Finally, good news for PA public school students

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After more than a year of taking extensive input from public education stakeholders at 30 sessions throughout the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released PA’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law enacted in December, 2015.

Education Voters of PA enthusiastically supports PDE’s proposed new ESSA plan and thanks Governor Wolf and Secretary of Education Rivera for their leadership in developing a proposal that will both reduce the time spent and emphasis placed on standardized testing and provide families with more information about how their community’s public schools are serving students.

PA’s new ESSA plan proposes to replace the current School Performance Profile (SPP) with the Future Ready PA Index. The SPP relied almost exclusively on standardized test scores to evaluate schools. The SPP led to an overemphasis on testing because students’ test scores determined whether a school would be labeled as successful or failing.  We are glad to see it go!

PA’s new ESSA plan includes plans for a fair and meaningful system of school measurement, the Future Ready PA Index.  The Future Ready PA Index recognizes our public schools are more than test scores and will no longer label schools with a single number that can obscure subgroup performance and other vitally important data.

Instead, it will take into account a broad array of new factors to evaluate schools, including:  chronic absenteeism; how many students take advanced classes or attain industry credentials; the progress ELL students make toward English language proficiency; and how successful students are after graduation as they transition to post-secondary education or training, the workforce, or the military. All of this information about each school will be available to the public as well as buildings’ standardized test performance.

Under the new ESSA plan, PA students will spend less time testing. In some schools up to two full days of testing will be eliminated! This spring in our schools:

  • The math assessment will be shortened by 48 minutes for students in grades 3 through 8 by removing a section of multiple choice questions,
  • The English language arts assessment will be shortened by 45 minutes, and
  • The science assessment will be shortened by 22 minutes.

While many people would like to see even less standardized testing, PA’s state ESSA plan must comply with federal law. PA’s plan includes testing that meets but does not exceed federal testing mandates.

Many students and families will celebrate this new proposed system of school evaluation that de-emphasizes standardized testing and provides families with more information about public schools.

Unfortunately, PA lawmakers who are working to advance Betsy DeVos’ agenda to privatize public education and the powerful lobbyists who support them will strongly oppose using the Future PA Index. They will fight tooth and nail to keep a school evaluation system that uses high-stakes test scores to label schools with a single number. They want to keep in place a system that guarantees that many under-resourced schools that educate poor children will be labeled publicly as failing so that they can justify punitive interventions, such turning schools over to private charter school operators or implementing new private/religious school voucher schemes.

You can read the whole ESSA plan HERE.

All Pennsylvanians are invited to submit public comment via an online survey HERE, or you may send a quick email to this address RA-edESSA@pa.gov.  If you support less emphasis on testing and a more holistic system for evaluating public schools, please take a minute to send a comment to PDE to demonstrate public support for the proposed Future Ready PA Index.  All comments must be submitted by August 31st. The final plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on September 18th.