With the scheduled release of state test results today, Pennsylvania will usher in a new way to rate public schools.
What will stand out most is a new academic score -- a single number from 0 to 100, or up to 107 with extra credit -- for every public school, including charter schools.
This is the closest Pennsylvania ever has come to giving schools a grade. There won't be scores for school districts as a whole.
In addition to a number, academic scores also will be given symbols and colors.
Schools with academic scores below 70 will get downward triangles, colored yellow down to 60 and red below that.
Those at 70 and above will have more favorable symbols, a green square for a score of 70-79.9, a light blue upward triangle for scores of 80-89.9, a bright blue upward triangle for scores of 90-100 and a blue star for those above 100.
The academic score is part of a new School Performance Profile that will provide more detailed information on the up to 30 indicators that go into computing the score.
The scores and profiles will be important to each school's public image, but they also will be used in other ways.
The building-level academic score will make up 15 percent of the input into teacher evaluations this year and principal evaluations the following year in nearly all school districts in Pennsylvania.
Some of the indicators used to compute the score will determine which Title 1 schools, which serve low-income children, get labeled "priority" or "focus," identifying them as among the lowest performing Title 1 schools in the state.
The designation singles them out for school improvement plans and technical help.
Title 1 schools in the top 5 percent of Title 1 schools in achievement or progress will be named "reward" schools, which will be honored and invited to share their strategies.
This new system of school accountability replaces the old system which required schools and districts to make adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, or face sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Under the old system, schools were labeled as making AYP, making progress, warning, school improvement and corrective action. Those labels -- which often included a wide range of test scores even within the same label -- are gone.
Because the old system called for all students to be proficient by 2014, Pennsylvania, like most states, sought a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to be able to use a different accountability system.
While the old system counted math and reading tests, the new system counts not only math and reading but also science and writing.
The new academic score also puts more emphasis on the annual amount of growth in student scores, giving it as much credit as it does for the absolute test score.
Technically, the academic performance score is designed to have 100 points plus seven points for extra credit.
However, because certain data is unavailable this time around, there are no more than 85 points for the various indicators and, in some schools, as few as 42.5, at least temporarily, where full data won't be ready Friday.
So the academic score represents a percentage of points earned divided by possible points, making a score of 100 equal to 100 percent of the possible points, not counting extra credit.
Part of the release of the School Performance Profiles includes the release of the latest statewide test scores.
In the upper grades, the new Keystone Exams given in Algebra 1, literature and biology will come into play in the accountability system for the first time.
For grades 3-8, the tests counted are the longtime Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, known as PSSA, exams in math and reading in grades 3-8; science in grades 4 and 8; and writing in grades 5 and 8.
As late as this week, many of the state's 3,000 schools and the state were still working to get the results right.
By Monday's deadline for requesting corrections, 626 schools had asked for their score growth data to be excluded until it can be corrected, and 1,444 schools sought changes in other data.
Even with today's expected release, the final results won't be in. For those whose growth data is excluded, the state will issue new scores in January.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.