Sunday, March 15, 2015

PBA Conflicts with PA Law and Refusal

The Project-based Assessment (PBA) is not a project, but a remedial class done culminating in a test on the computer aligned to the modules of the Keystone exam.  There are five areas that the PBA are in conflict with PA School Code Chapter 4 that are listed and explained in further detail below.  While the PDE claims the PBA cannot be opted out of because according to them it is not a state assessment (a claim that can be disputed), a parent can REFUSE the test which is explained at the end of this post.
  1. The PBA is not available for parental review
  2. The content of the PBA is aligned to the modules of the Keystone exam; the content is the same, therefore the same religious objection to the content of the Keystone exams would apply to the content of the PBA
  3. The PBA is a state assessment according to its placement under Chapter 4 
  4. Parents can opt out of curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques
  5. The PBA is in direct conflict with PA § 4.11 and PA § 4.23
The PDE claims the PBA is not a 'state assessment' as it is not defined in the same manner as the PSSA and Keystone exam in Chapter 4.3.  However, the PBA is described under: 4.51 State assessment system in Chapter 4. Academic Standards and Assessment.  
4.51.      State assessment system. 
4.51a.    Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. 
4.51b.    Keystone Exams. 
4.51c.    Project-based assessment. 

Also, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on the Keystone Project Based Assessments website (emphasis added):
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed a project-based assessment system that is aligned with the modules for each Keystone Exam for students who are unable to demonstrate proficiency on a Keystone Exam or Keystone Exam module. Successful completion of a project-based assessment (PBA) aligned to the Keystone Exam or Keystone Exam module on which a student did not demonstrate proficiency shall satisfy the Chapter 4 Keystone Exam graduation requirements. 
The PDE has developed the PBA (state assessment) and its aligned to the Keystone exam (opt out for religious beliefs) to fulfill a state graduation requirement!

Regardless, if the PDE continues with their nonsensical position that the PBA is not a state assessment, then parents can:
  1. Request to review the PBA as "curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques"
  2. Opt out for religious reasons.
Parents can request to review the PBA per PA § 4.4.(c)(d)(1)(2)(3) which states:
(c)  Access to educational programs shall be provided without discrimination on the basis of a student’s race, sex, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation or national origin.
(d)  School entities shall adopt policies to assure that parents or guardians have the following:
(1)  Access to information about the curriculum, including academic standards to be achieved, instructional materials and assessment techniques.
(2)  A process for the review of instructional materials.
(3)  The right to have their children excused from specific instruction that conflicts with their religious beliefs, upon receipt by the school entity of a written request from the parent or guardians.
Sample Letter:
Dear Superintendent:
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4(c)(d)(1)(2)(3)  I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to review the Project-based assessment.  Please contact me for a convenient time for this review.
After parents review the PBA they can choose to opt out, not as a state assessment, but as curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques.

Sample Letter:
Dear Superintendent:
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4(c)(d)(1)(2)(3) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have [student name], excused from Project-based Assessment because of religious beliefs.

The difference between opting out of a state assessment and curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques per Chapter 4 is parents can opt out of state assessments per Chapter 4.4 (d)(4) and curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques per Chapter 4.4(c)(d)(1)(2)(3).  This clarification is important because the PDE currently will not allow parents to opt out of the PBA as a state assessment, despite all indications that it is a state assessment.  Parents must opt out as curriculum, instructional materials and assessment techniques.

There is nothing in Chapter 4 about REFUSAL.  States that do not have an opt out opting REFUSE.  This is my letter for my daughter who is in the class of 2017:
Dear Superintendent;
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have [student name], excused from Keystone testing because of religious beliefs.
I am also writing to respectfully inform you that [student name], under my guardianship and advice, will be refusing to take any of the project-based assessments.  Please note that this means she will not be scheduled in a remedial PBA class at any time and should remain in her core and elective classes throughout the school year.  You DO NOT have my parental permission to administer the PBA to my minor child, [student name].  

Chapter 4.3 Definitions "Assessment —A valid and reliable measurement of student performance on a set of academic standards in a subject area that captures student understanding of the set as a whole and the central concepts, knowledge and skills of each content area.”  The PBA fits this definition, especially considering the 'A' in PBA stands for __________.

PA § 4.11. Purpose of public education (clickable).
(a)  This section and § 4.12 (relating to academic standards) describe the purpose of public education and its relationship with the academic standards.
(b)  Public education prepares students for adult life by attending to their intellectual and developmental needs and challenging them to achieve at their highest level possible. In conjunction with families and other community institutions, public education prepares students to become self-directed, life-long learners and responsible, involved citizens.
One PBA takes anywhere from 10-30 hours to complete.  During the time a student is enrolled in a PBA class, due to scheduling, they will miss out on elective classes and possibly core classes (such as a subsequent science class due to taking the Biology PBA).   Students would be better equipped for college and careers if they participate in elective classes rather than the PBA, for which they've already passed and received credit for the class.

PA § 4.23. High school education (clickable).
(a)  Instruction in the high school program must focus on the development of abilities needed to succeed in work and advanced education through planned instruction.
The Project-based Assessment, any remedial, Algebra 1, Biology or Literature Keystone focused study-hall, Keystone enrichment class, or some other similar Keystone exam focused class impairs a students capacity to develop abilities need to succeed in work and advanced education per Chapter 4.23 (a).  


  1. I love the logic, Dawn. Are we trying to draw attention to the fact that PBA is not available for review, or are we actually expecting to get to the opt out stage? If we can get a review of PBA, what happens to our kids at graduation if they don't have a score for test or PBA as required? I understand superintendents have a limited amount of discretion to waive scores, but they can't waive all students, can they?

  2. Yes, the fact that the PBA is not available for review is in conflict with Chapter 4. I believe it is set up that way because if a parent reviews it, they would have reason to opt out of it. We don't know what will happen at graduation and likely won't until 2017. Superintendents can waive the whole class - it would not be likely though that they would. Watch Senator Dinniman starting at 16:00 - talking about the waiver.

    1. Oops, here is the video:

  3. I am opting my son out of the Keystone and PBA. I will use your sample letters. I am just not sure how to proceed. Do I write a request to view the assessments first, then write the letter to opt out?

    1. Same here, Sean. I want to Opt Out of the Keystones and REFUSE any and all activities related to the PBA.

    2. Sean - yes, request to review the PBA. When I asked to review last year they told me to look at the pdf. at the bottom of this link - they are released field tests, and not what students would be taking. Then, after you review, you can write a letter that you are REFUSING (not opt out) the PBA.