June 6, 2011

PSEA unveils 'Solutions that Work' to reform public education

Organization says “Yes” to change that works including a focus on teaching excellence and struggling schools

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On June 6, PSEA unveiled Solutions that Work, a comprehensive blueprint for change in public education, at a press briefing at the organization's Harrisburg headquarters.

PSEA President Jim Testerman was joined by President-Elect Mike Crossey, Vice President-Elect Jerry Oleksiak, and other educators in presenting the program, which is a far-reaching and fact-based research plan that includes multi-pronged recommendations grounded in firsthand knowledge and supported by research. The plan includes recommendations for all schools, and recommendations that especially focus on struggling schools.

“Public education is facing a tidal wave of policy proposals in states across the nation,” Testerman said. "In Pennsylvania, PSEA is saying ‘yes’ to change that works. Members of PSEA devote more than 150 million hours in the classroom each year, and we have a 150-year history in Pennsylvania classrooms. PSEA members have demonstrated that we have Solutions that Work." 

“Far too often, those working on the front lines educating our students have not had a voice in designing and implementing comprehensive school improvements,” Testerman said.  “We want to be part of the solution and offer ideas. That is why we released PSEA's 20/20 Vision for the Future more than a year ago, and that is why we release Solutions that Work today.”

Solutions that Work contains ideas to create a culture of excellence in all schools and includes a special focus on struggling schools that PSEA believes should be priorities for policymakers.

Recommendations to create a culture of excellence in all schools:

  • Streamline dismissal procedures for teachers and principals. To ensure ongoing excellence for all students, there must be efficient, fair, and objective procedures in place for removing teachers and principals who fail to meet performance standards.
  • Reinvent the teacher and principal evaluation system to support high standards and promote great teaching.  Create a more effective process that includes a shared vision of excellence; multiple objective measures of performance; and well-trained evaluators.

“Over the last few months, there has been a lot of attention given to a small number of schools that are struggling to help students achieve. In light of expected budget shortfalls, we believe the state’s limited resources must be focused on solutions for such struggling schools, while ensuring high expectations for all students,” Testerman said.  “We must also create safe and secure environments for teaching and learning.  These are responsibilities shared by all of us.” 
Testerman outlined recommendations that focus on those schools that are struggling to help students achieve. They include:

  • Invest in early childhood education. Proven economic and social benefits clearly outweigh upfront costs.  Supporting high quality pre-K programs is critical.
  • Promote and encourage parents, families, and communities to be actively involved and engaged in their public schools. It has been shown that when entire communities take responsibility for their schools, students earn higher grades, score higher on standardized tests, stay in school longer, and enroll in more challenging coursework.
  • Provide additional learning time for students who are not proficient. Under the right conditions, extended academic learning time has a positive impact on student achievement especially in schools that serve low-performing students. Regardless of the length of the student day or year, there are many ways to maximize academic learning time.
  • Require site-based decision making for schools where students are struggling to succeed. No one solution will fit the unique needs of each struggling school. However, strong leadership teams implemented at the school and composed of those who best know the students is a concept that will work.
  • Ensure that school buildings are clean and safe. Students need schools that are clean and safe to be able to learn and achieve high standards. Alternative placements for disruptive and potentially violent students should be available to foster their own success and that of their classmates.

More information about how PSEA is rewriting the book on education in the Commonwealth is available at www.SolutionsThatWorkPA.org. The Association invites educators and families to get involved, learn more, and share their thoughts on this interactive website.



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