Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD ranks 4th in Pennsylvania for PSSA results but is it time to opt-out of standardized testing?

Spring is PSSA time for public schools in Pennsylvania and the results are in for 2013. The Pittsburgh Business Times has published their 2013 Guide of Western Pennsylvania Schools, which lists the rankings of all school districts in Pennsylvania. The analysis of the school district performance is based on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) Exam results. According to their website, the formula for the ranking takes into account three years of PSSA test scores in math, reading, writing and science. They look at three years of scores, with the current year given the most weight. The rankings do not denote the overall quality and performance of the school district, only the PSSA scores.

In the ‘Top 15’ school districts category in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County was the number one county with six school districts represented followed by Chester County with three school districts (Unionville-Chadds Ford, T/E and Great Valley), Delaware County with three school districts (Radnor, Wallingford-Swarthmore and Rose Tree Media) and Montgomery County with one school district (Lower Merion).

For 2013 rankings, Upper St. Clair School Districts holds onto its first place title for the ninth year in a row, with another Allegheny County school district, Mt. Lebanon moving into second place. This is the third year that I have tracked the top 15 school districts and in the chart below, you will note that Tredyffrin Easttown Township School District has dropped from its 2011 second place, to third place in 2012, to fourth place in 2013. The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District dropped their ranking from second in 2012 to third in 2013. Other main line school districts, Radnor Township School District dropped from fourth to sixth for 2013, Lower Merion dropped a level in rankings and Great Valley School District moved up from 14th to 13th place for 2013. Looking at other area school districts, Downingtown School District improved their rankings, from 25th to 24th and Phoenixville School District continues to drop in rankings, for 2o13 listed as 98th.

A Pennsylvania school district that places in the top 15 or 20 out of 500 districts statewide based on the PSSA exams is an achievement for which students, parents, teachers and administrators can all be proud. PSSA scores is viewed by many as a reliable predictor of future success. As a tool for student assessment, the PSSA exam helps measure and provide useful information of what students are learning. The PSSAs measure the performance of the entire class and provide of measurement of how an overall class is performing. But how important are PSSA exams, beyond bragging rights of a school district. Do children (and teachers) need this level of pressure to ‘measure up’?

Based on the varying socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages levels of school districts across the state, I don’t know how fair it is judge the work of entire school districts based on a series of standardized tests. Although evaluation is an important tool in learning, high-stakes tests, such as the PSSA exam, are being used to label students (as well as teachers and school districts). It is no wonder that there is rebellion among some parents not to allow their children to participate in the PSSA testing process.

I did not know that in Pennsylvania, a parent has the right to have their children exempted from taking the PSSA exams under PA Code Title 22 Chapter 4, Section 4 (d)(5):

“If upon inspection of State assessments parents or guardians find the assessment in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.”

The grounds for the exemption are “religious” but the parents do not have to explain what their faith is, what about the testing is in violation of their faith, or anything else. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, if you believe that it is morally wrong to put your kids through the ordeal of a week of testing, that’s good enough.

Timothy Slekar, head of the Department of Education, Penn State-Altoona and his wife decided to opt out of the PSSA exam for their son. Slekar included a copy of the letter in an article written for Huffington Post that can be used in Pennsylvania public schools by “people of most religious affiliations”. Slekar encourages readers “to copy, to cut, and to paste any or all portions of this letter for your own use in freeing a child from the pain of high-stakes standardized testing.” To read Slekar’s article and opt-out letter, click here.

Top 15 School Districts in Pennsylvania for 2013

2013 2012 2011 School District (County)
1 1 1 Upper St. Clair School District (Allegheny)
2 5 6 Mt. Lebanon School District (Allegheny)
3 2 3 Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (Chester)
4 3 2 Tredyffrin-Easttown School District (Chester)
5 6 5 North Allegheny School District (Allegheny)
6 4 4 Radnor Township School District (Delaware)
7 7 9 Hampton Township School District (Allegheny)
8 10 12 South Fayette Township School District (Allegheny)
9 8 7 Lower Merion School District (Montgomery)
10 9 8 Central Bucks School District (Bucks)
11 13 15 Wallingford-Swarthmore School District (Delaware)
12 12 11 Fox Chapel Area School District (Allegheny)
13 14 13 Great Valley School District (Chester
14 11 11 Peters Township School District (Washington)
15 19 19 Rose Tree Media School District (Delaware)



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  1. 4th place for pssa scores is great until you look at the fact that TESD has dropped a spot for 3 years in a row. If we dont think that the pssa exams are an equitable measure of our students ability, I guess the fact that TESD is dropping in the pssa rankings should not matter.

