Pa. schools receive AYP waiver
Pennsylvania received a waiver Wednesday to the rules set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, doing away with the Adequate Yearly Progress accountability measure.
It won't, however, do away with state standardized testing.
Announced Wednesday, the waiver eliminates Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) that had long been measured largely by a school's performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams.
In its place is a new system, one for schools that receive federal Title I funds and another for those that don't. The PSSAs and the newly instituted Keystone Exams will continue to be administered across the state, with the results used as components in new accountability systems that also utilize test participation and graduation and attendance rates.
James Zack, Shamokin Area superintendent, described the changes brought by the NCLB as "interesting." He also acknowledged that there are many unknowns.
"It appears at least people are willing to admit there are differences between Title I and non-Title I schools. It looks like there's going to be more money available," he said
There will be no measurable impact on students when they return to class Monday, he said.
"Changes are coming," Zack said. "It's just that so many things remain unclear that it's hard to define specifically what it's going to be."
For Title I schools, such as Shamokin Area Elementary, they'll be scored on Annual Measurable Objectives accounting for test participation, graduation and attendance rates and improved performance on standardized testing. The results will earn them one of three designations in descending order: Reward, Priority or Focus. Under-performing schools will qualify for intervention and support services.
Those services will also be available to schools that don't receive Title I funding, like Shamokin Area Middle/High School. They won't be ranked on the AMO scale, however. Instead, they'll receive a School Performance Profile score based on 100 points and incorporating student performance on the standardized tests.
Also, a new educator evaluation system will use student achievement among other criteria in assessing the performance of teachers starting this year and principals starting in 2014-15, the Associated Press reported.
The waiver takes effect this school year, 2013-14, and will remain in place for two years. After that, Pennsylvania can apply for an extension.
Without the waiver, to have achieved AYP in 2014, every student in every public school would be expected to test as "proficient" in both mathematics and reading. Falling short of AYP earned a school or a district a label such as "warning," "school improvement" and "corrective action," and in some cases necessitating an improvement plan to raise test scores and shed such labels.
The state's school districts have struggled to meet AYP as the benchmarks have risen dramatically over the past several years, with most administrators in agreement that the benchmarks have reached a point of impossibility.
Shamokin Area Middle/High School was on "school improvement" following 2012 testing. Line Mountain Junior-Senior High School was on "warning," as was Mount Carmel Elementary and High School. Shikellamy High School was placed on "corrective action" for two years running.
The Associated Press says the Obama administration sees it that way. The waivers are "a tacit acknowledgement that the goal is unattainable," according to the AP, and were first offered to states last year that developed their own federally approved plans for measuring student and teacher performance.
Amy Morton, chief academic officer of Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, described the state's new accountability system as "new and improved."
"While maintaining the overall goal of compelling improved student achievement, the requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to achieve 100 percent student proficiency by 2014 is, as they say, history," she wrote in an email to The News-Item.
"This fall, schools will not be designated in 'school improvement' or 'corrective action' status."
"This waiver allows Pennsylvania to focus on improving schools by directing resources to areas that help students academically succeed," he said. "We now have a better way of guiding improvement efforts in schools by establishing ambitious, yet attainable, goals," Gov. Tom Corbett said in announcing the successful waiver request.