During the Northampton School Board meeting on Monday, September 12, NASD Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michelle Schoeneberger gave a presentation on the State Academic Scores Report for the 2021-2022 school year and explained how the pandemic has impacted test scores.
Kovalchik identified that factors such as student attendance, student motivation, student behavior, physical and mental health, student peer relationships, staff absenteeism, home situations, and family engagement influenced academic performance and have been enhanced by the pandemic.
On a national level, the US has seen the largest score drop in reading since 1990, as well as a significant score drop in mathematics.
The presentation included state academic data for grades 3 through 12 in both the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and the Keystone Exams. The PSSA tests assess proficiency on academic standards on English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and Science in grades 3 through 8. The Keystone Exams occur at the end of a course and are designed to assess proficiency in Algebra I, Literature, and Biology, and vary by what year students take each course.
Schoeneberger showed the differences between state averages and NASD averages for every year since the 2018-2019 school year, as that was the last full school year prior to the pandemic for the PSSAs where students had an uninterrupted education. Although proficiency levels are still below pre-pandemic levels, students who took the PSSA in the 2020-2021 school year showed proficiency level improvements on the 2021-2022 PSSA. However, both ELA and Mathematics scores for the class of 2028 further declined on the 2021-2022 school year PSSA.
Overall proficiency levels for the 2021-2022 Keystone Exams are also lower than pre-pandemic years. Schoeneberger shared that first time test takers are above state averages for Literature and Biology but were below state average in Algebra I during the 2021-2022 school year.
The class of 2023 will be the first graduating class that must meet the Keystone requirements in order to graduate. Pennsylvania has also outlined five different pathways that students can take to meet state graduation requirements if they do not take or pass the Keystone Exams.
Superintendent Kovalchik pointed out that NASD uses other assessment data in addition to the PSSAs and Keystone Exams to assess student’s proficiency and measure achievement and growth throughout the year in grades K through 12. Kovalchik also noted that teachers and staff work with students on their strengths and what they need to improve upon.
Assistant Superintendent Schoeneberger also explained that students receive remediation before they retest if they do not pass the Keystone Exams.
Board member Dr. Michael Baird expressed concern regarding the number of days that are being reserved for testing. Baird asked, “Out of 180 days, how many days are used for testing?”
Kovalchik said that it is more than 15 days per year.
Kovalchik stated that eighth graders are tested to the max and have many days of testing at the end of the school year, which has led to many students opting out of PSSA tests in order to focus on their Keystone Exams because they are tied to a graduation requirement.
Kovalchik shared that he does not believe in cutting out related arts classes because these are some of the classes that students look forward to the most. “There’s more to education than taking a test, but it’s a balancing act because we need those data points to see where we are in moving forward,” Kovalchik said.
More information about the State Academic Scores Report for the 2021-2022 school year can be found on the NASD website and information on the PSSA and Keystone Exams can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Education Standards Aligned System.