  2. To keep things in perspective Upper St. Clair High School and Mt. Lebanon High School are as close to each other as Conestoga and Radnor. The communities are comparable. North Allegheny is as far away as Unionville is from Conestoga. The top 6 districts have been trading places over the past 3 year. This is not alarming.

  3. Educational Records Bureau (ERB) is the only not-for-profit educational services organization offering assessments for both admission and achievement for independent and selective public schools for Pre K-grade 12.

    Founded in 1927, ERB’s mission is to create testing and learning solutions that help schools develop improved curriculum, teaching, and learning through diagnosis of assessment results that address essential learning standards.

    This is a test comparable to the SATs in its intent. ERB and ETS are pretty much the same….and for a country based on rankings, they do it reasonably well….and have become the standard for “standardized testing”…. It is not politically developed (PSSA) test based on state standards. It is not a test teachers can “teach to.” It is odd that someone would have a concern that TE is part of a program that requires our students to measure up to other “selective” schools. We certainly have those expectations on our college profile where we list what SAT results measure up to what college admissions.

    When you read your child’s ERB score report, you see how he/she measures up against comparable schools (face it, Conestoga is a “selective” school by all measures)and independent schools in measures beyond content. (auditory comprehension) For competitive programs like those on the Main Line, I believe it is a valid tool for truly evaluating the quality of the student. As mentioned above, the PSSA is largely about time devoted to extensive testing, with results where we are in the top 15 in the state — a somewhat expected evaluation since we probably are in the top 15 districts demographically.
    “We know these tests do not measure thinking or learning”…is a broad conclusion. What I think we know is that they are not complete measures, but when it comes to comparisons, even this blog was deeply concerned about why TESD had not submitted information for the USNews rankings.

    Schools run from testing when you are not confident. Local private schools use ERBs as measures of curricular achievement. The fact that Dr. Waters is on the ERB board would be, by many, considered a distinction, not a conflict…Dave Magill, the Director of the Univ of Chicago Laboratory Schools is another trustee. (He was Supt. of Lower Merion in the 80s.)

    Now, if you want to bail on rankings and testing, that’s your call. We can continue to believe grade inflation (even the SATs were renormed because kids dont’ do as well as a prior generation) or we can get measured periodically against our peers academically. There are 2000 schools participating in the ERBs at the last report I read. I know that I found it helpful to see where my students ranked competitively among comparable students, not just “all of PA.”

    1. You are twisting my meaning when you say I would “have a concern that TE is part of a program that requires our students to measure up to other “selective” schools. Are ERB scores sent to colleges? I don’t think so they are so why do we need them?

      It is not a necessary tool to evaluate the quality of a student and it is very expensive.

      As far as time devoted to taking it – it adds on an extra week to our calender and it isn’t necessary. We know that we measure up to “selective schools in the area. What other schools in the area “voluntarily” take it? Radnor?, Great Valley?, Unionville CF? These schools rank very high just like TE.

      “Schools run from testing when you are not confident” – I don’t know what that means.

      Most of those 2,000 schools who use it, are private schools who use the results for admissions purposes only.

      IMO, it is a conflict of interest for Dr, Waters to be a trustee.

      I have heard the test is very expensive. Maybe Neal or Ray could get some information on how much it cost. Keith, do you administer it at Unionville CF?

      Thanks for the post Anon.

      1. It is a test for internal use…reports are very detailed by student by question. TE does not publicly tout the results to my knowledge. It does expose student strengths and weaknesses, and also would help to identify differences between schools (math results stronger at one elementary than another for example). It is a tool to do curricular assessments. I don’t think any part of the PSSA is comparable, but times change. maybe time for a new look?

        1. anon2 says the test is for internal use and is very detailed by student by question.

          Since the test is for internal use ONLY, the only purpose it serves is for teacher evaluation of individual students. This type of information shapes teacher expectations and therefore what teachers believe about a students capability and studies show what a teacher believes about a students capability is directly related to a students achievement.

          Standardized testing is flawed. It doesn’t test intangibles like determination and will. Many kids work hard and make good grades but don’t score high on standardized tests.

          These results (as demonstrated from anon2’s post) send the message that learning problems are with the student. It is a two way street.

