Tuesday, August 19, 2008

PSSA- Student not trying

On another post Wits-End wrote "What is the true scoop on PSSA results? A blogger on another blog asked what a 223.9% improvement meant? The first PSCC meeting should be an eyeopener when class and building results are talked about. The test is useless for many kids and does not reflect their abilities. I know kids who just fill in circles to get it over with and then they have MONTHS to wait to get caught. Hopefully the parents and teachers realize what the kid did in March or April and that they have coasted without guilt til the results hit the mailbox. I know. It is a character flaw. Maybe the polling method of "plus or minus" should be applied to the results. Anyway, I, errr, I mean the MOTHER has tried to take everything away from the child except his clothing, and it did not work. This kid just won't take the test seriously. His grades are not at all bad on his report card. Any advice would be welcome."

Is the child in high school, or in a lower grade? High school students already have so many tests that count for more- PSAT's, SAT's, subject matter SAT's, AP's, IB's, tests for class- that they may understandably focus on those tests. If a lower grade student- is the PSSA the only standardized test? Maybe an incentive (rather than a disincentive) would help, or an explanation that this practice is important to prepare for future tests that do really count for something.


wits-end said...

Thanks for trying to help with your response. The kid is now in middle school. The incentive plan worked a bit in early elementary school, but almost put me in the poor house. I still use incentives, but they work less and less. I have also paid tutors privately so his pals did not know he was getting extra help.

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me that your child has picked up on an eternal truth that all of us subject to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment figure out sooner or later: the tests are as pointless as they are poorly designed and poorly administered.

As a former graduate of Schenley High School I was subject to the PSSAs a number of times, and, like your son, I completed maybe a third or a fourth of the test and then randomly filled in the rest of the bubbles numerous times. First of all, the test itself (at least at the high school level) is far below the level of any of the students that take it and riddled with grammatical errors of its own. If I remember correctly, the instructions of the test told us that "Everyone should do their best to complete the test as correctly as possible" (and for those of you who haven't taken the SATs in a while, everyone should do "his or her" best, not "their" best). Furthermore, by completing only a fraction of the test, I was able to receive proficient markings in all of the areas-which calls into question the grading of the tests in general. However, the most outrageous part was that to take the test we were pulled out of classes for two full days and forced to remain in the test rooms, without doing work, the entire day-whether we finished or not.

And, of course, it did not help incentivize me that the only point of these tests was to help cover up the incompetence of the Public School System at preparing us, its students, for actually important exams like the IB and SATs. (By issuing the PSSAs, the public school system is able to quote performance statistics from much MUCH easier tests than those mentioned previously and fabricate progress)

If your child has good grades and seems interested in school he is probably on to something by skipping the PSSAs, not down the path to delinquency; I would reward his ability to think for himself.

Finally, allow me to add that I am not categorically critical of all standardized tests; in fact, the only one I have a problem with is the PSSA. Even though I did not complete my PSSAs, I had no trouble motivating myself to score very well on both my SAT and IB tests.

The PSSAs are a shoddy product of bureaucracy and politics, not an objective way of measuring the merit of your child in anyway.

Good for your child.

Questioner said...

There do seem to be issues w/ the PSSA- many students proficent on Pennsylvania's test are not proficient on national tests. There are probably other things you could focus on that would be more likely to help your child to succeed in the long run. A helpful book is "What High Schools Don't Tell You" by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross.