Tests carry less weight under new state index

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Tests carry less weight under new state index

Voice: March 2017

Measures of school performance beyond testing would play a greater role in the state's school accountability system under a program that the Pennsylvania Department of Education hopes to have in place by the fall of 2018.

The new Future Ready PA Index could be used as a school report card and to identify schools for intervention under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. It could also replace the School Performance Profile in the educator evaluation system if the state Legislature approves changes to the law.

The index still relies heavily on testing, but the PSSAs and the Keystone Exam will carry less weight in schools' measurements.

It will continue to consider such things as Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment programs, while adding an option to use some local tests. The index also includes greater emphasis on career readiness, starting with programs in the elementary grades, and will consider students' attainment of Industry Recognized Credentials, or IRCs.

Whereas the School Performance Profile includes a single score, the index calls for a "dashboard" showing how schools are doing on multiple measures.

Matthew Stem, PDE deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, told The Allentown Morning Call the state still views the PSSAs and Keystone Exam as "critical components," but that input from stakeholders, including teachers, said that non-testing measurements are more meaningful in determining a school's success than just test scores.

That input found its way into workgroups making recommendations for Pennsylvania under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which replaced No Child Left Behind.

Less reliance on testing and more emphasis on other measures of student achievement were major recommendations of those groups for the state's ESSA plan, which is expected to be presented to the federal government this fall.

PSEA Vice President Dolores McCracken noted that the index still "overwhelmingly relies on test scores," but called it a "good step in broadening the measures to include more of the school experience. It's a more balanced system."

She added, however, that PSEA would still like some consideration to be given to student and community socioeconomic status in measuring school performance.