Sen. Jane Orie should be commended for her efforts to halt the development of Graduation Competency Assessments for Pennsylvania's high school students ("GOP Senator, Education Official Clash Over Tests," Feb. 20).
As a current high school principal and past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals, I see accountability measures and the evaluation of students and schools as positive movements. However, I am distressed by efforts to impose more testing on our children.
In April 2010, Pennsylvania's high school juniors will face at least 12 days of Pennsylvania State System of Assessment writing, math, reading and science tests. My understanding of GCAs, based on documents from the Pennsylvania Department of Education Web site, is that GCAs will be in addition to PSSAs and that students will be able to demonstrate graduation proficiency on PSSAs, or on six of 10 GCAs or on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. If the PSSAs are truly valid assessments of student learning and school performance, additional tests are unnecessary, placing a burden on students and schools.
More assessments will not improve schools or better prepare students for the workplace. What we need is a focused investment in developing programs for vocational students and in building capacity for learning among all students. I urge all parents to pay attention to GCAs, realizing that we cannot afford to lose more instructional time for students, nor can schools afford the time and real costs associated with implementing GCAs.
MICHAEL E. ALLISON