Policy

Pennsylvania Joins Most of Nation in Getting a Year Pass on School Performance

Pennsylvania has received permission from the United States Department of Education to ignore the school performance stipulations of No Child Left Behind. The state joins 37 others as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to receive the waiver.

The state's Department of Education sought the waiver to gain a one-year pause in the use of the School Performance Profile, which provides public online reporting of student academic performance in every Pennsylvania public school building, including traditional public schools, charter schools, cyber charter schools and career and technology centers. The state's profile is a substitution for the accountability aspects of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Pennsylvania's teacher effectiveness system uses that data as a portion of an educator's overall evaluation. However, the weighting of that compared to other aspects — observation and practice and other criteria — varies among schools and districts.

The state had requested that it be allowed to opt out of the use of the 2015 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores in calculating school performance and teacher effectiveness ratings. The reason: because of the many changes introduced with the adoption in 2014-2015 of new high-stakes state testing in English and language arts, math, science and technology. The results of the new tests showed "significant drops" in student performance across the state.

"While it is critically important to hold our schools and educators accountable for student success, we must take care to do so with indicators that are fair and accurate," said state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera in a prepared statement. "This year's PSSA scores establish the new baseline from which we can most effectively measure student progress in future years."

Rivera also noted the state is pondering potential revisions to how it rates school performance. Governor Tom Wolf has asked the education agency to consider how the school performance profile tool could be tweaked to put less emphasis on the results of a single student assessment.

In the absence of school performance profile scores, most schools will just leave that portion of the educator evaluation out of the calculation. However, they'll continue to include other indicators related to student growth.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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