PSEA releases policy brief outlining balanced, research-based approach to standardized testing

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PSEA releases policy brief outlining balanced, research-based approach to standardized testing

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David Broderic (717) 255-7169

Wythe Keever (717) 255-7107

HARRISBURG (March 20, 2017) – Recognizing that state requirements put too much emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests, the Pennsylvania State Education Association today released a policy brief aimed at ensuring that standardized tests are used the way they were intended and do not interfere with classroom instruction.

"For a long time, we have been saying to anyone who will listen that too much standardized testing is interfering with teaching and learning," said PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak. "This policy brief describes what lawmakers can do to fix this. We're eager to work with them to do the right thing for our students."

The policy brief, "A Balanced and Researched-Based Approach to Standardized Testing," includes three policy recommendations.

  • Reduce the amount of time spent on the Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment (PSSA).
  • Separate Keystone Exams from graduation requirements.
  • Ensure that statewide standardized tests are used only for government accountability requirements.

Find the full policy brief at

Legislation to permanently separate the Keystone Exams from state graduation requirements will be introduced in the Senate soon. Act 1 of 2016 delayed the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until 2019. The new bill will make the current delay permanent.

"Making sure that a student's performance on a single, high-stakes test doesn't interfere with  graduation from high school is good first step toward broader reforms," Oleksiak said. "We strongly support making the Keystone Exam delay permanent."

Public school students are spending more and more time on standardized tests and preparation for standardized tests.  For example:

  • Students spend 12 hours taking PSSA and Keystone Exams each year.
  • Overall, 20-50 hours of classroom time each year is spent on student assessments.
  • Students lose up to 110 hours each year on standardized tests and standardized test preparation in high-stakes tested grades.

"When there is too much emphasis on standardized testing, it gets in the way of teaching and learning," OIeksiak said. "PSEA is proposing a balanced, research-based, classroom-tested approach to addressing this problem. Working together, we can reimagine our standardized testing policies.

"If we do it right and strike the right balance, our students will benefit. That's the outcome everyone should want."

Oleksiak is a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District. 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.