Last year, YorkCounts hosted a meeting about and sent a letter of support for the proposed Keystone Exams. Today, our intern Itzy Otterbein offers a different view. Itzy will be a senior in high school, and the opinions expressed here are hers, not YorkCounts.
Pennsylvania is initiating a new series of tests referred to as the Graduate Competency exams. The tests, also known as the Keystone Exams, will be used as exit exams to measure seniors’ competency and their ability to survive in the real world. As a soon-to-be senior in high school, I have to ask one question:
Do we really need one more test?
Think about it. During a student's high school career, the average student will take around 240 tests, assuming six classes with 10 tests per class times four years. That means that their knowledge and general know-how will be assessed 240 times. This does not include the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests (PSSAs), which are designed to test students’ comprehension of major subjects in third through eighth and 11th grade. Students who do not pass the PSSAs with proficient or above are remediated in order to move on to the next grade. Pennsylvania already has a system of assessment in place along with the basic testing in school. Student’s who can, on average, pass tests will pass their classes and in turn, receive the high school student’s Holy Grail… the diploma. So if the student’s abilities are tested throughout their schooling career, why should they be pressured with once and done, in or out, pass or fail exit exams? If the student has advanced to their senior year and passed all of their required classes, must their graduation rely on one huge, frightening series of test?
Imagine your entire high school career culminating with one large test on each main subject that will, in essence, determine the fate of your schooling. In the coming years, these standardized tests, known as Graduate Competency exams, appear likely to become a reality. In the year 2014, each student would be required to take 10 exit exams. The student's score on the exit exams would be put in the grade book as one third of the student's final grade. Students who fail to pass the test in even one subject area would probably not graduate and would have to come back for an additional year of school. Had they applied to college and been accepted, they would also lose their place and have to reapply the next year. This may have an adverse effect and discourage students from attending college.
I, personally, have never been a great test taker. In my school grade books, you can often see a trend of high A's on homework, class work, and small quizzes, but often B’s and maybe C’s on large tests. This is true for many students. While test are obviously a necessity to assess a student’s understanding, they can also be misleading. It isn’t fair to let one final series of tests prevent an otherwise qualified student from graduating.
Jim Rhoades, a former state Sen. and principal who passed away in 2008, agreed. “A high school diploma is an accumulation of 12 years of tests, quizzes and homework,” Rhoades told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Twelve years of gym classes and research papers; 12 years of getting along with other students. We're going to tell our students, our teachers and our schools that those 12 years don't really matter, that the effort ... wasn't really worth it.”
There is a feeling of unease in Pennsylvania because many people believe that too many of my fellow classmate and others who have graduated before us are unprepared for college or jobs. If this is true, why have the students been advanced through the grades? Perhaps, instead of adding another unnecessary test, the government should ensure that students are receiving the proper education throughout their schooling and are not simply being pushed to the next grade if they are not ready. The PSSAs already assess students. Students who are in 12th grade have passed these assessments or been remediated until they could. There should be no reason that a 12th grader who completes his or her courses with passing grades should not be prepared for the real world.
Do we need to spend the money on these exit exams that will help to standardize America when students are already being tested for proficiency by other government tests throughout their schooling? Should the government test each student’s academic level when it has been tested over and over again for the past 12 years by their teachers and administrators? This brings me back to my very first question…
Do we really need one more test?
Join the conversation and tell me what you think.
- Itzy Otterbein
Itzy Otterbein will be a senior at Eastern York High School. She participated in Leadership York's Future Leaders of York program and is working on her Girl Scouts' Gold Award at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education. She is interning with YorkCounts this summer.