Monday, August 14, 2017

Keystone Exam Update and PA ESSA Plan

Senate Bill 756, the bill co-sponsored by Senator's Dinniman and Eichelberger, to end the use of the Keystone Exams and offer other pathways to graduation (SAT), faced challenges from major education groups due to language added including parental input on teacher evaluations.  As a result, the bill was never brought to a vote in the Senate.  In the near future, similar separate bills will likely be introduced to eliminate the Keystone exams and an opt out bill that expands the current religious opt out option.  

In the meantime, we have a public comment opportunity with the PA ESSA plan.  Over the past 3 years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of students opted out of the state assessments.  The increase in opt out is concerning at the State and Federal level.  As a result, part of the ESSA plan includes language that would punish schools that have 5% or more students opt out of PSSA and/or Keystone Exams. The ESSA plan would implement "state-approved improvement plans" for schools with less than 95% participation.  As a result, parents and students would be pressured by their school principals and teachers to participate in the PSSA and Keystone exams and opting out would be discouraged.

From page 43 of the PA ESSA plan:
School-level participation rates will be published within the state’s annual public-facing school report cards. Schools with rates below 95 percent will be required to develop and implement state-approved improvement plans, and may be required to complete a school- or LEA-level assessment audit. 
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is going to be finalized over the next few months.  The PDE has posted the draft plan for PA and a public comment section.  The comment period closes on August 31.  Please consider reviewing the plan and submitting your comments.  Each section asks for your input in 1000 words or less.  You don't have to comment on each section. At the end of the survey is an opportunity to submit additional comments - please consider submitting personal testimony here if the PSSA and/or Keystone exams has affected your child. 

The plan and link to the survey can be viewed HERE

Senator Dinniman thoughts on PA ESSA plan can be read HERE

Overview of the survey from the PDE website:
Individuals may choose to comment on as many or as few sections as they wish. The survey asks respondents to provide basic demographic data to inform aggregate analysis of the survey sample; however, all responses will be anonymous. 
This online survey provides an opportunity for open-ended comments relating to each major section of the plan, listed below, as well as a way to provide additional, written comments. 
• Introduction
• Section 1: Long Term Goals
• Section 2: Consultation and Performance Management
• Section 3: Academic Assessments
• Section 4: Accountability, Support and Improvement for Schools
• Section 5: Supporting Excellent Educators
• Section 6: Supporting All Students

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