2023 pssa scores

Stagnating PSSA Scores Illustrate Desperate Need for Education Opportunity

Harrisburg, Pa., November 28, 2023 — The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) 2023 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores demonstrate the critical need to reform the state’s education system, new research from the Commonwealth Foundation has found. According to the report, proficiency rates across grades and subjects have not rebounded from 2019’s pre-pandemic levels, showing just marginal year-over-year improvements.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s analysis found that:

  • Math Proficiency Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels: While there was a marginal increase in math proficiency from 2022 to 2023, these gains remain insufficient and fall short of 2019 rates. More than half of Pennsylvania’s fourth graders and nearly 75 percent of eighth graders still perform below grade level in mathematics.
  • English Language Arts (ELA) Scores Slump: Reading scores for both fourth and eighth grades declined, with fourth-grade proficiency at 51.8 percent (down from 52.2 percent) and eighth-grade proficiency at 52.7 percent (compared to 55.6 percent in 2022), both well below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Funding Increases Have Not Raised Performance: Despite record increases in state funding to public schools, even as public-school enrollment declined, PSSA test scores have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Low-Achieving Schools Continue Struggling: PDE’s list of “low-achieving” schools, averaging just 11.4 percent of students proficient in math and 24.5 percent in reading, showcases the need for educational opportunity.
  • Most Vulnerable Students Falling Further Behind: PSSA scores across all grade levels show that only one in eight Black students and one in five Hispanic students can perform basic math.

The report concludes that the Lifeline Scholarship Program, referred to as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) in the current budget impasse, would offer additional opportunities for students trapped in low-performing schools, without reducing funding for public schools. By creating Education Opportunity Accounts (EOAs) for children stuck in Pennsylvania’s worst schools, the program would provide students with tuition assistance to an alternative non-public school of their choice.

“Pennsylvania’s stagnating 2023 PSSA scores underscore the urgency for innovative education solutions. Our kids deserve better than the options they’ve been given,” said Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy at the Commonwealth Foundation. “Lifeline Scholarships offer a strategic path to empower students in struggling schools. They would provide kids with opportunities for success that current measures have failed to deliver—all at a cost significantly less than the over-$21,000 that Pennsylvania public schools spend per student per year.”

You can read the complete Commonwealth Foundation analysis here.


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