North Hills School District News Article

PDE to school districts: Canceling state assessments not an option

Posted Monday, March 8, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- The Pennsylvania Department of Education is not canceling its statewide assessments this year following word from the Federal Government that standardized tests such as the Pennsylvania System School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams should be administered to provide data to assist in identifying and supporting students’ learning needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"At this point, canceling the assessments entirely is not an option,” NHSD Board of Education President Allison Mathis said while providing an update during Thursday’s school board meeting.

Mrs. Mathis, who is also the board’s education committee chief liaison, said that while postponing the tests until fall is an option, it is not one being pursued by the district.

"[We will want to use] assessment data as soon as possible to plan instruction in the fall,” she said, adding, “We also do not want to double test next year in the fall and in the spring.”

NHSD can choose whether to administer the tests in person or online, and testing windows have been extended to ensure schools can conduct them safely.

Additional guidance regarding whether the actual assessments can be shortened is forthcoming.

Pennsylvania is also considering a waiver that would give us access to student data even if 95 percent of students do not participate as now required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Since PDE has directed schools to move forward, North Hills has begun preparing for the assessments behind the scenes.

"I hope we can find whatever ways possible to reduce the stress on everyone involved in the testing. I am concerned about the additional stress this will be placing on our teachers and our students. And as I have said before, I don’t know how we can have fair standardized testing when we don’t have standardized education across the state this year due to the pandemic,” Mrs. Mathis concluded.

For the PSSA, all Pennsylvania students in grades 3-8 are assessed in English Language Arts and Math, and students in grades 4 and 8 are assessed in science.

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments for Algebra I, Literature and Biology, and make up one component of Pennsylvania's statewide high school graduation requirements.

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