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State Launches New Assessment Tool For Schools

November 15, 2018

Calling it a “one-stop” location for information on student and school success, the Pennsylvania Department of Education launched a comprehensive tool on Thursday to help evaluate schools. The Future Ready PA Index replaces prior systems that gave schools labels or number scores. Instead, the index provides a color-coded dashboard that illustrates student and school achievement and growth in three categories — the academic performance of students, if student progress is on track and whether students graduate ready for college or to start a career and succeed. Creating the index took around three years, as thousands of parents, educators and community members engaged with state officials to figure out how to more accurately measure commonwealth students. “One thing we heard loud and clear is students are more than a point-in time test score and the measure of students’ successes should be broadened,” said Matthew Stem, state deputy secretary of education. “The entire tool is built to be one that fosters continual improvement across all schools.” The index uses a three-color system — red, green and blue — to give an initial sense of “what’s happening in a given school” and arrows pointing up or down to track trends. In the most simple terms, Stem said seeing a lot of green and blue on a school’s index signifies higher achievement. “If you’re seeing areas of red, those should be areas that are stirring conversations,” he said. The dashboard also illustrates progress in the three main categories by student group, including economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, students receiving special education services and racial and ethnic groups. Assessment measurements demonstrate student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exam standardized tests. This also includes data from the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS), which represents the academic growth of students. On-track measurements show regular attendance and indicate progress in reading and math and in English language proficiency. College and career-ready measurements show how well students are prepared for post-secondary success by showing access to rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement, and by identifying industry-based credentials earned by students. It also includes, for the first time, data on college enrollment, military enlistment and workforce participation. The state hopes the index empowers communities to ask the right questions, Stem said. The state will update the data annually. The index is “designed to get parents and business and industry members and educators talking together and having informative conversations about what’s happening in their schools,” Stem said. “It’s really important to elevate the role of transparency and equity in our system.” In Scranton, performance among schools varies greatly. For example, Scranton High School did not meet proficiency targets in English language arts or math, but met or exceeded growth measures for both subjects. At West Scranton High School, students met targets for proficiency in both subject areas but missed the growth target for English language arts. Old Forge Elementary School’s profile shows mostly green and blue. Superintendent John Rushefski credits those achievements to new textbooks and staff development at the elementary level. The high school is still struggling with math scores, a trend the district has seen over the past five years. Remediation classes and tutoring is now available in 11th period to help improve students’ math skills, he added. Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon, Ph.D., called the index a “step forward.” “It broadens the conversation beyond a score on a PSSA exam,” he said. “The fact they’re able to broaden the measures that measure student success is very valuable.” To view the index, visit: https://futurereadypa.org. Contact the writers: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter; kbolus@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5114; @kbolusTT on Twitter

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