High-stakes testing still under debate as kids head back to class

CBS 21

Over the next two weeks, it’s back to the books for hundreds of thousands of kids across central Pennsylvania. With that, back to school means back to the debate over high-stakes testing.

“It's hard not to make it a big deal because it is a big deal,” said Dr. Emilie Lonardi, superintendent of the West York School District.

It’s probably one of the hottest debates in school today, standardized testing. From PSSA’s to Keystone Exams, students face weeks of high-stakes testing each year with the results weighing heavily on everyone.

“We try as best we can to cover the standards and prepare them for the test from day one until the test happens,” Lonardi said.

That is a delicate balance, according to Lonardi. She believes good instruction should drive what the kids learn in the classroom, but the tests are always looming.

“As long as we can keep giving kids what they need and meeting those objectives that the state wants, I think we're doing a nice job,” said Eastern York High School Principal Tim Mitzel.

The phrase Common Core or in Pennsylvania’s case, PA Core Standards, invokes many reactions, both positive and negative. Proponents say it raises expectations and promotes critical thinking. Opponents say it’s a one-size-fits all approach that places too much emphasis on the test.

“We spend a lot of our time testing. So, I think the tests would be more accurate if they were shorter,” Lonardi said.

Whichever side of the argument, kids still have to be ready to take the tests. Educators say preparing at home will help. Promote critical thinking through reading, writing and conversation. During the test, sleep and nutrition is key. Most important, positive reinforcement is always a good life lesson.

“Keep working for it. It's going to come. It's going to be there. You are going to do well,” Mitzel said.

Generally, standardized testing doesn’t take place until April or May. The Keystone Exams are one of the requirements for high schoolers for graduation.