Standardized testing poses one final hurdle for students, districts in Chester County

Summer break is just a few months away, but after yet another incredibly difficult school year filled with challenges teachers and students have another battle – standardized testing.

Despite Pennsylvania giving school districts the choice to wait until the fall, FOX 29's Kelly Rule found that in Chester County, most schools are choosing to test before summer.

Walking through the borough of West Chester, it's the post-spring break home stretch to summer.

Amy D'Antonio and her daughter Amelia are ready to say goodbye to a full school year of dealing with COVID-19.

"Give them a break. Kids don't even know if they're having proms this year," Amy D'Antonio said.

Before they can rest, they'll have to get through standardized testing.

Unlike 2020, there is no blanket federal waiver available for the school assessments. So, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is giving districts a choice to hold them in the spring or in the fall.

FOX 29 reached out to all 13 Chester County public school districts and 12 of them said they plan to administer tests, including PSSAs before the summer break. Avon Grove School District has not made a decision.

"I think it's kind of ridiculous. These kids are behind," D'Antonio added.

"I don't think anybody would be shocked to see that scores are going to be lower. I don't think any educator really needs the feedback now, from a test, to show them that there are going to be some deficits," said Octorara High School social studies teacher Adam Udell.

Udell and the Pennsylvania State Education Association feel the U.S. Department of Education should have waived the test again this year.

Since that's not the case, some feel districts should hold off on testing until the fall as many just resumed full-time in-person learning.

"When I say I am complaining, I am complaining on behalf of my students," Udell added. "I think we're doing a lot of damage control now, frankly emotionally as well as other things."

"Our goal is to focus on learning recovery. We should be focused on that, rather than worrying about standardized testing," said Chris Lilienthal, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Many districts say they had to weigh the pros and cons of each option.

Phoenixville Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley. says they too wish they could scrap the testing altogether.

"We follow the requirements, but we have to look out for the mental health of everyone as best as we can. If we're going to do that, let's get them over with and move on to next year and start off with a great start," Dr. Fegley said.

Students who have chosen to stay virtual full-time and never return to in-person learning this year pose another challenge for some districts.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education says exams must be under the supervision of a teacher or proctor and either in school or in another secure setting.

Parents can have their child opt-out for a list of reasons.

Dr. Fegley says in years past, if 5% of the district opts out, the district would be penalized.

"I will tell you as a superintendent, I don't care," Dr. Fegley began. "I'm not going to force kids to come in who are at home, who want to stay virtual. That's not the right thing to do. They made a choice. They have the right to make their choice so it will be what it is."



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