Explaining the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile

This year, Pennsylvania received a waiver to leave behind school performance evaluations using the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) model, and replace it with their new Pennsylvania School Performance Profile. The new evaluation system is being touted as more comprehensive than the previous, but the purpose remains the same… to hold districts/LEAs accountable to students, their parents, teachers, and the community.

Pennsylvania spent three years and $2.7 million developing the School Performance Profile system. Under the old system, Pennsylvania had adequate yearly progress goals and schools that did not meet those targets were labeled as being in “warning” status, “school improvement” status or “corrective action” status.

Last year, 1,534 schools had AYP ratings of “warning” or worse, including the Octorara Area School District overall and several of her individual schools. The new two-tiered system is suppose to publicly draw attention to schools with large numbers of poor students.

Most educators, from what I have been reading, believe the new performance profiles are an improvement. However, by replacing the easy to understand labels with an academic performance score, the new system does seem to give a (at least somewhat) reprieve for some districts/LEAs who had trouble consistently meeting goals.

The original objective of No Child Left Behind was a goal of having all students at the proficient level or above (math and reading) within 12 years (i.e. by the end of the 2013-2014 school year). That has failed by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, a new baseline has been set, with a new goal defining success.

The big change is how the evaluations are done. The three AYP measures for 2012 were:

  • School Attendance/Graduation Rates
    • (for schools without a high school graduating class): Goal of 90% attendance or target of any improvement from previous year.
    • (for schools with a high school graduating class): The school and every measurable subgroup in the school must meet the goal of 85%, or a 10% reduction of the difference between the previous year’s graduation rate and 85%.
    • Districts/LEAs must meet both measures; attendance and graduation.
  • Achieving Proficiency (Performance)
    • To meet the Performance Measure required for AYP, schools and every measurable subgroup in the school must have at least 78% of the tested students achieve a Proficient score or higher on the mathematics assessment and 81% of the tested students achieve a Proficient score or higher on the reading assessment.
  • Taking the Test (Participation)
    • At least 95% of students overall and within each measurable subgroup must take the test.

Pennsylvania School Performance Profile uses a 100-point scale with five broad, weighted categories and many more data points:

  • Indicators of Academic Achievement 40% (44% for CTCs)
    • Percent Proficient or Advanced on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)/Keystone Exams in Mathematics/Algebra I, Reading/Literature, Science/Biology, and Writing
    • Percent Competent or Advanced on industry certification exams [NOCTI (a job ready assessment for career and technical center students) and/or NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills certification)]
    • Percent Proficient or Advanced on PSSA grade 3 reading
    • SAT/ACT College Ready Benchmark
  • Indicators of Closing the Achievement Gap – All Students 5% (3% for CTCs)
    • Percent of required gap closure met in Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing
    • Indicators of Closing the Achievement Gap – Historically Underperforming Students 5% (3% for CTCs)
    • Percent of required gap closure met in Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing for historically underperforming students (economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners, students with disabilities)
  • Indicators of Academic Growth / PVAAS (40%)
    • The PVAAS growth index representing the school’s impact on the academic progress of groups of students from year-to-year in each of the assessed content areas.
  • Other Academic Indicators (10%)
    • Cohort graduation rate
    • Promotion rate
    • Attendance rate
    • Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or college credit
    • PSAT/PLAN Participation
  • Extra Credit for Advanced Achievement (up to 7 points)
    • Percent Advanced on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)/Keystone Exams in Mathematics/Algebra I, Reading/Literature, Science/Biology, and Writing
    • Percent Advanced on industry standards-based competency assessments [NOCTI (a job ready assessment for career and technical center students) and/or NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills certification)]
    • Advanced Placement achievement (scores 3 or higher)

An interesting change is the generic, all-inclusive “Historically Underperforming Students” identifier. Historically Underperforming Students will now be defined as a non-duplicated count of students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and English Language Learners enrolled for a full academic year taking the PSSA/Keystone Exams. If a student is in more than one of the individual subgroups (e.g., special education and English Language Learner), s/he is only included in the Historically Underperforming Student group one time. While this eliminates duplicates counting, it seems like it may be more difficult to identify issues with specific subgroups.

Things like using Advanced Placement (AP) and the Extra Credit for Advanced Achievement also raises an eyebrow. It kinda reminds me of the Federal fleet fuel-efficiency standards for automobile manufacturers… build enough environmentally friendly cars and you can still continue to build your gas-hogs. Applied to education, a school will basically be allowed to pump out failing students if they have enough gifted and talented students to balance the scale.

I do really like that grade 3 reading is a separate data element in the Indicators of Academic Achievement calculations. Research reveals that reading proficiently by the end of third grade can be a “make-or-break” benchmark in a child’s educational development. I was in an IEP meeting last Spring for my daughter, and those in attendance seemed oblivious to this fact academic success can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing a child’s reading skills by the end of third grade. A child who is not reading proficiently by 3rd grade has a high probability of never reading at grade level, and is at greater risk of having discipline issues, dropping out, and failing to graduate.

Overall, despite being a bit convoluted, this seems to be a move in the right direction. However, the devil will be in the implementation. The old AYP model, in my opinion, gave schools and districts too many loopholes to get a pass after missing goals. This is the root of No Child Left Behind’s failure. We need set goals with real accountability.

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