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HARRISBURG, PA (June 18, 2019) – PSEA President Rich Askey issued the following statement reacting to Senate Bill 751, legislation sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) to reform Pennsylvania’s educator evaluation system by placing greater emphasis on direct classroom observation, reducing the impact of student performance measures, including standardized testing, and accounting for the effects of poverty on student achievement.
The Senate Education Committee voted to approve SB 751 earlier today. Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) has introduced similar legislation, House Bill 1607, in the House of Representatives.
“PSEA supports meaningful educator evaluations because every student in Pennsylvania deserves to have a high-quality educator in the classroom,” Askey said. “Unfortunately, our current evaluation system is not working the way it should.
“The bills introduced by Sen. Aument and Rep. Topper will reform the evaluation system by placing greater emphasis on the direct observation of an educator’s professional practice, reducing the impact of student standardized testing, and beginning to account for the effects of poverty on student achievement.”
The bill increases emphasis on direct classroom observation and practice from 50 percent to 70 percent of most educators’ evaluations. The remaining 30 percent relies on building level and teacher specific student achievement data, including student performance on standardized testing. The building level data also will be adjusted by a measure of poverty for each individual school building. The teacher specific student achievement data will include student performance measures that relate directly to an educator’s practice each academic year.
“The direct observation of educators by trained professionals is the best form of evaluation, providing clear, fair, and timely feedback,” Askey said. “By placing greater emphasis on direct observation, the bills set the stage for educators to receive meaningful feedback and targeted assistance that will help them improve their professional practice.
“The bills also account to some extent for the tremendous impact of poverty on student learning. Poverty affects students well beyond the classroom, often hampering their health and well-being, language development, and access to books and learning opportunities. Students living in poverty often score lower on standardized tests than students in middle-income and more affluent districts.
“If Pennsylvania is going to continue to use test data in educator evaluations, the commonwealth must control for factors beyond the control of educators and students. These bills take an important first step in acknowledging the relationship between poverty and student achievement.
“We are grateful to Sen. Aument for leading a process to make these improvements to the evaluation system. Both Sen. Aument and Rep. Topper listened to educators and worked toward a more accurate and fairer evaluation system that works better for students and educators alike.”
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.