Governor Unveils Plan to Reduce Reliance on Standardized Testing for Students and Teachers

Governor Josh Shapiro joined Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin at Northgate School District in Allegheny County to announce changes to the state’s system of school assessments that will reduce the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests, mitigate stress and anxiety around testing by adopting question types that match how students learn, help teachers spend more time teaching, and save the Commonwealth millions of dollars.

The three-part plan to update the state’s standardized testing system includes implementing online testing over the next two years, adopting question types that allow students to use methods they are already familiar with – such as drag and drop, sorting and ranking, and graphic manipulation – and developing a free, optional benchmark assessment tool for schools to help educators better understand whether students are on track to succeed on end-of-year exams.

“I’ve made it a point to listen to the voices of students, teachers, and parents in my Administration, and I’ve heard loud and clear how much of a burden standardized tests can be,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “The changes I’m announcing today will reduce that burden, shorten the amount of time students spend taking tests, and ensure schools get results faster so they can give students the support they need to succeed. Together, we can ensure that when our kids go to school they’re doing less testing and more learning.”

32% of schools in Pennsylvania have already begun to administer online assessments. Over the next two school years, the rest of our schools will transition from traditional paper-and-pencil testing to online testing for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams. By 2026, all assessments will be online and PDE will begin to introduce technology-enhanced items such as drag-and-drop, sorting, and graphic manipulation questions, which students are already accustomed to using on a daily basis. Paper-and-pencil assessments will still be available for students who need additional accommodations.

Online testing has several significant advantages over the current paper tests, including saving the Commonwealth $6.5 million annually upon full implementation. The move to digital testing will also have significant environmental impacts, saving 85,788,522 printed pages annually and reducing our Commonwealth’s carbon footprint through the reduction of printing, packaging, and shipping.

Additionally, online testing will ensure schools get results faster. Schools currently receive scoring reports throughout the summer months, making it difficult to use them for decision-making in student scheduling, course content alignment, and resource allocation. District educators, already overworked and wearing multiple hats, will save significant time by switching to online testing, ranging from 10-20 hours in small schools to dozens of hours or even days in larger schools.

Under the new system, educators will be able to deliver accommodations to students with disabilities more discreetly, and the addition of technology-enhanced items will further reduce testing time for students (and will potentially shorten the state’s assessment window).

“One of the ways we can better serve both learners and educators is by examining the usage and efficacy of standardized tests,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “While Pennsylvania is among a group of states that take a relatively minimalist approach to statewide standardized testing and administers only the minimum number of assessments required by federal law, we have listened to feedback from the field and the public and have responded with a plan that will benefit schools, educators, and Pennsylvania’s 1.7 million learners.”

PDE is also developing a free, optional benchmark assessment tool to be provided to schools if they choose. This tool can help educators better understand whether students are on track to succeed on the end-of-year exams, identify potential issues early so they may be addressed prior to the testing window, and respond to unique student needs to set them up for success.