About the PSSA
The Pennsylvania System of School Assessments or “PSSA” is a series of tests given to students in grades three through eight and grade 11. The assessments are in math, reading, writing, and science. The PSSA assessments are designed to determine what students know and are able to do compared to the grade-level standards.
The tests are standardized and criterion referenced with the criteria set at the “proficient” level of the performance standards. In other words, the tests are supposed to find out whether a child is at, above, or below the proficient standard for that grade level.
Over the past several years, the Department of Education has expanded the resources available to teachers to help student be successful on the PSSA assessments. In addition to the Assessment Anchors, the Department makes available the eligible content for the tests and releases sample questions and other resources.
The math and reading assessments are “high stakes” assessments for schools and districts in that the results are used to determine whether “adequate yearly progress” is made (AYP) under NCLB. The science and writing assessments are not used to calculate AYP. AYP is determined by the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced as determined by the cut scores for each assessment. PSEA believes the cut scores were set unrealistically high and should be reconsidered.
As a result of the high stakes nature of the PSSA for schools and districts, the administration of the assessments is scrutinized at all levels; sometimes with negative consequences for our members. PSEA is in the process of developing training and resources in this area.
PSEA offers an advisory with guidelines to help members determine their professional and ethical responsibilities and obligations related to alleged PSSA test-procedure violations.
Information related to test security and administration procedures is available on the Department of Education and PSSA Training websites, including Frequently Asked Questions and Ethical Standards of Test Administration.