This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As the Notebook and Newsworks reported Thursday, preliminary results of the 2012 PSSA tests show declines after 10 years of increases, with the biggest drops occurring in schools under investigation for possible cheating and in the lower grades.
Most of the 53 schools under investigation showed sharp drops.
Across the District there were 72 schools where scores in both subjects were within 6 percentage points of last year’s results, a more typical and predictable rate of change from year to year. Just two of the 53 schools under investigation fell into this category.
However, most other schools, not just those being investigated, did show declines in one or both subjects. At about 20 schools, scores went up.
Last school year saw the imposition of new security measures and testing protocols — in Philadelphia, students could not be proctored by their own teacher. But those weren’t the only changes that might have affected test results.
Due largely to precipitous reductions in state aid and the end of the federal stimulus, cuts to school budgets were relentless. Changes were made in the middle of the school year. Gifted programs, special ed, programs for English language learners, tutoring, summer programs, common planning time for teachers, instrumental music, were all cut — on top of reductions to school operating budgets. Progress in reducing class size, especially in the lower grades, was halted.
How would you explain the drop in test scores? Do we now have an accurate picture of how well Philadelphia students can perform?