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An introduction to Pennsylvania System of State Assessments

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2016 13:21 PM

Students and teachers in the Pennsylvania are preparing for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments. This standardized testing helps parents, students and schools assess student learning before they move to the next grade and may provide insight into college readiness. Learn more about the testing below: 

What is the PSSA? 
The PSSA is a series of tests on knowledge in language arts, math and reading. Students in Grades 3 through 8 and 11 must take the tests to show what they have learned. The specific subjects are as follows:

  • 3rd grade: Reading and mathematics.
  • 4th grade: Reading, mathematics and science.
  • 5th grade: Reading, mathematics and writing.
  • 6th grade: Reading and mathematics.
  • 7th grade: Reading and mathematics.
  • 8th grade: Reading, mathematics, writing and science.
  • 11th grade: Reading, mathematics, writing and science.

Testing scores range from one to four. Students who earn a one are below the basic proficiency level on that particular test. A two indicates the student has a basic understanding of the material, and a score of three means the child learns at the level necessary to pass the grade. Students who earn a four have an advanced level of knowledge on the subject matter. The state would like all students to earn a three or higher to show they are competent and can effectively move to the next grade.

Why is the PSSA important? 
PSSA scoring helps school administrators compare their students to those across Pennsylvania. Teachers gain insight into what students learn by viewing the assessment scores. They can then change their methods or curricula to dig deeper into topics the students aren't grasping. The PSSA is also a way for secondary schools to better gauge if students have the base information they need to progress to college. Some postsecondary organizations even accept standardized testing like the PSSA as an entrance exam in lieu of the SAT or ACT.

How can you help your kids prepare?
As a parent, you want to offer your children the best chance to succeed on the PSSA. Thankfully, not much preparation is necessary outside of regular school hours. Pennsylvania teachers base their entire curricula off the standardized testing, so everything from homework assignments to projects and quizzes is helpful. These all provide the information students need to take the exams. For an extra boost, encourage your kids to try practice tests. Your children will become familiar with the types of questions on the tests, which may help alleviate nervousness and even improve their grades on the real exam.