          IMO, we don’t need these tests, kids get very stressed out taking them and they serve no purpose other than for teacher “evaluation.”

          The only cost information I could find was $98.00 per test.

    2. Anon2

      You do need to calm down. I’m sorry you’re upset because a taxpaying citizen dares to disagree with you.

      You say above, “When you read your child’s ERB score report, you see how he/she measures up against comparable schools ( face it, CHS is a selective school by all measures)

      How does this not fuel parents fire anon2? This only serves to encourage and motivate parents to put even more pressure on their kids. And it’s not state mandated and tax payers pay for it and kids hate taking it and it puts a tremendous amount of added pressure on them so you (teacher) can label and judge them and put them into abstract categories that aren’t even real. This is not parent driven. It is teacher administrator driven and it is not necessary. Ans CHS is a PUBLIC SCHOOL. There is no admissions requirement or selectivity except that you are a tax paying citizen and that gives me the right to have an opinion.

      And you say you “believe it is a valid tool for truly evaluating the quality of a student. In the word of Karen Cruikshank. That is ludicrous. It is a known fact that all standadized tests are flawed.

      The memorization game is irrelevant. Employers all over the globe are reporting that college grads come to the working world unprepared. Experts argue that attending college has become about paying to have a degree and not about learning actual skills.

      We are all responsiblie anon2. Stop blaming parents, get your head out of the sand and face reality.

      Kids are coming out of college with massive debt, no prospects for a good job and skills that just don’t matter anymore.

      And all these tests that compare how their useless skills measure up to other kids in other districts with useless skills means nothing.

      If you want to be a Dr. or an accountant, go to college. It’s probably worth it. But there are only so many meds schools and they can only admit 10% of highly qualified applicants at the most.

      If you want to go into business, forget it. Start investing in the stock market instead, get a mentor or do internships to learn about business. Engage in self directed learning on line.

      1. I did fine with my children. Good luck with yours. Mine have college degrees, good paying jobs and own homes. Must have been the pressure we put on them….not.

        YOU are responding to pressure that YOU internalize. Kids do not come out of college with no prospects IF they go to college….just as coming out of college does not guarantee prospects. You don’t get to play on the basketball team because you are tall. You have to earn your way in this world. If these tests trouble you, opt out. But because you don’t get anything from them doesn’t mean you need to generalize that to the district. In fact, I said very early on that if ERBs are no longer relevant, why have them? But you whine here. GO TO THE SOURCE. Do you even attend Education Committee meetings, or are you afraid someone will take it out on your child? Your comments reflect that kind of whisper mentality.

        1. You are definitely not a teacher. You are an angry, angry person.

          Kids Do come out of college with no prospects.

          I am not whining, you are. I am stating fact and backing them up with data.

          I wish you well.

        2. You say you did fine with your children. How old are they? When did they graduate from college? Before 2008? Did one go to Harvard? What is he/she doing now? I know there are tens of thousands of ivy league school graduates with no job and they won’t take one that is “beneath them.” so they stagnate at home with mom and dad waiting for that dream job they were promised after all the hard work put forth getting into an expensive ivy league school.

          Congratulations on yours though!

      2. FF

        As you can read in my post above on April 29th at 10:34am, I said if you want to be a Dr. or an accountant, college would be worth the cost. I suppose I could include finance in that group too. I agree that memorization is a great skill to develop for math.

        No doubt that logical thinking and being book smart still matters – it just matters less because the types of jobs that require linear thinking can be outsourced – especially to a computer. If a process has steps or a specific set routine, a computer can do it. No need for a divorce lawyer anymore unless there is friction. Just download a form and fill it out.

        IMO, The more valuable abilities that are harder to outsource like empathy, big picture thinking and creativity are the skills that we should be teaching.

        1. seems to me Shining that we better invent more job descriptions because soon technology will totally take over. humans will be obsolete.. a commodity at best… scary. So where are those plumbers electricians, and other trades as they fill out the bill?

        2. Your sarcasm is getting in the way of clarity. I don’t know what you mean?

          I think it would be great if more kids took up trades. We do need plumbers and electricians and they maked great livings.

  4. UCF doesn’t use ERB testing. UCF relies on PSSAs, SATs and AP scores.
    Testing is an interesting topic. Some say we do too much testing – a day of testing is a day of lost instruction. Some say we don’t test enough – the results are an important diagnostic of needed instructional improvement for the student, the class teacher, the school principal and the district superintendent .
    I looked at the IRS filing and while Dr. Waters is a trustee, the trustees are not compensated. There is no conflict of interest.

    1. Thanks for the comment Keith. All the Districts take PSSAs but it was my impression that ERBs were given in private schools. Now that I know that TESD gives ERBs (whereas as you say UCF does not) it does have me wonder, why? Is UCF decision not to use ERB testing financial?

      1. I had never heard of ERBs before they were mentioned on CM. Up until a decade or so ago UCF administered CATs (CA Achievement Test) as a way to check progress. At the time, this was the accepted way to check achievement against other schools across the nation. The CATs were dropped when the PSSAs became the norm. It was a recommendation from the administration and if I remember correctly, it was based on cost, superfluous information and lost instruction time.

        1. Keith,
          Thank-you for the info.

          My eyes popped out of my head when I read you had never heard of ERB’s before today. Very surprising.

      2. I worked for a College Financial Aid program in the 90s and UCF was a “very” rural school district at that point. It is only in the last 20 years or so that the nature of their demogrpahics might have spurred any interest in ERBs, and the finances apparently are an issue.

        I say this because in working with guidance counselors there in the late 90s, early 2000, they routinely would tell us that they were hesitant to encourage students to apply for private colleges because parents were reluctant to take on the expense. At the time, I believe they encouraged ACT tests, as many less suburban programs still do. UCF did not have a population THEN that was concerned with whether their program was a “rigorous” as neighboring districts. With their change in demographics, I would imagine the rural feel has eroded. Remember — Chester County still has a great deal of farm land…not so much in TE.

        1. Keith,

          Since your “rural farm land” has scored higher and is ranked higher in the state than “no so much” separate and special TE with no farm land, do you think you’ll consider ERB testing for your students? My guess is no you won’t.

    2. John said, “Standardized tests like this are inherently flawed. Let’s be clear – this is an outgrowth of the No Child Left Behind law which is an extremely flawed law. “ Of course standardized tests are flawed, but what would you propose instead? And no, standardized testing is not an outgrowth of NCLB. Testing was in place decades before NCLB was passed in 2001. I remember being compared to other school children in the 1950s using the Iowa Skills Test.
      John opined, “One of the bigger problems are school boards.” OK. What’s your proposal? Require prospective board members to be active or retired teachers or administrators?
      John was surprised that I would/could call up an IRS 990 filing for a non-profit organization. I know I’m not an “educational professional”, I need to “develop critical thinking skills”, and my fiscal policy is often “misguided”, but I was able to access Guide Star to follow the money. This is very helpful when reading educational policy recommendations from supposedly independent non-profits. One might suspect a leftward bias in the research if the non-profit is supported, for instance, by the NEA or AFT or an opposite bias if the non-profits is supported by, for instance, the Gates Foundation.

    3. SATs and APs are done at the end. Does UCF use anything for younger grades? Do you have multiple schools at each level? PSSAs might be more about meeting standards than exceeding them? But does UCF do any kind of analysis on PSSA scoring broken out by school?
      SL wants someone to find out the ERB costs, yet she keeps saying they are expensive. Is this all conjecture? Is there a cost/benefit analysis? Or is it just because SL doesn’t like Dr.Waters?

      1. Anon2

        It sounds like you are a teacher. As a taxpayer I have a right to know what this test is costing all taxpayers in this district. We don’t know what the test costs because the cost has never been revealed to the taxpaying citizens. I’m guesiing, based on the fact that testing fees are the largest single source of revenue at $14,299, 243 in 2009 and the fact that the presidents compensation is 351,041, that the fees are pretty high. Do you know how much it costs? If so, could you please let us know.

        You say that the test is used for internal use. I’m guessing you are a teacher. If the test is not expensive and it is beneficial to the district, why not release cost and information about it?

  5. TESD has used ERBs for a long time, I believe predating Dr. Waters hiring much less his current role. It’s funny how people change their opinions about testing. ERBS are used primarily by districts (not just high schools) that compete with top schools at the college acceptance level. I don’t remember the specific incident, but when I was on the board in the 90s, there was a push to have the ERB results more public, since there was a major concern that the local independent schools were outperforming our kids. The Education Committee had many meetings dedicated to evaluating results by grade, by school. It helped the Admin pick up on curricular differences between schools. I recall that the score reports are far more sophisticated by varying categories. It also helps to see if a particular category is in need of remediation. I know TE did them in 4th grade, and I think 8th and 11th, but I don’t know what they do now. The point of the 4th and 8th was to assess the productivity of the elementary/middle programs.

    As to the expense — I don’t recall it being a major issue, but if people don’t believe they are important anymore, than by all means question it. As to Dr. Waters being a trustee — I imagine it is a honorary selection and involves his contributing to the development. I do find it a bit offensive that you would consider it a conflict for a Phd running our district to be on a board of a nationally recognized educational program.

    As an aside — there was a major discussion at the Haverford School when they had a change in MIddle School administration and didn’t do the ERB testing after 8th grade. There were claims that the school was uncertain about the quality of their middle school instruction and parents were upset. Unlike PSSAs, these are considered “rigorous” tests, not “normed” tests. You can measure the performance of the same students over time because you get STUDENT by student results, not school reporting. Perhaps PSSAs have expanded their reporting sophistication and ERBs are no longer useful, but as a parent, I found them very useful in evaluating my own children’s strengths and weaknesses, not just within TESD, but within comparable schools and all schools. And as a board member, they were helpful in identifying key areas of concern between schools (example: 4th grade scores affected at different rates after 8th grade based on which middle school they attended.).

    And while standardized tests are “inherently flawed” – it’s what they are. Standardized tests. The SATs are high stakes, and are the first glimpse of your national competitive rankings if you don’t have another “national” test.

    The concern that they are only offered to apply for private schools — it is nonsense. Private schools can and sometimes do accept ERB scores as part of an application process depending on the grade, but each school has its own admission protocol which includes all sorts of things. Like IQ testing for challenge, it’s just another piece of information. And the measures reported are honestly quite sophisticated and helpful for ensuring the maintenance of a rigorous curriculum.

    If the PSSAs can do it too, or you don’t care about our program (not just our kids) in the context of demographics and expectations, dump them.

  6. John
    If you want to eliminate school boards, who runs the show? You have certainly shared your criticism of the professionals in the district. I don’t think the model works as it is now either, but that’s because at least adminstrators have credentials. Board members don’t need to, and given the voter apathy, and second guessing, who needs it?

    1. I am happy to hear your thoughts. The newest senator from Texas doesn’t support school boards either…and I’ve had that debate from a strong Cruz supporter.
      Here’s the problem–it’s like our government, It doesn’t work, but is still the system I would choose over others. You say it often–it’s a matter of engaging constituencies —but also respecting professionals. I don’t know how to fix it because candidly, it hasn’t always been broken. A broken economy has a harsh way of exposing flaws…and engaging the disenfranchised (as well as crabby) populace.

  7. Any article on ERB says the test provides independent schools and select public schools with a rigorous ADMISSION TOOL for evauating applicants. Living and paying taxes in TE is the only requirement for “admissions.”

    There are many public schools (especially in NYC) where there is an evauation and selection process for ADMISSIONS.

    ERB proudly states it is a member of TABS – The Association of Boarding Schools.

    It is known as the entree into the world of private schooling. (for Keith, I’m stating my source)

    What is the ISEE?

    The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an ADMISSION test developed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) for its member schools as part of their ADMISSION process.

    Please look at their leadership and where they are affiliated:

    Head of School St. Mary’s Episcopal School
    Headmaster, St. Philip’s Academy
    President, Pine Crest School
    Head of School, Horace Mann School
    Head of School Albuquerque.

    Dr. Waters is one of probably two or three public school members

    It has recently posted a guide book telling parents what to expect on the test and it provides sample questions. How does this provide a fair and unbiased evaluation?

  8. SL-why so snarky? My UCF comments were historical context, because Partye had shared that the communities closer to “town” did use the ERBs.

    Whether or not the PSSAs have evolved to the point of ending the use or ERBs is a valid topic and I would advise posing it tithe Education committee. I am only expressing what at one time was the practical and valuable use of this testing tool.

    PSSAs are a direct response to NCLB and are reflective of “state standards.”. ERBs, like SATs, are national. The fact that they are ..”marketed” as a tool for entrance exams does not need to distract from their possible value as a way to measure our program. As I related, there was widespread support for ERBs as a validation tool for younger age programs, but PSSAs have expanded considerably. here is where we peanut gallery posters might acknowledge we don’t have all the facts, but again–talk to your board members on the education committee. All policies and practices should be periodically evaluated.

    1. Andrea,
      When reviewing the ERB website there’s a tool to look at which schools or school districts use ERBs. Beyond the main line school districts of TE, Radnor, Lower Merion, Haverford and Great Valley, I could not find any other public school districts within 25 miles of here that administer ERBs. (This assumes that the ERB site is up-to-date.) Because our daughter attended Baldwin and took the ERBs, I assumed that the ERB were a state requirement for all school students (private and public). It was only through this discussion on CM that I found out that ERBs are primarily used for private schools — with the exception of these main line school districts. I am very confused as to why the kids in TE are taking both PSSA and ERBs. The private schools are only taking the ERBs, not the PSSA. Most of the public schools districts in PA are taking the PSSA exams only. Whether it’s the PSSA or ERB exams, it’s disruptive to the teaching schedule so why do both? Someone needs to explain to me the value of TESD students taking ERB exams in addition to PSSA exams — because obviously I am missing something. If the ERB is not a requirement but more of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, I would like to understand the District’s rationale.

      1. When I wrote “I am missing something”, I was referring to the District administering the ERB exam not PSSA. But thank you John for sharing Wikipedia — PA is transitioning this year from the PSSA to Keystone exams.

      2. TE has been using ERBs as an assessment tool for much longer that PA has used the PSSAs in their current configuration. My memory fails me here, but parents in this community very much wanted an assessment of our programs and our relative quality compared to local independent schools. ERBs are targeted to our demographic, and Baldwin and local private schools are under no legal obligation to test students. Think of it as a general physical,testing the health of a program. I know in my time, the education committee did a lot of learning about curricular design and the pros and cons of accelerated and grouping core subjects based on ERB data. PSSAs are just the name the state uses. The Keyatone exam is not likely to differ except that it is meant to be “high stakes” for the student. PSSAs are really only “high stakes” for the district or specific schools in meeting “annual yearly progress” under the umbrella of NCLB.
        Anything that is new is controversial…when the SATs added a 3rd component and renormed the test, everyone struggled to get a read on performance metrics. ERBs do not prop up a program. They measure it. I really don’t know how they compare to modern day testing, but when my kids went through, I know the results for ERBs provided a great deal more information than national percentiles, which in a district like TESD tends to be viewed as a relatively low bar for too many people. Remember — it was during my time that there was a rumbling among parents of gifted kids (40%) that we should consider segregating elementary buildings to ensure the gifted got as much attention as those with special needs….
        It’s not about bragging rights. It’s about using standards that apply beyond the keystone state, where the history standards were 1/3 PA, 1/3 US and 1/3 world, and environment standards wanted more farming information.

        I left the school board in 2002. My last student graduated in 2004. When things have concerned me, I asked. If I didn’t get the answer I needed, I did an RTK. This is all interesting Pattye, but too much is conjecture. I don’t know how leads the Education committee nowadays, but I would suggest you or anyone interested ask them to comment and respond. As was said earlier, part of doing your job as a board member it to regularly evaluate what you do to understand if it is still the right way to do it. “Planned abandonment” is part of evolving. There was some kind of process using a clock as the symbol–the district develops policy, board approves policy, the admin writes the regulation to implement policy and oversees it, and then the board evaluates T regular intervals whether the intention/purpose of the policy is still valid and if the results are in the right direction. You don’t need 9 elected volunteers assuming they are qualified to design or develop educational programs, but you do want them to manage the process of how it all works and evaluate the quality of the work.

        1. A minor topic, but when you say “parents of gifted kids (40%),” do you mean 40% of kids in T/E are labeled gifted?

  9. SL wants to know the cost of ERBs. I suggest SL look at the check register published each month and look for ERB (or an affiliate) as one of the payees, file a RTK request or ask the question at a public meeting.
    Pattye wants to know the value of ERBs. I suggest someone ask the question at a public meeting or in an email. Most of us can only conjecture.

