New Pa. school grading system coming

Public districts will be assessed on performance profiles

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Pennsylvanians will begin speaking a new language on Sept. 30 when talking about school performance.

Acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq Wednesday announced that's when state test results will be released, barring any technical difficulties.

The results will be the first since the state won a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education so that Pennsylvania no longer is required to have all of its students proficient in reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind Act by 2014.

This means that schools will be judged on their new School Performance Profiles, not the old standard of adequate yearly progress, known as AYP. That term is gone, as are categories such as "warning" or "corrective action."

While AYP was determined for both public schools and school districts, the SPP will apply only to public schools, including charter schools.

On this new measure, state test results in science and writing are as important as reading and math. Under the old system, science and writing scores were released but did not count toward adequate yearly progress.

The tests, taken during the 2012-13 school year, are the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment in grades 3-8 and the new Keystone biology, Algebra 1 and literature exams, which are end-of-course exams usually given in high school. This also will be the first year for statewide Keystone data.

The new measure uses a 100-point scale and considers test scores, growth in test scores, attendance rate, graduation rate and other factors.

In future years, part of the score will be based on closing achievement gaps, but the latest results will be used as a baseline. While it is a 100-point scale, some schools will have more than 100 points because of extra credit given for advanced achievement.

"Everybody can get to high achievement," Ms. Dumaresq said.

In the new system, Title 1 schools -- which have a high percentage of low-income students and receive federal funds -- would be designated as "priority," "focus," "reward high achievement" or "reward high progress."

Schools not in the Title 1 program still would receive a profile score, but not one of the designations.

Sixty-one percent of schools (1,842 of 3,025) in the state are Title 1, according to the state Department of Education.

The School Performance Profiles also will play a role in teacher evaluations in school districts throughout the state.

For the first time in Pennsylvania, school districts are required to include test scores as part of a teacher's rating in 2013-14. The scores later will play a role in principal evaluations as well.

education - breaking - state

Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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