Assessment

Pa. May Add State Test Scores to Transcripts

By Sean Cavanagh — May 29, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The grades and course titles on high school transcripts offer a quick history of a graduating senior’s four-year record of accomplishment and disappointment. Now, Pennsylvania’s top education leaders want to add another chapter to that history.

The state board of education has voted to require schools to place high school students’ scores from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment on high school transcripts. Board members contend that displaying the results where employers and college-admissions officers could see them would help encourage students to take the tests seriously.

Next, the plan must be approved by the state House and Senate education committees, which observers said is likely.

“We’re trying to say that just walking into the classroom and not paying attention to the PSSA is not acceptable,” said board member Luis A. Ramos. “It’s about more than just filling in the last dot and turning the last page.”

All students in Pennsylvania are required to take the PSSA. They are tested in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades in mathematics and reading, and in 6th, 9th, and 11th grades in writing. Only the 11th grade test results would be put on the transcripts, starting in the 2004-05 school year, said Beth Gaydos, a spokeswoman for the state department of education, which supports the initiative.

“Accountability, at the end of the day, requires consequences,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Charles B. Zogby. “That means an understanding for students that their performance has to be taken seriously.”

Pennsylvania would become one of about a dozen states to list some form of standardized-test results on high school transcripts, according to the Education Commission of the States, a national organization in Denver that tracks state policy.

But the state board’s May 16 decision did not come without controversy. In making its decision, the board reversed a vote taken one day earlier by one of its own committees. That committee, the Council of Basic Education, had voted to remove the mandate to place test scores on transcripts.

The committee had heard objections about the transcript proposal from civil rights advocates and others, who complained that displaying the scores would punish students from schools in low-income areas.

“We feel that student performance should be measured by grades and other measures of classroom performance,” said Paula Diane Harris, the president of the greater Harrisburg, Pa., branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Another Twist

The Pennsylvania board’s decision also came despite a highly critical study of the state’s method of ranking standardized-test scores.

Released in March by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, the report said the education department’s methodology for ranking students as high- or low-scoring pushed far too many students into the lower categories. Many of those students who scored poorly would have scored well on comparable national tests, the report contended.

“State tests are here to stay—it’s not a question of opposing them,” said Wythe H. Keever, a spokesman for the state teachers’ union. “It’s a question of honesty and integrity.”

Department officials, however, have strongly disputed those findings, saying the state’s test standards were high, but realistic. They also have noted that hundreds of teachers participated in setting the exam’s categories.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association also fought the addition of test scores to transcripts. At least 80 of the 500 school boards represented by the organization passed resolutions opposing the decision, said Tim M. Allwein, a spokesman for the association.

As of last week, no model had been developed for how the test scores would appear on the transcripts, Ms. Gaydos said.

In a separate decision, the state board agreed to reward students who scored well on the PSSA tests by giving them special certificates at graduation. Originally, high school graduates who scored well on the math, reading, and writing sections of the test would have received a special seal on their diplomas, under regulations approved by the board in 1999.

The Council of Basic Education on May 15 recommended doing away with the seals, in favor of certificates.

Both proposals—for adding scores to transcripts and handing out certificates with diplomas—still must win the approval of education committees of the House and Senate in the legislature.

A version of this article appeared in the May 29, 2002 edition of Education Week as Pa. May Add State Test Scores to Transcripts


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment in 2021
In this Spotlight, review newest assessment scores, see how districts will catch up with their supports for disabled students, plus more.
Assessment 'Nation's Report Card' Has a New Reading Framework, After a Drawn-Out Battle Over Equity
The new framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress will guide development of the 2026 reading test.
10 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty
Assessment Opinion Q&A Collections: Assessment
Scores of educators share commentaries on the use of assessments in schools.
5 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Assessment Standardized Tests Could Be in Jeopardy in Wake of Biden Decisions, Experts Say
Has the Biden administration shored up statewide tests this year only to risk undermining long-term public backing for them?
6 min read
Illustration of students in virus environment facing wave of test sheets.
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (Images: iStock/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty)