Thursday, March 26, 2015

Evidence PA Core Standards Are Failing Students

Below shows how Pennsylvania students did on standardized tests before the implementation of the PA Core Standards versus how the same group of students scored after the implementation of the PA Core Standards.

8th Grade PSSA 2010-2011
Pre-PA Core Standards

Keystone Exam Results 2014
Post-PA Core Standards
Math 126,486 Students
50.2% Advanced
26.7% Proficient
11.7% Basic
11.4% Below Basic

Algebra 1 203,357 Students   
14.6% Advanced
25.5 % Proficient
44% Basic
16% Below Basic

Reading 127,125 Students
57.7% Advanced
24.1% Proficient
9.3% Basic
8.9% Below Basic

Literature 143,298 Students
5.9% Advanced
46.5% Proficient
35.1% Basic
12.5% Below Basic

Science 127,075 Students
24.3% Advanced
34.0% Proficient
18.9% Basic
22.9% Below Basic
Biology 164,757 Students
17.7% Advanced
23.7% Proficient
31.7% Basic
26.9% Below Basic

The PSSA's cost taxpayers $58.3 Million dollars this year.   Teachers, parents and students get no educational student-specific information from these tests as scores come in September AFTER students are promoted to the next grade with new teachers.  

Statewide results for Spring 2014

The below information demonstrates the significant decline in student test scores since the implementation of PA Core Standards.

Algebra 1:  40.1% of students scored Proficient or Advanced:

Students TESTED
Students PASSED
Students to RE-TEST

Biology:  41.4% of students scored Proficient or Advanced:

Students TESTED
Students PASSED
Students to RE-TEST

Literature:  52.4% of students scored Proficient or Advanced

Students TESTED
Students PASSED
Students to RE-TEST

Below are the statewide results for RE-TESTERS (students who tested one or more times).  The students below who did not pass will take a remedial class and re-test AGAIN for the second or third time and/or take the Project Based Assessment.  The students have already passed the class.
Algebra 1
80,591 students re-tested
21.8% passed
63,035 students to re-test AGAIN

40,7615 students re-tested
11.7% passed
42,061 students to re-test AGAIN 

31,686 students re-tested
20.2% passed
25,273 students to re-test AGAIN

The PA Core Standards have resulted in a significant amount of lost instructional time, an increase in test prep and a significant decline in student test scores and are a burden to teachers and school administrators.

2015 Planned Opt Outs for PSSA and Keystone exams
as of 3/26/15

Issues related to the implementation of PA Core Standards as many parents are looking into opting their children out of the PSSA and Keystone testing.

Parents across the state have been told that weren't ALLOWED to opt out of the PSSA or Keystone testing.  This information is being told to school districts verbally per the PDE during Test Administrator Training.

This is from one participant in the Test Administrator Training:
The misinformation that I received was indeed verbal and not written and took place during a question and answer period for training in the administration of the assessments. The information was that a parent must list "specifically what part of the test or what in the test is a religious objection.

This is from one parent:
The principal replied with. " I must submit in writing to the assistant superintendent the specifics of your religious grounds to refuse the test. The PDE requires parents to be specific in their refusal."


Although there has been a great deal of focus on students who have problems PASSING the Keystones, it must be noted that even students who DO test proficient on the first try are being harmed by the Keystone graduation requirement debacle.  Excessive concerns about the effect of test scores on school performance and teacher evaluations encourage teachers to “teach to the test,” an educationally unsound approach to learning that often hinders a lasting understanding of the course material.  It’s called “cramming!”

EXAMPLE: A middle school relative of mine, who incidentally is labelled as “gifted,” took the Algebra I Keystone last year and tested Proficient.  That SHOULD mean that he has a good understanding of the algebra, right?  NO…WRONG!  This child who tested “Proficient” in Algebra I is currently taking geometry in his middle school and struggling.  The teacher attributes his poor performance in geometry to his lack of understanding of crucial algebraic concepts.  His parents are now paying over $300/month to have him tutored in a learning center to fill in the huge gaps in algebraic understanding that he will need in his subsequent math courses.  Because this student is bright, the weeks of “teaching to the test” enabled him to test Proficient on the Keystone, but unfortunately, his “proficiency” was only temporary.  Perhaps if the Algebra I teacher had been able to focus more on ensuring that her students thoroughly understood essential algebraic concepts rather than having to spend inordinate amounts of time reviewing specific examples of Keystone-type problems (“teaching to the test”), this vast expenditure of money on tutoring wouldn’t be necessary


My son's school said they have to pass all keystones or not graduate! He passed all but algebra. He has to be in a remedial Keystone math class and not only pass class but pass each part of the keystone test given in small parts. He passed 2. They said the PDE told them they have to pass them for graduation because it's part of the No Child Left Behind Act! Right now my son has a grade of 70. He normally has a D and is barely passing. His teacher is trying to help them pass the best he can but my son is so stressed out!  He is in graduating in 2015.

My daughter is in 10th. She took the Keystones last year and scored Basic.  She passed the Biology Class. This year, they required her to complete a 2 semester Keystone Biology class prior to taking the Keystones. Again, she passed the class. Her score on the Keystone was 1480. Now, she is telling me that she will be unable to attend Vo tech because she will have to take yet another class, to complete the Keystone project based assessment class. I am DONE. Done with all this testing.  I am so fed up with this testing. I have 2 older children who didn't have to go through all this. The more it gets implemented, the worse it is. My daughter gets hives when she starts thinking about testing. She is an average student, but she is also getting fed up with the tests.

I talked to the guidance counselor regarding the repeat class. Told it was just to help her understand biology better. It was a struggle the first round because of the teaching style of the teacher. So, they put her right back in with the SAME TEACHER to test prep. I now realize that is all this class is. I also found it interesting that my daughter was afraid to show me the test prep book. She said they were told not to show it… I told her...give me the book. I have it. They have set these kids up for failure. I am not happy. She has struggled with self-esteem issues and some classes. And this just makes her feel stupid and worthless. Not having it...for her or any other child.

 I have a friend whose son just took the Algebra test for the 3rd time and failed and now they are saying in order to graduate he must complete the Project? However, I think there is a way to also opt-out of this, correct? MANY THANKS.

Hi in opting my child out of pssa's. The word in our district is the following: "your child cannot be at school during PSSA testing if they are not taking the test. You will have to provide transportation to get your could to school after testing is done for the day. I asked last year". Isn't this discrimination? Before sending my letter to opt out, I want to make sure I know my right. As a working parent having to drive my daughter in late for nine days would be troublesome. I was under the impression children go to the library during testing and are provided with additional learning activities. Can you help? Thanks!

My son is a senior and I was told if he didn't take the tests he couldn't graduate... Well he had an A for his final grade in biology so I didn’t push the issue of not taking the test... We'll guess what he didn't pass and he always does his best... When I was talking to the guidance about it she said almost 70 percent of the grade didn't pass!!!!!! My son is very bright... These tests r just wrong.... Just wait to see what they make u have to do when u don't pass… It's nuts.... For the 70 percent of the whole senior class basically have to do more tests and more tests and basically almost have to take the class over when u already passed it with flying colors.... Because they said they have to prove to the state that they taught him bio... We'll doesn't an honest A. in the class prove that.? My younger son is only a b student (and I'm ok with B). But wow I'm sooooo worried ...things need to change …

How do you opt out? My daughter just found out she didn't pass the algebra (4th time trying) or bio (2nd time). She asked me why she has to go to school since she isn't going to graduate. They also discovered in her bio class that there are things on the bio that they were never taught because it is from a class that juniors take. This is what her bio teacher told her.

My daughter is a junior and will be graduating in 2016. The school district is using the Keystones as a graduation requirement for her class. My daughter has passed the Biology and English Keystones but not the Algebra I Keystone after three attempts. In junior high the school district has an Algebra class A and B. A is taken in their 7th grade year and B in their 8th. My daughter was first tested for the Algebra I keystone in her 7th grade year when she only had a half year of Algebra. She did not pass. She finished Algebra I in her 8th grade year but was not tested. The school districted waited a year later, when she was in 9th grade and had been taking Geometry to test her again. After being out of Algebra for a year she was not able to pass the test again. She took Algebra II in her 10th grade year. The school district did not test her. Over the summer I was told that any student who did not pass would have to take remedial math their senior year. I was not happy about this. My daughter has always been in the more advance math classes for her class and has earned all A's. She is currently in pre-calculus receiving A's. Now she may have to take a remedial math her senior year. The school district was planning on letting some of the juniors take the test in January. My daughter was not going to be included in that testing. After fighting with the school district they allowed her to take it. I just found out the other day that she did not pass again. They will allow her to take it a fourth time but she is getting very frustrated and discouraged.

My daughter and I first heard of the Keystones last year when she was in 8th grade. My daughter is an honors student and the National Junior Honor Society.  She came home very upset, telling me that she had to take a test and if she failed she couldn't graduate. I said: "I think you're being dramatic. They are not going to give you a test in 8th grade, at 13 that determines whether you graduate or not. If they did that, then everyone who fails would have no reason to finish school. But I'll call and talk to your guidance counselor." When I called, I was shocked to find out that that is exactly the case. How ridiculous can you get? Telling a 13 year old that they won't graduate if they don't pass a test 5 years before graduation! She took the test and failed the algebra portion. She was devastated. Crying because now this score was in her permanent record. She had never failed anything in her life!  Since she failed the test, they put her in remedial algebra, which is kind of baffling, considering she passed the class with a "B". 1 test changed the course of her schooling. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she wasn't feeling well. Maybe she was so stressed out about such a high stakes test that she just bombed it! However, none of those things are taken into consideration once the scores are in. Since then, I have opted her out of the Keystones, and then withdrew her, as well as the rest of my kids from school altogether. How can I trust the schools to adequately educate my children, when they base the course of their schooling on sporadic high stakes testing? They can keep their tests, I'll keep my kids.


  1. I just wanted to tell you that I used you well written opt out letter to opt my kids out today. Tha k you for putting in to words what I was struggling to do! Fight the fight!

    1. Thank you Patricia!! I appreciate that!