PA's Every Student Succeeds Act Plan receives federal approval

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PA's Every Student Succeeds Act Plan receives federal approval

Congress' passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 presented Pennsylvania with a once-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape public education in the commonwealth.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has made good use of that opportunity with a comprehensive, forward-thinking state ESSA plan that was accepted on Jan. 17 by the U.S. Department of Education. The plan will be fully implemented during the 2018-19 school year.

"Today's approval serves as an historic moment for public education in the commonwealth," Gov. Wolf said. "Pennsylvania is committed to ensuring that all students have access to an equitable, high-quality, well-rounded education, and our ESSA plan greatly enhances that mission. The plan provides critical resources to schools and a flexible framework through which teachers can teach and students can learn."

Educators helped shape the plan

PSEA worked closely with the Wolf administration to design the state's ESSA plan. ESSA workgroups convened by the state Department of Education included 15 PSEA members and staff as part of a diverse cross section of stakeholders.

"I'm pleased that the ESSA plan developed by the Wolf administration addresses testing and other issues that have been thorns in educators' sides for years," said PSEA President Dolores McCracken. "And I'm particularly pleased that the Department of Education included so many educators in the process."

What's in the plan?

Pennsylvania's ESSA plan relies on multiple measures to track school quality, emphasizing both proficiency and growth on state standardized tests as well as other factors such as graduation rates, growth in English language learner proficiency, chronic absenteeism, and career readiness.

The plan also creates programs to address teacher recruitment and preparation as well as school and student programs emphasizing STEM, career planning, safe school environments, and access to advanced coursework.

"Gov. Wolf's ESSA plan takes an important step in the right direction for our students and our members," McCracken said. "Moving to multiple measures of school success shifts the focus to students and uses standardized tests in a more balanced way.

"This plan also ensures the public sees a broad spectrum of information on how a school is performing. For years, PSEA has been advocating for these changes, and we're very happy that they are part of the plan."

Less time on standardized testing

Gov. Wolf has also taken steps to reduce the testing timeframe for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA).

Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, the PSSA testing timeframe will be reduced from three weeks to two weeks, and the test will be given later in the school year to ease stress on students and give them additional time in the classroom before taking the assessment.

Read more about the PSSA changes here.

Local engagement

As Pennsylvania moves toward full implementation of the ESSA next year, PSEA encourages members to get involved to help shape implementation of the new law at the local level.

To learn more, go to