Thursday, March 5, 2009
State education officials say they're reached a compromise with school boards over standardized graduation requirements but opponents of statewide testing system say they aren't satisfied. Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak and Pennsylvania School Boards Association executive director Thomas Gentzel say they've struck a deal. Under their new plan, the commonwealth would implement a system of graduation tests, but districts could opt out, as long as an outside party validates their alternative assessment methods. Zahorchak says this way, the state isn't micromanaging school boards, but consistent standards are still being set. “You can be guaranteed across the hall in a school building, or across the commonwealth, that a student who says they came through Algebra II really did come through the internationally benchmarked rigors of Algebra II.” Said Zahorchak. The state would split the cost of independent verification with districts. Republican Senator Jane Orie of the North Hills has been an outspoken critic of statewide graduation tests, and claims this new development is just a ruse. She says state officials are still trying to assert too much control over local school boards, and are wasting money in the process.