Shift to new standards requires aligning curriculum and resources
Last week, the School District of Philadelphia released the 2015 results from the new Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests and from the Keystone exams.
The new PSSAs were based on the rigorous “PA Core Standards” — the knowledge and skills the State Board of Education has identified as what Pennsylvania students need to be ready for college and career — and differ significantly from the tests given in 2014. Because the new tests are based on different, more challenging content and skills, an “apples to apples” comparison with results on prior PSSA tests is not appropriate.
Based on preliminary statewide results, fewer students across Pennsylvania scored proficient or advanced in both English Language Arts and Mathematics on the new PSSAs. The School District’s performance on the new PSSAs mirrors these statewide trends. District-wide, proficiency rates were 32 percent in English Language Arts, 17 percent in Mathematics, and 37 percent in Science.
Notably, despite having taken a harder and different test, almost 6,000 students in grades 3-8 moved from the bottom performance level (below basic) to the next highest level (basic) on the English Language Arts test.
“The 2015 results are a new baseline to build off as we seek to ensure that all of our students have access to opportunity and are college- and career-ready,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., Superintendent. “We know that this kind of significant transition will take time and requires investments in teacher training, curricular materials, student tutoring, and other supports. We also know that students and teachers are working hard; that there are multiple ways to measure our students’ knowledge and mastery of skills; and that all of our students have the ability to grow academically.”
On the 2015 Keystone exams, the proficiency rate in Literature among first-time testers jumped 7 percentage points from the prior year and almost 90 percent of high schools saw an increase in the Literature proficiency rate among first-time testers compared to 2014. (The Keystone exams were already aligned to the rigorous PA Core Standards, supporting a year-to-year comparison.) District-wide proficiency rates for students taking the Keystone exams for the first time were 26 percent in Algebra I, 31 percent in Biology, and 51 percent in Literature.
Full results for both the PSSA tests and the Keystone exams are available at: http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/d/district-performance/repository-of-data/sy2014-15-pssa-key.
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