A recent letter critical of Pennsylvania's academic standards and state Rep. Seth Grove's support of those standards contained some oft-repeated myths about efforts to improve our public schools. Here are the facts:
Pennsylvania Core Standards do not in any way undermine the commonwealth's long-standing tradition of local control in our public schools. There is no federally or state-mandated curriculum and local school officials and educators will continue to make key decisions about the day-to-day operations in schools and classrooms, including lesson plans, activities, textbooks and other resources to be used.
The standards do not involve or require the collection of any new student data, nor is any new information shared between local schools and the state or federal governments. There are no additional reports required by the federal government and reports that are sent to the federal government by Pennsylvania or its schools do not include any individual student data.
Our schools have successfully used student performance data for years to help develop policies and practices to improve student achievement and help teachers make informed decisions about the best way to instruct students, monitor their academic progress and identify those who may be struggling and at risk of falling behind. There is nothing sinister about using data to inform best practices and ensure taxpayer funds are being put to good use in our schools.
Pennsylvania Core standards are important because for too long, the commonwealth's school districts have been giving diplomas to students who failed to show proficiency on state tests in reading and math. Statewide, more than one-third of students who graduated in 2012 (the latest data available) — about 44,100 kids — did not score proficient or advanced on their PSSAs.
Here's the bottom line: If we want to truly help the commonwealth's high school graduates be prepared for the next chapter of their lives, we need to recalibrate our expectations and expect more from students so they can achieve more in the classroom. The higher-order problem-solving and critical-thinking skills reflected in the Pennsylvania Core Standards are what our students need to succeed.
Rep. Grove and other lawmakers who support the Pennsylvania Core Standards want what every student, parent and taxpayer in York County should expect: a quality system of public education that ensures students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education, the workforce or military service.
— William Bartle is the education policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children in Harrisburg.