State education department to use new grading criteria
MILTON - Starting Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will be grading school districts' academic progress based on a new set of criteria.
This report card, called the School Performance Profile (SPP), will provide educators, parents and the public with comprehensive evaluations of each building in the districts based on academic achievement, academic growth and other factors associated with public education.
In a Wednesday afternoon media conference at the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) in Milton, CSIU's chief academic officer Amy C. Morton explained what can be expected from the change.
She was joined by Selinsgrove Area Superintendent Chad Cohrs, Lewisburg Area Superintendent Mark DiRocco, Benton Area Superintendent Penny S. Lenig-Zerby and CSIU public relations manager Jennifer Spotts.
The SPP will be a "one-stop shop" for data on a schools's progress, Morton said.
The schools will be graded on numerical scores from zero to 100, but there will be no rewards based on high scores or consequences based on low scores, she said.
However, the schools considered Title I that receive federal funding may face consequences if test scores, which are only one component in the state grading system, are low, she said.
In The News-Item's coverage area, the schools listed as Title I are G.C. Hartman Elementary in Southern Columbia Area, both the elementary and middle/high schools in Line Mountain and the elementary schools in Mount Carmel Area and Shamokin Area.
No more AYP
The new profiles replace the previous standard known as AYP, or adequate yearly progress, which was based solely on student math and reading scores. Pennsylvania is no longer required to use that benchmark since receiving a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Designed to inform the public of academic performance measures of each school, comprehensive career and technical centers, cyber charter and charter school in the state, it is a resource to identify what is working in each school district.
Because Northumberland County Career and Technology Center in Shamokin and SUN Area Technical Institute in New Berlin are not full day programs, the students' scores in those schools will be counted as part of their home districts.
The evaluation score will be made up of 40 percent academic achievement, 5 percent achievement gap in all students, 5 percent achievement gap in historically under performing students, 40 percent in academic growth and 10 percent other academic indicators.
Academic achievement will be measured by the percent of proficient or advanced students based on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), Keystone Exams in mathematics/algebra I, reading/literature, science/biology and writing, SAT/ACT College Ready Benchmark or career and technology certifications.
Achievement gaps will be measured by the percent of gap closure met in mathematics/algebra I, reading/literature, science/biology and writing, and the academic growth will be measured of each student's progress in those categories across each grade level.
Measuring growth is a more "realistic approach," Morton said.
Other academic indictors will be measured by graduation and attendance rates; advanced placement, International Baccalaureate or college credit, and PSAT/Plan Participation.
Each district is also eligible for a maximum of seven extra credit points for advanced achievement as a way to recognize advanced students, Morton said.
Not comparison tool
Morton said people should approach the SPP with "fresh eyes" and not consider how schools were evaluated by AYP in the past.
The scores should not be viewed as a comparison to other schools, she said.
It's a "work in progress" and is not intended to be anything other than a tool to improve education, Morton said.
DiRocco is concerned the amount of information may be difficult for people to digest, and he's worried districts will be ranked based on these scores.
"Look at all the components of the report," he said, noting the public should contact administration to understand the scores.
Cohrs said the new database will help identify what school districts should be improving on.
"On the flip side, it will also give us a chance to celebrate the work that has demonstrated our academic abilities," he said.
It's one tool of many that the public should use to evaluate a school, Cohrs said.
The districts have always received this data, but this will be the first time it will be available in such a way and be used for such an extensive evaluation, DiRocco said.
It may take two or three years before educators will have a complete grasp on the database and be able to interpret the information in realistic ways, he added.
He compared it to purchasing a new computer with a new operating system, and said everyone will have to learn as they use it.
Approximately 90 percent of the data, which was provided to the state by the school districts, will be based on 2012-13 school year test scores while other data such as graduation and attendance rates will be based on the 2011-12 school year.
Scores for all 3,200 traditional, charter, cyber and technical schools in the state will be available online beginning Monday at www.pde.state.pa.us.