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With Balloons and Cheers, Philadelphia School Gets Kids Hyped For PSSA Testing

(Eagles' cheerleaders perform at a pre-testing rally at Smedley School, in Frankford.  Credit: Paul Kurtz)

(Eagles’ cheerleaders perform at a pre-testing rally at Smedley School, in Frankford. Credit: Paul Kurtz)

Paul Kurtz Paul Kurtz
Paul Kurtz is a Philadelphia native who has been working as a reporter...
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By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Springtime is PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) testing time for students across Pennsylvania, and administrators will go to great lengths to see an improvement in their respective results.

Today, a school in Frankford held a pre-test rally for students in grades three through six.

This was not your normal pep rally, not by a long shot.  Students at Smedley Elementary School, run by  Mastery Charter Schools, were whipped into a pre-game lather by the Sixers’ Flight Squad and representatives from Wells Fargo, their Adopt-a-School benefactor.

It’s all part of today’s high-stakes world of student assessment testing.

“We wanted to have the kids have a chance to smile before tomorrow,” said Smedley School principal Brian McLaughlin.  “There’s a lot of pressure and stress that goes into state testing, but this was an opportunity to just be silly and celebrate all their hard work.”

Since the tests in large part mean more for the schools than the students, a growing number of parents are rebelling and opting out of the PSSA testing for their kids. McLaughlin believes that, down the road, there will be significant changes in the way students are assessed.

The number of Pennsylvania charter schools meeting testing benchmarks dipped after the federal government ordered that test scores be recalculated.

Statewide, 50.3 percent of traditional public schools and 60.9 percent of districts met 2011-12 PSSA testing targets.

Initially, 77 of the state’s 144 charter and cyber schools did, but that figure fell to 43, or 28 percent of schools, with the new calculations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education began applying a new grading system to charter and cyber school tests in 2011-12 without federal approval.

In November, the US Department of Education rejected the state’s bid to measure charters and school districts’ compliance with the “No Child Left Behind” Act in the same way and ordered that the scores be redone.

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