Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Test (PSSA)

The Pennsylvania's System of School Assessment test (PSSA) is administered to determine whether standards set by the government are being met by students in Pennsylvania classrooms. Read on to learn more.

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Under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools in every state are subject to governmental scrutiny. As a result, most states make extensive use of standardized testing to evaluate the progress of students, teachers, and schools. Pennsylvania has adopted academic standards for reading, speaking and listening, writing, and mathematics in order to identify what students should know and accomplish at each grade level. School districts must design curriculums and instructions to prepare students to meet or exceed these standards.

Pennsylvania's System of School Assessment test (PSSA) determines whether the government-mandated standards are being met. Based on the PSSA results, state officials can evaluate the progress of Pennsylvania students, as well as the extent to which school programs are enabling students to achieve academic proficiency. Individual student scores are provided only to the schools so they can be used to help teachers identify students in need of additional help.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires all schools to make what is known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is supposed to ensure that all students have the necessary reading and math skills to prepare them for the future. All students are required to reach the at least the Proficient level in Reading or Language Arts and in Mathematics by the year 2014. AYP requirements measure whether schools or districts are making sufficient progress towards ths goal of 100% proficiency.

The test scores of the students taking the PSSA can factor heavily into the AYP status of a given school. Good scores are obviously very important. Since reading and math are the only two tests that count towards a school's Adequate Yearly Progress status, every Pennsylvania student in grades 3-8 and in grade 11 is assessed in both subjects. Students in 5th, 8th and 11th grades are also assessed in writing, while students in 4th, 8th and 11th are assessed in science in addition to the math and reading assessments.

The math and reading tests are currently administered during March 20-31 testing window. It is left to the schools' discretion to decide which days to test. The writing test is given during the window of February 13-24. Reading and math tests take around 2.5 hours each of testing time. The writing test takes over 2 hours (an hour for each of two writing prompts with an additional 20 minutes for the multiple choice portion).

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