Several recent news articles have dealt with the significant decline in scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams over the past four years.
Local superintendents acknowledge the decline, blaming it on the new, more “rigorous” test and assuring parents and the public that our students are still receiving a good education.
The state Department of Education notes that this is the first year that the test questions have been aligned with the Pennsylvania Core Standards and insists that the problems will work themselves out in the coming years.
What is not being discussed is that these standardized tests are not about improving student learning but are designed to fail our students. The increased emphasis on standardized testing is not about improving public education but rather “proving” that our public schools are failing and should be replaced by privately owned charter and cyber-charter schools.
The movement to privatize public education has been ongoing for a number of years as Wall Street and others have sought to cash in on the billions of tax dollars spent every year. The Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations, as well as others have been subsidizing an ongoing campaign to discredit and dismantle public education.
The federal “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” programs place an excessive and unwarranted emphasis on standardized testing and require the use of student test scores to evaluate public schools and teachers. There has been no evidence to support the validity of these programs or to prove that they have had a positive impact on public education.
In Pennsylvania, the privatization movement started with the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the introduction of charter and cyber-charter schools which drain millions of tax dollars from our public schools. (Chester Upland School District pays more to charter schools than it receives from the state.)
Governor Corbett and the Republican legislature further aided the movement by slashing billions of dollars in school funding, resulting in fewer teachers, larger class sizes, fewer electives, less tutoring, etc. With fewer resources, public schools can no longer adequately prepare students for these tests which are used to evaluate not the students, but the schools and the teachers. By constantly changing the tests and arbitrarily setting cut scores (passing levels) so a majority of students will fail, our government is abetting the privatizers.
Steven Singer, National Board Certified Teacher in the Steel Valley School District and a noted activist and blogger made the following comment. “Pennsylvania’s standardized test scores are a farce just like the scores in every state and territory throughout the country. They’re lies told by corporations, permitted and supported by lawmakers, and swallowed whole by the media and far too much of the public.”
Our public schools are not failing. Our students are receiving a quality education from conscientious, well-qualified teachers. Our government is failing us by working with the testing industry to destroy our public schools.
David B. Kyle,