State releases PSSA results

Math, English proficiency falls as students progress

On Tuesday, the Penn­sylv­ania Department of Education released state­wide results from the 2018 PSSA for grades 3-8 and Keystone Exams for high school students.

The state Legislature last week voted to remove the necessity for high school students to score “proficient” on Keystone Exams in Algebra 1, literature and biology in order to graduate, but those tests, as well as the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments for the younger students, remain a part of the state’s accountability system for schools. That system is required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The data released by the department this week was an overview of all students’ performance statewide.

The scoring of Keystone Exams is categorized into “proficient,” “advanced,” “basic” and “below basic.”

Statewide, more than 65 per­­­cent of students taking the Keystone Exams in Al­ge­bra 1 scored proficient or advanced on the test. More than 72 percent scored proficient or advanced on the literature exam and just over 64 percent scored proficient or advanced on the biology test.

For the younger students who took PSSAs, 54 percent of third-graders statewide scored proficient or ad­vanced in math.

Proficient and advanced math scores become more scarce in the older grades — 43 percent of fourth-graders, 45 percent of fifth-graders, just less than 40 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders and 31 percent of eighth-graders.

Results of English PSSAs range in the 60 percent range for English — 63 percent of third-graders, just less than 60 percent for fourth- and fifth-graders, 62 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders and 61 percent of eighth-graders.

The department will release results specific to each school district by late November. That information will be included as one aspect of a new public-facing report card system, “the Future Ready PA Index.”

The index is to include not only test results but other measures not previously included in the department’s former school performance profiles.

The Future Ready PA Index will take an approach to present school-level data that features a broad range of indicators, such as English language acquisition, career readiness bench­mark indicators, access to advanced coursework and chronic absenteeism.

How the annual tests are to be administered is also changing this year. The dates to take the PSSAs will be moved later into the school year and the testing window will be reduced by one week, which according to Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, is intended to give students more classroom hours and district officials more flexibility in planning school calendars.

“Standardized tests can be one tool in helping identify content mastery of students and schools in support of planning and preparation, as well as meet federal and state reporting requirements,” Rivera said. “However, lengthy standardized testing periods are not conducive to providing optimal learning environments, impacting students and teachers and reducing much needed instructional time and focus for districts. Recognizing this, the Wolf administration has taken several steps to shift more time from assessment to teaching and learning.”

Last year, the time required to take the PSSAs was reduced by an average of two days, and this year, the testing window will be reduced from three to two weeks.

PSSAs are administered in grades three through eight for both English language arts and math; and grades four through eight in science.

The Keystone Exams are end-of-course assessments in literature, biology and Algebra I. Students’ best scores are “banked” and reported in statewide data when the student is in 11th grade.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.

Statewide test data

Keystone Exams, percent

of proficient/advanced

Algebra 1 65.2 percent

Literature 72.7 percent

Biology 64.4 percent

PSSA scores, percent

of proficient/advanced


Grade 3 54.1/63.5

Grade 4 43.5/59.8

Grade 5 45.2/59.4

Grade 6 39.6/62.5

Grade 7 39.6/62.5

Grade 8 31.9/61.5

Science, percent

of proficient/advanced

(taken in grades 4 and 8)

Grade 4 75.5

Grade 8 53.9