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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 4, 2017 09:48 AM
From: Representative Jesse Topper
To: All House members
Subject: Legislation to Prohibit School Districts from Purchasing "Benchmark Assessments"
This week, students in every public school in the commonwealth begin taking their PSSA exams. It is a stressful time for students, their families and teachers. I’ve long had concerns about the amount of testing in our public schools. I was disappointed to see that the new federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), doesn’t eliminate or significantly reduce the requirements around standardized testing for students. Children in grades 3-8 and 11 will still have to take PSSA and Keystone Exams. Therefore, if we want to address the culture of “over-testing” we have to look outside of our federally-required standardized tests.

In the next couple weeks, I plan to introduce legislation that would prohibit school districts from purchasing what is commonly known as benchmark assessments. These pre-tests are used by teachers to prepare students for federally-required standardized tests and ask “What has a student learned so far?” The two most commonly used benchmark assessments in Pennsylvania are the 4sight and the CDT (the Classroom Diagnostic Test). The 4sight and CDT are tests used to test for the test. This is where we must start our efforts to get testing under control.

The CDT is made available to educators for free by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). School districts must pay a fee to PDE to get the 4sight benchmark assessment. Nothing prohibits school districts from contracting with other vendors for other types of benchmark assessments.

My proposal will ensure that precious local resources are not spent on buying more tests. If we, as a commonwealth, want benchmark assessments to be available to educators and students, then we can make that decision through the state budget process.

To be clear, I don’t blame our public schools or its educators for using benchmark assessments. There is too much emphasis placed on standardized assessments in today’s society and everyone is just doing their best to ensure that students are prepared and perform their best. But we’re not going to tackle the culture of over-testing until we finally say, “Enough” and establish some clearer boundaries.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this common sense piece of legislation. Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as HB1551