Standardized test results offer incomplete measure of student performance during pandemic

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Standardized test results offer incomplete measure of student performance during pandemic

For further information contact:
Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (March 4, 2022) – PSEA President Rich Askey issued the following statement on the 2021 state standardized testing results released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Education:

“We don’t need standardized test results to tell us that students have struggled over the past two years. The 2021 tests were administered during a global pandemic that disrupted public education and dramatically changed the way students learn. Everyone would expect scores and participation rates to drop in this environment, and no one should be surprised that they have.

“While Pennsylvania’s public schools were open and teaching students during the 2020-21 school year, school days were anything but routine. The ebb and flow of the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a school year where students could be in class one day and required to quarantine the next. This left many students feeling isolated and stressed.

“This is a major reason why the Republican and Democratic chairs of the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee called on the U.S. Department of Education in a letter last year to waive the 2021 federal requirement for school standardized testing.

“PSEA shared Sen. Scott Martin and Sen. Lindsey Williams’ concerns. It was inappropriate and frankly a waste of state tax dollars to administer standardized tests during a pandemic when we all knew before students even put pencil to paper that results would be unusable.

“It’s clear that standardized tests administered during the pandemic were simply an exercise in compliance, and they offer a very incomplete measure of student performance during the pandemic. That’s likely why so many parents didn’t want their children to take them last year.

“We are thankful that the Pennsylvania General Assembly adopted Act 136 of 2020 to ensure that tests results couldn’t be used for high-stakes purposes — whether that be pushing back the timeline for statewide graduation requirements or educator evaluations. State lawmakers had the foresight to act.

“For the past two years, educators and support professionals have gone above and beyond to keep their students learning under unprecedented circumstances. They have tracked class participation, performance on assessments, homework, and other measures to gauge the learning needs of students and address them. There is no doubt that everyone is working harder than ever.

“Parents of public school students have clearly appreciated the incredible work educators have done during the pandemic. According to a poll of public school parents from Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners, 78% of respondents believe that their students’ teachers were good or excellent, and 80% said teachers made an extra effort to help students during the pandemic.

“These standardized test results confirm what we already know: that Pennsylvania’s students are still recovering academically, socially, and emotionally from the effects of the pandemic. Rather than focus on standardized test scores, we hope that school officials and state policymakers will access federal COVID relief funding to address pandemic-related challenges in our schools, confront an educator shortage that is reaching crisis levels, and help students succeed.”

An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 178,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.