Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are PSSA's Pie in Your Face, or Pie in the Sky?

Teacher Allen Ferster smiles through the whipped cream

Blogger's Note: This was put together with the help of another submission from our prolific friend, John Armato: 

Rupert Elementary students’ recent efforts during the state standardized testing program (PSSA) earned them a “pie reward.”

They were very enthusiastic about the whipped cream pies that they were permitted to throw at their Principal, Matt Moyer and volunteer teachers.

The pie throwing was a reward to the students who had perfect attendance during all six days of the math and reading PSSA testing program and demonstrated outstanding effort.

A pie in the face is in Jamie Fazekas' future
Teachers volunteering to be “pied” were Max Donnelly, Debbie Wilson, Allen Ferster, Sherry Shank, Jamie Fazekas, and Britney Oxenford.

Another way students were motivated this year was through assemblies held before hand, such as the one at Lincoln and Rupert with football stand-out Rian Wallace and Pottstown alum David Charles from High Street Music Co. 

"The kids seem to really enjoy the message.  I've had many requests from faculty and students for a song I wrote and performed at both pep rallies titled  'Get Into The Zone," Charles wrote in an e-mail.  

Franklin Elementary teacher Lindi Vollmuth played that song and accompanying video for the school board at Thursday's school board meeting.
Sherry Shank says 'no more pie please. I've had enough.'

Click here to hear the song.

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Sparagana told the school board recently that the PSSA testing time is a high-pressure period for both the students and teachers in Pottstown.

In March, I reported about how security measures surrounding the test have become draconian, in the opinion of many Pottstown educators.

“We all know these tests are already over-emphasized, but now the process of giving the test is becoming more important than the test itself,” Vollmuth told the board during the March 15 board meeting.

As far as Superintendent Reed Lindley was concerned, Vollmuth was preaching to the choir.

“It’s unbelievable all the things we’re dealing with to make sure there is no cheating,” Lindley said. “At this point, we are up in the ozone layer in terms of compliance,” he said.

Teachers Terry Shank and Max Donnelly took their lumps
along with Principal Matt Moyer, right.
At Thursday's meeting, Sparagana told the board "the difficulty for teachers also comes after the testing period is done when there is a "let down and the teachers have to try and pick the students up and keep them enthusiastic about getting through to the end of the year."

Meanwhile, according to this article in the Washington Post, "in Texas, New York, Illinois and other states, protests by parents and educators are getting louder against school reform that insists on using standardized test scores as the basis for evaluating students, educators and schools."

As Valerie Straus reports, part of the irony of this growing movement is that it is strongest in Texas where  some 345 school districts — out of about 1,030 districts — "have adopted a resolution that says that standardized tests are 'strangling' public schools and asking the state board of education to rethink the testing regime. Those school districts represent more than 1.6 million students."

The irony part comes in that that "it was in Texas where the era of high-stakes testing was born. George W. Bush started a test-based accountability program when he was governor and then blew it out into a national education initiative known as No Child Left Behind during his presidency."

And in New York, the latest flap about standardized tests has to do with whether or not a pineapple wears sleeves. Confused? So were the children. Read about it here.

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