The Southern Chester County Weeklies (

How about an anti- PSSA massacree movement?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

So… shortly after Chadds Ford Elementary School Principal Mark Ransford was placed on administrative leave for giving some kids extra time on the PSSA tests, four teachers and an administrator in Philadelphia were arrested for changing answers and prepping students for the questions on the same tests.

What’s up here? Those aren’t criminals. They’re heroes.

We don’t blame them for wanting to help the kids. PSSA tests don’t contribute to a child’s education. They put unnecessary pressure on administrators and teachers to force students into an intellectual dog and pony show. And they take time away from humanized, personalized and creative exercises -- not to mention the homework that gets piled on.

According to news reports and a statement from the Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent John Sanville, Ransford allowed some students to get extra time to complete the tests.

Sanville continued that “Strict adherence to the rules is an important part of a school’s academic integrity.”

We’d like to counter with the thought that maybe helping out children who may are having difficulty or who need more time may be the morally correct action -- screw the test rules.

In Philadelphia at Cayuga Elementary School the principal and four teachers allegedly altered the test results. After their arrest, Mayor Michael Nutter said he was “shocked.”

What was he shocked about, that they were teaching to the test maybe to relieve some of the student anxiety? Don’t most schools do that?

Or worse, were those teachers under pressure from their boards or the department of education to get the scores up or suffer the consequences?

Let’s consult some great literature and their heroic characters to cast light on difficult life situations like this.

First, we’d like to refer to New Testament biblical literature and the story about Christ and his hungry apostles.

According to the story, Jesus and his apostles were going through grain fields on the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked him why he was being unlawful on the Sabbath. He told the critics, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

The lesson here is that some laws are worth breaking when they do not serve the population -- sort of like the PSSA tests.

In the Broadway musical “Les Miserables,” Jean Valjean is pursued by the legalistic law enforcer Javert.

At one point Javert catches up with Valjean, threatening him with further punishment for stealing a loaf of bread 19 years ago.

Valjean says, “I broke a window pane. My sister’s child was next to death and we were starving.”

Javert, being a slave to the law said, “You will starve again if you do not learn the meaning of the law.”

Isn’t it funny? the bad guys are always the legalistic ones.

Finally, we’d like to reference one more great piece of writing -- “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie.

After being put on the Group W Bench by his draft board because he didn’t pass the psychological test, Guthrie suggested starting a movement. He tells his audience facing the draft to go to the military psychiatrist’s office and sing, “Shrink, you can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant.”

He said it might not be taken seriously if one or two people did it. But if 50 people a day did it, they would realize it was the ‘Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement.’

We suggest something similar. Go into the principal’s office or a Pennsylvania State Education Association meeting and sing your song. If enough people do it, they’ll know it’s the Alice’s Restaurant anti-PSSA Massacree Movement.

Do it with the hope that the generation of humans now in school will grow into well-rounded and creative adults in the future.