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High Stakes Testing Doesn’t Make the Grade with PA Education Groups

May 14, 2008

Harrisburg, PA – Plans for so-called "high stakes" testing to determine high school graduation in Pennsylvania aren't making the grade with education groups, parent organizations, or those that represent Pennsylvania students with disabilities.

Backers say the high school exit exams would hold teachers and students accountable and raise education standards. Pennsylvania State Education Association president Jim Testerman however says such tests undermine the comprehensive testing and grading local schools already do in deciding whether students graduate.

"It's not just a matter of a paper-and-pencil test, it may be project work, and it may be a combination of speaking, writing and analyzing."

Testerman says filling in the right answers to multiple-choice questions should not be the only way to measure learning.

"Some students have learning disabilities that make it very difficult for them to communicate what they know, or can do, in writing, but if they can show you that they can do it, isn't that what really matters?"

He says research shows that similar tests are not accurate indicators of success in college or in the workplace, and that high school grade transcripts are more reliable.

Education organizations, parent groups, school administrators, minority advocates, and those who represent students with disabilities have all signed on to a letter against the proposed high school testing, and more than 100 Pennsylvania school boards have passed resolutions opposing the exit exams, also known as Graduation Competency Assessments.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - PA