We’ve occasionally looked across the Delaware River to see how our neighbors in Pennsylvania are faring with Governor Rendell’s aggressive attempts at consolidating their 511 school districts. Now, in another echo of New Jersey’s educational politics, there is a battle within the Pennsylvania State Legislature over whether to require high school graduates to pass a number of new competency tests. State Senator Jane Orie, often critical of Rendell, is sponsoring a bill that would stop all work on the new tests because she says that the math, English, science, and social studies assessments will cost at least $45 million.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, while most educators welcome the new standards, the Pennsylvania State Educators Association, the largest teacher union in the State, opposes them:
PSEA stands in opposition to this proposal or any other that seeks to implement yet another high-stakes test for our students, said Jerry Oleksiak, a PSEA official. There are too many unanswered questions for the commonwealth to move forward and implement a policy that will have wide-ranging social, economic and educational impacts.
And another nay-sayer, a local principal from Bentleyville, must have breakfasted on our side of the river.
He expressed concern that the tests would discourage students who are poor test-takers or non-traditional learners, leading to a higher drop out rate.
He also said that the tests would further erode local control.
Remember the movie “Groundhog Day?”
All these criticisms are true: state-issued high standards will discourage non-traditional learners, lead to higher drop-out rates, and erode local control. But what’s an acceptable alternative?