September 18, 2015

PSEA praises one-year hiatus for PSSA scores; Calls for more time to implement new academic standards

Pennsylvania students' PSSA scores won't factor into School Performance Profiles until next year, thanks to Gov. Wolf's administration requesting a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. 

PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak called the one-year waiver a good start, but noted that educators and school districts need more time to align curriculum to the new PA Core Standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2013 and prepare their students to take the revised exams. 

That's why PSEA continues to call for a three-year moratorium on using PSSA results in high-stakes decisions about the academic proficiency of students or the effectiveness of schools or educators.

“There has been a tremendous amount of confusion about how Pennsylvania’s new accountability system impacts educators and students,” Oleksiak said. “We're hopeful that all of the questions and concerns about the new PSSA system can be worked out in one year. However, we think that this process is likely to take longer to ensure that educators, students, and communities understand how it works and what it means. ”

What this means for schools
Under the one-year hiatus, elementary and middle schools who administer the PSSA for students in grades 3-8 will not receive a School Performance Profile score for 2014-15 because 2015 test scores cannot be compared to previous years.

High schools, which only administer Keystone Exams, will receive a School Performance Profile score for 2014-15 as scheduled. Scores will be released in the coming weeks. 

What this means for educators
Since educators in elementary and middle schools that administer the PSSA likely will not have a School Performance Profile score to factor into their summative ratings, those educators' evaluations will weigh more heavily on observations. 

For 2014-2015, observation data will make up 65 percent of the summative rating for classroom teachers in these schools, and 100 percent of the summative rating for educators evaluated as "non-teaching professionals."

PSEA's Professional Learning Exchange published a new advisory for members on the one-year hiatus. Find a copy of the advisory here.

How did we get here?

PSSA Timeline - Sept 2015

In less than 18 months, Pennsylvania adopted new academic standards, administered new PSSA tests, and approved new cut scores to determine students' performance. These changes occurred at a breakneck pace, and schools received mixed messages about what content would be tested on the PSSA even after the 2014-15 school year began.

With the adoption of the new cut scores, the percentage of students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" on the PSSA will be lower on average than on previous PSSAs - by more than 9 percent in English language arts and by more than 34 percent on Mathematics. 

Infographic: New standards, PSSAs, and cut scores

What's next
PSEA will continue to advocate for a three-year moratorium for the use of PSSA scores in high stakes decisions, and to advocate for common-sense changes to the way Pennsylvania implements federal mandates related to standardized testing.

"Students and educators need clear, consistent messages about what is expected of them, and high-quality support to reach the goal," added Olekisak. "The rollout of the new standards has been neither clear nor consistent. The state needs to take the time to do it right."





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