City Council Supports Opting Out

City Council Members Express Support for Families ‘Opting Out’ of Standardized Testing in Feltonville

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District), Councilman Mark Squilla (1st District), and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) expressed support today for families who have chosen to ‘opt out’ of standardized testing. “Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville,” said Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez. “We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children,” said Councilman Squilla.

Parents of 17% of students enrolled in the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences have decided their children will not participate in standardized testing this year, according to reporting today by Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir.

Use of standardized testing has dramatically increased in recent years, taking up an increasing amount of school learning time, and interfering with educators’ efforts to focus on students’ development in areas of critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Tests such as the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assesment) are now used for ‘high-stakes’ decisions about the future of individual students, their teachers, and their entire schools. Pennsylvania is planning to implement additional new Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement as of 2017.

Feltonville Arts and Sciences, a public middle school, has a significant rate of students who are “English Language Learners” (ELL), who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) due to disability or special needs, and who are impacted by trauma. Children report stress, anxiety, and even physical illness caused by this high-stakes testing. “Over-reliance on standardized testing disproportionately harms our most vulnerable students,” said Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez.

Philadelphia City Council adopted Resolution #140997 on December 11, 2014, calling on the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission to analyze the financial and human impact of standardized testing, to identify strategies to minimize its use, and to request a waiver of the Keystone Exams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to adopt assessments that better serve local needs and priorities.

With the recent appointment of a new Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, Council members Quiñones-Sánchez, Squilla, and Blackwell call upon the School Reform Comission to formally request a waiver for this school year, and to begin a review of the long-term strategy to reform our use of standardized testing.