ESSA plan awaits educators in fall

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ESSA plan awaits educators in fall

When educators return to classrooms for the 2018-19 school year it will mark the implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, and the bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2015 provided Pennsylvania with a once-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape public education in the commonwealth.

PSEA worked closely with Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration – 15 members and staff served on a statewide task force – to help shape the state’s ESSA plan, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in January.

Educators will primarily notice two key changes during the first year of ESSA.

One is that a single focus on standardized test scores will be replaced by multiple measures to track student achievement – test score proficiency, test score growth, progress among English Language Learners in attaining English language proficiency, career readiness, and chronic absenteeism.

The other is that the state will now measure student achievement – including all the above indicators and more – at the building level and not the district level.

“The administration listened to educators who spend every day in classrooms and know that while tests have their role, they are just one barometer of student achievement,’’ said PSEA Vice President Rich Askey. “Gov. Wolf has been a pro-public education governor since day one, and his leadership really shined during the ESSA process.’’

Key aspects of the change to multiple measures of student achievement for purposes of ESSA accountability include the following:

  • Chronic absenteeism will not be measured by overall school attendance (i.e., average daily attendance). Rather, it will be based on the number of students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year. Research shows this is a better indicator of school quality and also allows educators and education support professionals to intervene with at-risk students.
  • Career readiness will be measured by portfolio artifacts – for example, a job-shadow project, a career-interest inventory, or a mock-interview experience. Fifth-graders are to have six artifacts; eighth-graders,12; and 11th-graders, 20.
  • Although schools are still held accountable for proficiency on standardized test scores, student growth on those tests will now be equally weighted when identifying schools in the greatest need of support. This is fairer to low-income districts since they can now demonstrate they are doing good work in moving kids toward proficiency if the growth indicators are strong.

More information on Pennsylvania’s ESSA plan, including advisories from the Association’s Education Services Division, is available at