By Jon Delano

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – Fourth grade teacher Brittainy Hambelton is already preparing her classroom for school starting in South Fayette next week, well aware that part of the school year is dedicated to taking state-required PSSA tests.

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“We block off a week for math, a week for language arts, and a week for science,” Hambelton told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.

That’s scheduled for almost the entire month of April.

For the nine and ten year olds in that fourth grade classroom, three weeks of PSSA testing is a significant disruption in education.

The real question is — all that standardized testing, is it worth it?

“I think there is value in having standardized testing, but the length right now is very cumbersome to districts, especially to small districts such as ours,” says Caroline Johns, superintendent of the Northgate School District.

It’s a complaint widely held by educators.

“Even though there is a place for assessments, I think it takes away from the learning process during that time,” adds Betsy D’Emidio, assistant superintendent of the East Allegheny School District.

Gov. Tom Wolf Reiterates Determination In PSSA Changes —

 

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The state is listening.

“Beginning next spring, Pennsylvania will reduce the testing time for the PSSA’s by 20 percent,” Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday morning.

“Not only will our students spend less time testing, but teachers will be spending more time teaching,” added Pedro Rivera, PA Secretary of Education.

The change will affect students in grades 3 through 8 with whole sections of math, English language arts, and science removed from the PSSA tests.

That could mean two less days of testing.

Not everyone thinks a 20 percent reduction is significant.

“It’s a symbolic gesture is my take on it, but it’s only a minor reduction in terms of the overall number of days held for testing,” said Dan Gottron, the principal at Highlands High School.

And the devil could be in the details.

“The challenge is going to be from the educational standpoint understanding what items are going to be removed and what standards we have to cover or reinforce in preparing for the exam,” added Phillip Woods, the principal of West Mifflin Area High School.

But for veteran teachers, reversing the testing culture is a step in the right direction.

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“This is the first time that I’ve seen a reduction in the amount of testing,” says Hambelton.