Protesters speak out against standardized tests

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Tonya Bah, a parent, pickets at the intersection of Broad and Olney.

After school let out Monday, the first day of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, a half-dozen people - students, parents, and grandparents - picketed outside the Olney Transportation Center to protest the standardized tests.

Standing on the medians at Broad Street and Olney Avenue, they held signs that read, "No PSSA for Me," and, "I Am Not a Score!!" They passed out forms for parents and guardians to sign and give to their children's principals to opt their children out of the tests.

Groups that oppose the PSSA and Keystone exams also launched the statewide www.talesfromthetest.org Monday to encourage parents, students, and educators to show how state testing has affected them, and what opting out looks like at their schools.

"Overall, our goal is to make sure parents are more aware of how testing is impacting our classrooms and create a space for people to share that information," said Alison McDowell, parent of a Philadelphia student and a state representative of United Opt Out National.

The protesters' main goal Monday, they said, was to make sure parents knew they could opt their children out of testing.

They shared their problems with the PSSA with passersby. The more difficult tests set students up to fail, they said, and the students, schools, and teachers the tests evaluate pay the price.

Too much time is spent teaching students how to take the tests instead of teaching them skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond, they said. Children still learning English, dealing with hardships at home, and with learning differences have unfair disadvantages, they said.

"Gov. Wolf believes that we should require clear benchmarks for student performance and progress so that we can ensure the effectiveness of our investments, and testing is a part of that," Nicole Reigelman, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, said in a statement. "But the governor also believes that we should not rely solely on testing."

Protesters attempted to stop high school students wearing earbuds to ask whether they had younger siblings in grades three through eight.

"They're fine," one teenage girl said of standardized tests. "We just kind of do them."

Protesters asked seniors waiting for buses to take forms for their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or children in the neighborhood.

Steve Baker of Yardley, who was at work during the demonstration, opted his fourth-grade daughter out of the PSSAs this year and last year in the Pennsbury School District. He said he became concerned when he saw homework labeled "test prep."

"I wish more parents were aware of their rights, because I think there's a tremendous amount of consternation about the tests and what these tests are doing to their kids and their education," said Baker, who works for the New Jersey Education Association. "It's incumbent on parents to take a stand for their children."

 


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond