Some superintendents from Clearfield, Curwensville and Moshannon Valley school districts are not as certain as the state Auditor General that replacing Keystone Exams with the SAT or PSAT will save state taxpayers money.
In a new special report released Wednesday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Pennsylvania taxpayers are still spending tens of millions of dollars every year on the Keystone Exams, which have not been federally required for four years.
“Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” DePasquale said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.”
Federal law requires that all states administer a secondary-level standardized test; however, since 2015, when the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced, the state-specific Keystone Exams were no longer required.
But rather than phase out the state-specific tests — which at least 12 other states have done — the Pennsylvania Department of Education is still paying the tests’ creator, Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp., tens of millions of dollars each year to administer and score the Keystone Exams.
Between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the Keystone Exams.
Pennsylvania students could have instead been taking a nationally recognized test such as the SAT or ACT – which is shown to improve the rate at which students attend post-secondary education – at a lower cost than what has been paid for the Keystone Exams.
Many school district officials do not realize that the Keystone Exams, administered to all public high-school students in Pennsylvania, are not and will never be a graduation requirement, DePasquale said. Eliminating the Keystone Exams would allow teachers to spend more time instructing students on key concepts.
Moshannon Valley School District Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger said he isn’t certain that the state will save as much money as the auditor general expects.
“While I am not necessarily opposed to changing the Keystone assessment, I certainly do not think that any one assessment can accurately reflect a student’s skill mastery,” Zesiger said in a statement. “That said, my main concern with moving from the Keystone Exam, to any other measure, is that districts have made enormous investments in curricular material, teacher professional development, and even staffing practices, based on the current state-mandated assessments. If a new mandated assessment, like the SAT, were to be utilized as a measure of student, and ultimately school, performance, districts would need time and financial resources to replace materials, secure professional development, and other facets so that instruction aligns to the tested skills.
“Also concerning would be, do the SAT or PSAT, measure what Pennsylvania has established as standards, or would a completely new framework for education be required?” Zesiger continued. “Because if so, then I am not sure that the financial savings outlined in the Auditor General’s report would truly be recognized.”
Curwensville Area School District Superintendent Ron Matchock is also unsure of the Auditor General’s proposal.
“The keystone exams serve as “end of course” assessments for only three areas: Algebra, Biology and Literature. With high schools being measured for success by performance in just these three courses, it can take away from the larger educational picture of ‘what is best for the students career choice’ to make sure they are prepared for these three tests,” Matchock said in a statement.
He added that he feels most public schools are going to welcome less reliance on standardized testing in any way, because it allows schools to focus more on what is best for the students career choices and success after high school.
“We also have to keep in mind that just like the keystone exams only hits three areas, the SAT does not hit every area either and if it becomes the new measuring stick for high school performance that could have the same adverse effect of schools steering curriculum to the best chance of success for the SAT, similar to what we have now with the Keystone,” Matchock continued. “Schools have to strive to do what is best for the student, and we all have to understand any assessment put in place will have its flaws.
“From a financial standpoint, if funding can be saved from this switch and that money can be diverted into other areas of higher need for K-12 public education, then that is a win for all of us,” Matchock said.
Clearfield Area School District Superintendent Terry Struble said administration will continue to focus on quality education.
“As a top priority, The Clearfield Area School District is going to continue to provide opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom setting. We value the urgency for students to become college and career-ready,” Struble said in a statement. “Our dedication to academic programming, extracurricular arts and sports programming, and partnership with the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center will continue to be areas of focus for providing students with opportunities regardless of what direction state testing might move to.”
Struble did say that the district was open to the state seeking other ways to bring more funds to educaiton.
“We do not have an official stance on what specific tests Pennsylvania should require, but we do value the Attorney General’s recommendation to find alternative funding streams that would help alleviate the burden placed upon Pennsylvania tax payers to implement high stakes testing of students,” Struble said.
Superintendents from Glendale, Philipsburg-Osceola and West Branch school districts did not immediately return requests from The Progress for comment.
CURWENSVILLE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun the process of updating the Master Plan and preparing an Environmental Assessment for the Curwensville Lake project in Clearfield County.
All Army Corps dam projects have a master plan that serves as the project’s guiding document for responsible decision making for a lifespan of 15 to 25 years. Master plans include land use classifications that govern the way land is managed and used at the project to provide good stewardship and outdoor recreation..
The Curwensville Lake Master Plan revision will consider all Army Corps managed and maintained portions of land at Curwensville Lake. The revision will not consider specific future development opportunities for leased areas, including Clearfield County recreation area, and lake and land areas managed by the Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission. The Master Plan revision will also not change the technical operations of the lake as related to its primary mission of flood risk management.
Curwensville Lake’s last master plan revision was in 1968. The revision is part of an Army Corps-wide effort to bring master plans up to date across the country.
An Environmental Assessment is being prepared in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act guidelines. The Army Corps is requesting that federal and state agencies provide expert information that may be pertinent to this assessment.
The public can request a public scoping meeting to discuss the scope and intent of this project with the Army Corps. Questions, feedback and requests for a scoping meeting can be sent to Andy Hofmann at Andrew.d.Hofmann@usace.army.mil or (410) 962-4370 by July 13. Additionally, questions can be mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Operations Division, Subject: Curwensville Lake Project, 2 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21201.
All updates regarding the Master Plan revision, future public meeting information, the current master plan and ways to submit comments or questions may be found on the following site: https://www.nab.usace.army.mil/CL-Master-Plan-Revision/
The draft Master Plan and EA are anticipated to be publicly released in spring 2020.
A public review meeting will be held during this time for the public to submit ideas, comments, and feedback on the draft Master Plan and draft EA. Details will be announced in advance of the meeting indicating the location and time.
About the Curwensville Lake project
The Curwensville Lake project has prevented an estimated $229 million in flood damages for the local community. Curwensville Lake is located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Clearfield County.
Curwensville dam is an earthfill structure with a spillway and a gate-controlled outlet. The project controls a drainage area of 365 square miles or 98 percent of the West Branch at Curwensville and 75 percent at Clearfield. The project reduces the flood heights along the West branch below the dam, and provides a lake for recreation. The project is a unit of the comprehensive flood control plan for the protection of communities in the West Branch Susquehanna River Basin and was authorized by the Flood Control Act approved Sept. 3, 1954.
Clearfield County operates and maintains the recreation area which includes a beach, boat launch, picnic areas, athletic fields, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, and a 43-site campground. Recreation is offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Brittany Marie Sipe, 27, of Clearfield pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children and other charges, and was sentenced to serve 90 days to one year in the Clearfield County Jail by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman at Sentencing Court on Tuesday.
According to Lawrence Township police, on Aug. 27 of last year, police responded to Lawrence Park Village after residents reported a 7-year-old girl was asking for food from neighbors. They also said the girl has been wearing the same clothes for several days and the mother is always sleeping and never taking care of the girl.
Police and Children, Youth and Family Services arrived and found the girl to be malnourished and living in a filthy apartment.
Sipe pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children, a 1st degree misdemeanor and was sentenced to serve 90 days to one year in CCJ, plus 18 months of consecutive probation and was fined $100 plus costs, ordered to undergo the county’s Nurturing Program and any other counseling recommended by probation.
She also pleaded guilty to retail theft, a 1st degree misdemeanor and was sentenced to serve 90 days to one year in CCJ plus 18 months probation concurrent to the previous sentence. She was also ordered to pay $356.62 to CVS in Clearfield, undergo the county’s retail theft program, not to enter CVS property, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, both of which are ungraded misdemeanors and was ordered to pay a $25 fine plus costs for each charge.
She was represented by Steven Johnston of the Public Defender’s Office; Assistant District Attorney Jendi Schwab represented the commonwealth.