This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
After protesting that test preparation sessions were causing some students to be pulled out of their major subject classes and even advanced placement courses, students from Youth United for Change (YUC) at Strawberry Mansion High School have won sweeping districtwide commitments to change procedures for standardized test preparation and administration.
The changes, announced by School District Chief Academic Officer Gregory Thornton at a joint press conference with YUC January 17, were the culmination of a two-year campaign by the YUC chapter at Mansion.
After conducting a student survey and research on testing, the students at Strawberry Mansion had taken to District officials their concerns and recommendations about what they saw as the negative impact of test preparation and test pressure on student learning and school climate in their school.
A set of YUC-proposed changes to testing practices that were endorsed by the School District includes the following:
- Students will not be pulled out of core subjects; specific test preparation activities will take place in elective classes or non-instructional time.
- All students will have equal access to extra test preparation opportunities.
- The District will improve the quality of its test preparation activities and work to integrate it into instructional content.
- Students’ test score results will be kept strictly confidential.
- A testing hotline will be established during testing periods.
- Testing procedures will be posted in all high schools.
- Stepped up monitoring will be implemented for compliance with testing procedures.
For YUC students, the January 17 press conference was a celebration that brought plaudits from District officials and national press coverage. But Youth United for Change members at Strawberry Mansion expressed frustration in its aftermath that the organization’s access to students and staff at the school has been restricted.
Youth United for Change is an independent, local youth organizing group with chapters at five Philadelphia high schools.
For more information, call YUC at 215-423-9588.