What is the PSSA exam?
In 1999, Pennsylvania adopted academic standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and for Mathematics. These standards identify what a student should know and be able to do at varying grade levels. School districts possess the freedom to design curriculum and instruction to ensure that students meet or exceed the standards' expectations.
The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student's attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 4, 8 and 11 is assessed in science.
Individual student scores, provided only to their respective schools, can be used to assist teachers in identifying students who may be in need of additional educational opportunities, and school scores provide information to schools and districts for curriculum and instruction improvement discussions and planning.
What is AYP?
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), holds LEAs accountable to students, their parents, teachers, and the community. The purpose of AYP is to ensure that all students have reading and math skills that prepare them for the future. The law states that all students must reach the Proficient level or higher in Reading or Language Arts and Mathematics by 2014. School districts and schools must show Adequate Yearly Progress on several measurable indicators: Attendance or Graduation Rate, Academic Performance, and Test Participation.
AYP measures determine whether a school or district is making sufficient annual progress towards the goal of 100% proficiency.
A school that misses only one measure will not meet AYP—but this does not mean it is a failing school. Rather, AYP indicates to school leadership that areas of opportunity exist. AYP can also identify schools with persistent and pervasive problems. Measuring AYP can prompt schools that consistently miss measures to make drastic improvements. While these improvements are being made, options are available to students, from tutoring to school choice.
At the district level, performance and participation are assessed in three grade spans: Grades 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. To meet Academic Performance or Test Participation measures for AYP, the district needs to meet the goal/target for both subjects in one grade span only.