  10. Roberta–
    That was the quoted breakdown in the time I reference, when IQ tests required 130 and ERBs and alternative assessments expanded the pool, but i never counted. The percentages varied by elementary attendance area. Radnor used 140 and had a much smaller enrollment, a more focused approach than a weekly Challenge pull out. I don’t know the criteria now…but TE parents very much operated as Lake Woebegone. I cite the movement to segregate the elementaries which was very small, but that I found incredibly offensive. It was actually borne of jealousy about the level of programs available for kids with special learning needs. More info than is relevant to this discussion. ;)

    1. back in the day we thought, with our first child, that challenge was SOOOO important. And then most of the kids left class for “challenge”.. few stayed behind. Just should have taken the whole class. And yes my oldest was in challenge.. We were really into it. My second and third? Couldn’t care less about it. You know, they have done very well without it, thank you.. Challenge…. yuk

      1. FF
        The phrase here is “back in the day”. But try telling newer parents the benefit of your experience….no takers. It’s a badge of honor that it seems parents wear. When the 5th grade moved to the middle school, they implemented an alternate program for all kids, with those destined for challenge to go into specific sections. It was based an enrichment model. Younshould have heard “challenge parents” wailing about how could they be sure their kids were in the right section if everyone got to go to a special class. There was some indignation that kids might now knowmwhomthe challenge kids were.

        If the learning was good, why not apply it to all students? Reasonable debate? Nope. “Our kids are entitled to special services.”

        A debate without a winning argument…

        1. Andrea, EXACTLY! Why leave one or three kids back in the room when most go to challenge? Terrible idea. Enrich all the kids.. and yes, parents are well, u fill it in. And I have to admit with our first we were in that group. Until we wised up..

          Crazy stuff..

        2. John
          That’s too glib…it is not “this community” but is far wider. This region has a very dense population of independent schools, which in a way is a tuition check to put your child into challenge….but parents want what is best for their child and it’s too simple to call it an elitist attitude.

  11. If only jurisdictions made sense and were not political. Isn’t our congress broken because of gerrymandering??
    Remembering that Great Valley was “spun off” from TESD, PA has always been about local control. I think once upon a time it was about a district per high school in suburban and rural areas….
    I have little doubt that combining the two townships would be functional….and efficient. One refers to the other with distinctly disparaging terms implying that one gets all the benefits of just being there….but they are very different forms of government…operate under different rules, and I know for a short time when the school district tried to have quarterly meetings with BOS from both townships, it was obvious they were not interested in agreeing. E gets 1/2% transfer tax and T gets 1%. Populations are very differently sized…… In LM Township, they have issues between the two high schools and it’s only one township, so I think politics has a way of poisong wells, regardless of the composition.
    But go for it…….who could prompt the decision? Can we just appoint someone “benevolent dictator”?

  12. In the current Main Line Suburban Life paper, the Article “Tredyffrin/Easttown confronts the effect of Keystone Exams on students and teachers” District Education Committee Chairwoman Karen Cruickshank expresses her displeasure with the exams stating,

    “Despite our best efforts, and letters from hundreds of citizens, the Keystone exams continue to move forward in this state.” She labels the effect the exams have on the students and teachers as “ludicrous.”

    She goes on to say ” (talking about the junior class) “They had to take time out of their regular classes to be tested on these state-mandated classes that don’t have any bearing on graduation but do have bearing on the academic profile of our schools.

    The ERB’s are not state mandated, we pay a fee to administer them and they have no bearing on graduation.

    As anon2 (teacher) has revealed they are for internal use ONLY. HE/She says “this test is comparable to the SAT’s in it’s intent. Then why do our children need to take it? HE/She says :”For competitive programs loke those on the Main Line, I believe it is a valid tool for truly evaluating the quality of a student.” The teachers use this test to label and judge students. Teachers often confuse the student with the label. Categories and labels are abstract and not real. Every individual is unique and these types of tests lead to stereotyping.

    Why is Ms. Cruickshank so upset about the Keystone exams (which are state mandated) but she remains silent about the the ERB’s which are not state mandated, cost money to administer and take time out of regular classes to be administered.

    I agree with Ms. Cruickshank about the Keysone Exams. Since we have no choice in the matter and have no influence over it, let’s stop complaining about it and do something about tests that we do have control and choice over…….the ERB’s.

  13. What we should be doing is looking at how cyber charter schools are performing since Pennsylvania leads the state in the number of cyber charter schools. The results are abysmal. Pittsburgh has launched their own cyber charter school and its results are alarming. But consider the fact that the city saves about $13,000 per student that attends the Pittsburgh Cyber School.

  14. The State Department of Education has rejected proposals from 6 operators that applied last year.

    There are 14 existing charter schools in PA serving 35,000 students. The states new school performance profile shows 11 cyber charters scored well below state averages.

    There will be no new cyber charter schools in PA in 2014.

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