Ilene Laurel
Fill in the blank: Which of these opinions about standardized tests do you most agree with? (Find the Quote Key at the bottom of this page.)
- “Too much time is devoted to test-taking strategies. That’s not actual education, so it seems pointless. And who hasn’t seen the local stories about principals and teachers ‘helping’ students (aka cheating)? I don’t think these tests accurately gauge where students truly are academically.”
- 2. “Standardized tests are related to the federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, and states have very little control over that, and districts have none.”
- “Teachers are putting pressure on students to do well on the test, and the kids are absorbing that pressure.”
- “Parents should, and do, have the right to exercise their choice.”
- “The School Performance Profile relies on assessment results as the major contributing factor to a school’s profile score.”
In order to comply with the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and receive federal school funding, states are required to develop or select and annually administer a blanket basic-skills assessment. By doing so, the thinking goes, educators receive an accurate, apples-to-apples comparison of the effectiveness of Common Core instruction across school districts statewide. The mandate added a layer of testing over and above the mix of benchmark exams states already had in place.
The topic is complicated, the stakes high. Districts that score poorly face harsh penalties if they are unable to improve. To stay ahead of the curve, many schools feel compelled to place
an emphasis on test prep that parents and teachers increasingly feel negate true learning.
Indeed, as the above quotes from involved educators and parents throughout the Delaware Valley demonstrate, the rhetoric and controversy surrounding standardized tests — enflamed by a
growing and vocal opt-out movement — is hotter than ever.
Click on your state to read about the localized standardized testing debate surrounding the PSSA (Pennsylvania), the PARCC (New Jersey) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment (Delaware).
- Billie Bakhshi, local mom of three charter-school students
- Julia Sass Rubin, Rutgers University & Save Our Schools NJ
- Carolyn Kim, local mom of two
- Dr. Terri Hodges, Delaware State PTA President
- Jessica Hickernell, Pennsylvania Department of Education
This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of MetroKids.