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Pa. senator introduces bills to waive this year's PSSA, Keystone, and streamline online learning over COVID-19
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Pa. senator introduces bills to waive this year's PSSA, Keystone, and streamline online learning over COVID-19

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A Democratic senator from West Chester said he’s introducing legislation that would eliminate standardized testing and streamline necessary approvals to move to online learning in light of the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Andy Dinniman said one bill calls for the cancellation of the state PSSA and Keystone exams for this school year, and requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ask the federal government for a waiver of federal accountability regulations.

Dinniman said canceling the tests would address the concerns over schools deciding to close for periods of time, and added that not all schools having the same type of available instruction online should schools move to virtual classes. He also said the bill would help direct money that would have been used on tests to assist schools with costs associated with closing.

“In the face of COVID-19, our focus should be on public health and ensuring that we have adequate and accurate tests for the virus itself, not on worrying about standardized tests or other bureaucratic procedures,” Dinniman said. “Let’s trust our local schools, teachers and staff to do what needs to be done in dealing with an alarming and unprecedented event.”

The other bill allows school districts to move ahead with online learning without approval from the state Department of Education. It also calls on the department, within two weeks, to put in place alternative plans for schools districts that may not have online resources available, as well as give school districts the freedom to put programs in place for the school year.

“On a daily basis, I have been receiving calls from concerned school district officials, teachers and parents, asking for guidance. Currently, schools are doing their best to work within the law, but the reality is that many will likely need to close for longer than a day or two,” Dinniman said. “While the PDE has pledged to view school closures on a ‘case by case basis,’ daily news reports lead me to believe those cases will be growing far too quickly for PDE staff to manage.”

Allentown schools close for cleaning as Temple University shifts to online class

Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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