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HARRISBURG (April 25, 2017) – Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, joined a bipartisan group of state lawmakers at a Capitol press conference today to unveil five bills aimed at reforming state standardized testing policies.
During the press conference, Oleksiak praised the legislators for their leadership on standardized testing reforms. Some of the bills are based on a policy paper PSEA issued in March, titled “A Balanced and Research-Based Approach to Standardized Testing.”
“PSEA has recommended solutions to the problems standardized testing causes,” Oleksiak said. “Now, these lawmakers have introduced legislation to make those recommendations into policy, and we’re going to work together to make them law.
“The goal we all share is to de-emphasize the focus on standardized testing in our schools and ensure that our testing policies make sense for our students and our teachers.”
Lawmakers emphasized how committed they are to making Pennsylvania’s standardized testing policies work better for students and educators.
“As the father of six children, I have seen how three weeks of intensive testing and the days of preparation beforehand wears down a child,” said Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland). “We need to measure academic performance, but I feel the PSSAs are currently overtesting, and their impact is driving our school year. Some districts have moved the start date for the school year earlier in August in order to cram in more teaching before the PSSA tests begin. The PSSA exams should be a culminating activity so students can demonstrate all they learned. Instead, the tests are administered up to two months before the conclusion of the school year and are a huge cost to taxpayers.”
“Not all students across the state are the same, and they should not be treated the same. Putting important decisions, such as the Keystone Exam graduation requirements, in the hands of local districts allows those on the ground to do what’s best for students. There needs to be more local control over the weight of these tests,” said Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Bedford/Somerset). “The Keystone Exams already take up too much valuable classroom time. Additionally, the General Assembly delayed the statewide requirement to make the Keystone Exams a high school graduation perquisite until the 2018-19 school year. This shows there are already serious problems with attempting to make the exams a graduation requirement.”
“Testing has taken over our public education system; everything in our schools is driven by the need to prepare for federally required state standardized assessments,” said Rep. Jamie Santora (R-Delaware). “We, as policymakers, were so concerned about the impact of high-stakes testing that we delayed the Keystone Exam graduation requirement. It’s time we take another important step.”
The standardized testing reform bills and their sponsors are:
Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)
Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford)
Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie)
Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland)
Sen. James Brewster (D-Allegheny)
Rep. Jamie Santora (R-Delaware)
Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester)
Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren)
Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks)
Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Somerset)
An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 180,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.