HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In "Ensuring
Success for All High School Graduates," Pennsylvania Partnerships for
Children (PPC) today recommended that the Commonwealth take steps to assure
that all Pennsylvania high school graduates have the academic foundation
they need by improving our statewide accountability system. PPC urges the
Commonwealth to develop and require that every student take a series of
statewide end-of-course exit exams called Graduation Competency Assessments
(GCAs) that are aligned to state standards in English/language arts, math,
science and social studies to graduate from high school. The proposal
should be phased in by 2014.
One of the requirements to graduate from public high school in
Pennsylvania is that students must demonstrate achievement of the state
standards either by scoring proficient or advanced on the 11th grade PSSA
or a local school district assessment that is aligned to the state
standards. In 2006, 45 percent of public high school seniors (nearly 57,000
students) who graduated in Pennsylvania did not score proficient on the
11th grade reading and math PSSAs or 12th grade re-take, or did not take
the PSSAs -- yet received high school diplomas based on local assessments.
The report shows that 461 of Pennsylvania's 498 school districts that
awarded high school diplomas in 2006 graduated at least 20 percent more
students than scored proficient on the 11th grade PSSAs and 12th grade
The report concludes that the state has a responsibility to ensure that
all high school students receive a diploma that confirms their achievement
to the state standards and creates the same opportunity for all students
everywhere to be successful.
"Pennsylvania is a state with a long history of local control over
education matters, but we have an obligation to our youth to take steps to
assure that all students have met the Pennsylvania academic standards which
prepare them for the next phase of their lives," said Joan L. Benso,
President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC). "The
disparity between graduation rates and performance on PSSAs is cause for
To ensure students are proficient in the state standards and have the
academic requirements they need to be successful in postsecondary education
and careers, PPC recommends Pennsylvania eliminate the local assessment
option and develop a series of statewide end-of-course high school exit
exams, called the Graduation Competency Assessments (GCA). As a
prerequisite for graduation, students should be required to take a series
of GCAs and demonstrate proficiency on the state standards by either
passing the GCAs or by scoring proficient or advanced on the 11th grade
PSSAs or the 12th grade PSSA re-take.
Benefits of the GCA include placing assessments closer to the point of
instruction and creating a sense of relevance for testing and progress of
all students; assessing smaller bodies of knowledge at one time; allowing
students to begin taking the GCAs earlier and having multiple opportunities
to retake and pass; and diagnosing specific areas of weakness allowing for
PPC believes that school districts should be able to decide other
graduation requirements such as course requirements, determination of
whether students pass courses and other elements such as graduation
projects, but that all our youth pass a common set of exams prior to
graduation. Replacing the local assessment with GCAs would build common
expectations for all youth across the state and create uniform
accountability for students in all school districts.
"We need to give kids a chance to achieve to the same high expectations
and we believe school districts will rise to the challenge by increasing
rigor and improving instruction as part of the reforms necessary to prepare
our youth to succeed after high school," Benso said.
"For example, when a student completes Algebra I in one Pennsylvania
school district, we have no way to be sure that his or her mastery of those
critical math concepts are comparable to a student who has taken Algebra I
in another school district," Benso added. "The purpose of the state
accountability system should be to assure that all children, regardless of
where they attend school, master the core standards."
PPC's report notes that the Commonwealth should take a more
comprehensive approach to providing support to students, teachers and
school districts by developing a model core curriculum; implementing a
sixth and ninth grade intervention system; creating remediation for
students who don't pass the GCA; and other reform measures.
Data used in the report shows that 25 states have or are phasing in
mandatory high school exit exams which require students pass an exam or
series of exams to receive a high school diploma. By 2012, more than 70
percent of all American public high school students will be required to
take and pass one or more exit exams to receive a high school diploma.
More information and a PDF of the report may be obtained by visiting
http://www.papartnerships.org or by calling Kathy Geller Myers, PPC
Communications Director, at 717-236-5680, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children