If you have a child in a Philly public school, you probably know about the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam, or PSSA tests.
I’ll be blunt, I believe that the PSSAs are an incredibly illogical joke, borne out of the No Child Left Behind Act which, essentially, throws standardized tests at students to “assess” the quality of their education.
If students in a particular school perform poorly on the tests, that school’s budget is slashed.
Of course, the Pennsylvania Department of Education doesn’t take certain aspects of the punished school into account, like — let’s see — the number of drug dealers roaming the halls and interrupting classes for kids who are actually trying to learn.
The Department of Education also doesn’t take into account that slashing the school’s budget does nothing more than make the school suffer, potentially failing these students and creating more drug dealers — who will then go to other schools and disrupt class for those kids and thus cause those chools’ budgets to be slashed.
Then, the idiots who support standardized tests like the PSSAs will complain that we spend too much tax money locking up drug dealers.
It’s a vicious cycle.
So, as reported recently, local principals and teachers who are trying to keep their jobs and their schools’ budgets have come up with a brilliant idea — cheat!
They realize the PSSAs are a pointless waste of time and — if you’ll allow me to be cynical — are just another way for our wonderful state government to justify saving cash by cutting the budgets of schools in troubled neighborhoods.
Knowing that half their students can’t pass the standardized tests, public-school teachers and principals in possibly as many as 53 schools — as reported in recent stories in both the Inquirer and Daily News — have fed students the answers and even altered their students’ answer sheets.
The School Reform Commission — the bunch of bureaucrats that they are — have decided they won’t tolerate such an indignity.
And that’s something I find hilarious, because they’re more than willing to suffer other indignities, such as the sickening disparities in public education and the fact that they are punishing our most vulnerable kids because, as I said, the schools most likely to have their budgets cut are the ones in the poorest neighborhoods.
The SRC is super serious about rooting out these cheaters; it’s even bringing in former Temple University president David Adamany as a “watchdog” to set things right.
In my opinion, it’s ridiculous that, according to the SRC, setting things right means reinforcing a No Child Left Behind-era idea that doesn’t even work.
As a former employee of the School District of Philadelphia at Kensington Culinary High School, I was able to sit in on a meeting concerning the PSSAs where teachers and administrators — most of whom cared deeply about their students — worried about the possibility of losing their jobs and having the school’s already tiny budget hacked up even more.
They all had a difficult time finding ways to even get their students motivated to take the test, since any student’s performance on the PSSA test has no bearing whatsoever on his “real” grades.
I mean, it’s not like you’ll get an extra five points on your SATs because you aced an irrelevant state school assessment test.
These educators proceeded to dedicate their valuable time to standardized tests rather than actually teach their kids. Because, let’s be honest, these tests — and the prep time involved — don’t really challenge a student to think critically.
Instead, it’s memorizing information without context, which is as bad an education as anyone can get.
But, hey, the damage appears to be done.
I think that the state Department of Education, the SRC, and the School District of Philadelphia are all beyond repair, which is why I want everyone who actually realizes and understands the problems facing our public schools to actively and loudly encourage these principals and teachers to cheat as much as they can.
By cheating on the PSSAs — and thus keeping their schools afloat — those educators can hopefully use their extra time in class to teach students some actual critical-thinking skills.
God knows we need more critical thinkers.
And if they learn critical thinking now, when they get older, these students might be smart enough not to make their kids suffer through the same idiocy that gives us junk like the PSSAs. ••
ldquo;Riverward Rants” reflects the opinions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown resident, area native and writer of the Web site PhillyNeighbor.com, where he makes cynical (and uncensored) comments about life in the riverwards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com.