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Speaking Out Against Graduation Exams

 by Anne-Evan Williams, LGL Director of Educational Development

Educators and school board members alike are speaking out against the proposed graduation exam requirements in Pennsylvania.  With the number of benchmark assessments on the rise across the country, there are many who feel that assessments are the only way to hold both teachers and students accountable for their learning.  But in Pennsylvania, they disagree.

Citing a number of arguments ranging from financial strain on the districts to the inability of some assessments to gauge what students really have learned, teachers are speaking out!  They argue that between end-of-course exams and the state-mandated PSSA exams, there is already too much time spent on assessments that are simply geared towards accountability.

"Right now teachers are being driven by the tests, and most tests don't tend to encourage creativity and problem-solving," Ellwood City Area School District Superintendent Frank Aloi said. "It's mostly rote learning."

With teachers speaking up now against additional assessment measures, perhaps it's time to consider what is truly being gained from assessments.  Are the assessments themselves diagnostic in nature or simply another data point in the world of accountability? 

And what is the point of the assessment?  Is it to benefit the students by assisting their learning?  Or is it simply a tool to document the competency of the teachers and the ability of the student?

And how are we using those data points?  Are we using the assessments' results to measure students' strengths and weaknesses?  Are we using assessment data to drive instruction?  Or are we simply using the assessments to measure a pass/fail rate that is then put aside until the next assessment comes along?

Perhaps when these questions are answered about each assessment we ask students to take, educators will be able to distinguish between assessments that are a useful and integral part of student learning and those that are a waste of teaching resources, student time, and taxpayers' money.

Tags: graduation exams, exit exams, standardized assessment

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