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To test or not to test (for now)? York County school districts mull options after state announcement

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Citing the challenge of teaching students during the ongoing pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is allowing school districts to delay state assessment tests until the fall 

York Suburban likely will not postpone its exams, according to the superintendent, and officials in four other York County districts — York City, Spring Grove Area, Dallastown Area and Southern York County — said they are still discussing their options. 

Dover Area School District and South Eastern School District officials confirmed to The York Dispatch on Monday that they will not delay any state assessments. 

"Honestly, we don’t see the benefit of waiting two to three months to administer the spring assessments," South Eastern Superintendent Nathan Van Deusen said in an email. 

Dover spokesperson Bradly Perkins said his district is not delaying the tests because Dover students have been in the classroom five days a week since the beginning of the school year.

Depending on their districts, other York County students have spent at least part of the school learning remotely or on a hybrid schedule that includes some remote and some in-person classes.

Shrewsbury Elementary School third-grader Christian Dozier, left, and her sister, Tanya, a fifth grader, work on Flexible Instruction assignments at their home in Shrewsbury Township Friday, March 13, 2020. Students in the district were provided with daily Flexible Instruction packets originally intended to minimize the impact of snow days. Southern York County School District canceled classes Friday after a community member was tested for the virus. Bill Kalina photo

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York Suburban Superintendent Timothy Williams said a delay is unlikely because he wants to see how well district students perform this year.

Last year, Pennsylvania canceled its remaining standardized tests for the school year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools throughout the state to close. State officials waived the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments requirement for students that year, and students scheduled to take the Keystone exams were marked as proficient. 

There are several standardized tests Pennsylvania students were scheduled to complete this year, including the Keystone exams and the PSSAs. 

While the PSSAs are taken once a year, typically during the spring, Keystone exams are taken twice, near the end of the winter and spring semesters. Many districts have already completed their winter Keystone exams, but some previously planned to delay the tests because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rob Freil — South Western School District's director of curriculum, instruction and assessment — told The York Dispatch earlier this year that his district was delaying the Keystone exams until this month. Whether that is still the district's plan is unknown. Freil could not be reached for comment Monday. 

For the Southern York County School District, Assistant Superintendent Robert Bryson said the biggest factor under consideration is the amount of instructional time state assessments will cut out of students' schedules. He said the priority for the district is maximizing student instruction this year. 

Williams said he actually supports administering state assessments this semester, but he would like fewer days of testing. 

"The conventional wisdom is that our students lost a year of instruction," he said in an email. "I don't believe the conventional wisdom is always right."

The state Education Department announced the exam postponement option last weekend.