Keystone exams will help kids at the optimal time

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Regarding “Slay the Testing Beast” (March 26 Perspectives): I commend Canonsburg Middle School principal Greg Taranto for the great job he’s doing with his students and the outstanding teaching of his faculty. He’s right: We need to think of the “whole child.” Having once spent a brief time teaching Shakespeare to eighth-graders, I appreciate the challenges.

But I disagree with some of Mr. Taranto’s expressed opinions on exams. The point of exams is not to assess the child, but the teaching — to improve and correct as we go, not wait to the end of high school.

Keystone Exams — which will be replacing some of the PSSAs, not adding to the testing — are designed as “end of course” exams. In future years when the program is fully rolled out, when a student finishes algebra she will take the algebra Keystone. Why? So we can help her to master the concepts she missed or struggled with before she is confronted with algebra II. This is about helping the child at the optimal time. Not all students learn at the same rate or in the same manner. Let’s identify those who need a little more time and help.

In Pennsylvania, we spend $27 billion per year in combined local, state and federal funds on K-12 education. And still, far too many students go on to postsecondary education or entry-level jobs without being proficient in the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Is there anything more fiscally conservative than getting value for the $27 billion before we make families pay for remedial courses after high school? Is there anything more fundamentally fair for our children than to intervene at the earliest possible moment?

Canonsburg Middle School will do well. It has the things that matter most in education: attentive administrators, great teachers and caring parents.

President and CEO
Pennsylvania Business Council

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