Saturday, April 19, 2008

Success is the ONLY Option

On a poster in the hallway (and also in some classrooms) of an elementary school I'm visiting currently:

Success is the only option.
PSSA is here to stay.

Welcome to the public school machine. It's an industry. Desks in neat little rows, children writing and reciting only the facts and formulas the state wants to see on a test. I believe that schools need to be accountable for what they are providing in education, but not at the expense of respect for the intelligences that people possess other than the analytical.

PSSA stands for Pennsylvania Standard of School Assessment. In 1999, Pennsylvania adopted academic standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Mathematics. These standards identify what a student should know and be able to do at varying grade levels. School districts possess the freedom to design curriculum and instruction to ensure that students meet or exceed the standards' expectations.

Every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing.

Most elementary schools I've visited hold homeroom PSSA study sessions. The homeroom teacher is usually accompanied by another teacher and they do some type of competitive math or spelling exercise. Earlier this year I witnessed the last half of a spelling game where those who couldn't spell were left standing at their desks and then berated by the teacher for not knowing the third and fourth level words that the other kids had mastered. I can't imagine starting my day of learning this way.

Individual student scores, provided only to their respective schools, can be used to assist teachers in identifying students who may be in need of additional educational opportunities, and school scores provide information to schools and districts for curriculum and instruction improvement discussions and planning.

In compliance with §4.51(b)(4) of the PA School Code the State Board of Education approved, "specific criteria for advanced, proficient, basic and below basic levels of performance."

By April after the tests are completed, the teachers and the kids are still showing signs of post-test stress and shock, and the posters and little acrostic "poems" the classes wrote on PSSA are still up in the hallways as a reminder:

Proficient Level
Study Hard
Standards of Academics
Advanced Readers

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Slavish standards are one of the reasons I bailed out of teaching in the public school system. That sounds awful for everyone.