The U.S. Department of Education has approved the state's No Child Left Behind waiver request, in a move that will abolish the adequate yearly progress designation for each school building and school district.
According to a news release, in place of AYP will be a School Performance Profile used to measure the academic progress of all public schools based on multiple indicators of academic achievement, including student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exams; closing the achievement gap; graduation rate; promotion rate; and attendance rate.
The U.S. Department of Education has now approved waiver requests from 41 states and the District of Columbia, with other applications still pending. The waiver goes into effect immediately and will remain in place for two years, after which the state may request an extension.
“This is welcome news for students, parents, taxpayers, educators and public schools across the state,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a news release. “This waiver allows Pennsylvania to focus on improving schools by directing resources to areas that help students academically succeed. We now have a better way of guiding improvement efforts in schools by establishing ambitious, yet attainable, goals.”
Corbett said the waiver is designed to improve Pennsylvania education in three areas: making sure all students are ready for careers or college; developing recognition and accountability standards by the state for all public schools; and improving and supporting effective teachers and principals in all our classrooms.
A new educator evaluation system, which Corbett signed into law last year, will assess educators on multiple measures of student achievement and provide schools with access to resources intended to improve classroom instruction and provide professional development to teachers, principals and superintendents.
The new evaluation system will be in place for classroom teachers beginning with the 2013-14 school year and for principals and specialists in the 2014-15 school year.
Title I schools, those with a high percentage of low-income students, will receive a federal designation of “Priority,” “Focus” or “Reward” based on four annual objectives:
• Student participation on the math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams and the algebra I, biology and literature Keystone Exams;
• Student graduation or attendance rate;
• Closing the achievement gap of all students — reducing the number of students who score below proficient on the PSSA, Keystone Exams and the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment by 50 percent over a six-year period; and
• Closing the achievement gap of historically underperforming students — reducing the number of students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged and English language learners who score below proficient on the PSSA, Keystone Exams and the PASA by 50 percent over a six-year period.
Schools designated as “Priority” or “Focus” will have access to intervention and support services from the state Department of Education to assist them in improving student achievement.
Schools that do not fall into a Title I category will receive a School Performance Profiles score rather than a federal designation, but will also have access to all the interventions and supports available.
In answer to the question of whether schools are still required to offer public school choice to parents, the state’s reply was as follows: “Both school choice and local educational agencies funding for transportation to a choice school are now optional. Students currently in a choice school may remain in the choice school until completion of the highest grade in that school.