By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — School officials across Pennsylvania are preparing for substantial drops in standardized test scores.

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In the coming weeks, the state education department is expected to release the results of last year’s PSSA exams, given to 3rd through 8th graders. And the scores are expected to take a sharp drop, by as much as 20, 30 or 40 percent. That’s because the reading and math tests, for the first time, were aligned to new more rigorous PA Core standards, Pennsylvania’s version of the Common Core.

“We are looking at the results of Philadelphia and they’re very consistent with the results across the state, where everyone saw declines,” says Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite. “But they saw declines simply because it’s new and different material.”

The new tests added more writing and problem-solving skills. Plus, the state education department recently moved the bar, redefining the so-called “cut scores” that delineate what is “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic” or “below basic.”

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Hite warns that you have to view these results in context.

“It doesn’t actually support an apples-to-apples comparison with previous years, simply because it’s a different test measuring different things,” Hite says. “And it is our new baseline.”

The state’s School Performance Profile — the system by which it evaluates schools — grades schools largely on test scores. Not to mention, educators are concerned about what the drops may mean for school morale.

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The results are expected to be released in late August or early September.