An Every Student Succeeds Act Study Group (ESSA), convened by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), has released recommendations on how the new ESSA should be implemented in the commonwealth. ESSA was signed into law in December 2015 and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). A report with recommendations was developed by a diverse group of more than 80 school directors, school administrators and subject experts.

All states, including Pennsylvania, are now in the process of crafting new state plans that are expected to be submitted for approval to the U.S. Department of Education in Fall 2016 and take effect beginning in 2017-18.

“We are pleased to make these recommendations on behalf of the participants of the study group,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “The study group, all education experts, had very thoughtful and probing conversation around ESSA implementation. We strongly encourage the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to take these recommendations into consideration as it moves forward with the state’s plan.”

The ESSA has been heralded by many for returning accountability to the states. These changes mean that individual states will bear more responsibility for implementing the law and its new requirements. PSBA convened the study group to begin the process of making recommendations to PDE, Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly.

The report is the result of several weeks of discussion and preparation by study group members, culminating in a two-day meeting held March 2-3, 2016, during which attendees reviewed and discussed the new law in subgroups from four perspectives: assessment, schools identified as being in the “bottom 5%,” educator effectiveness, and charter school issues and solutions.

Within these topics, subgroups developed key areas of recommendations. The full list of recommendations and details for each can be found in the full report online. The goal of the study group and PSBA is that the recommendations will be taken into consideration as PDE begins convening its own study groups on April 28. Highlights from each group are listed below:

Assessment subgroup

  • Assessments can be both formative (for learning) and summative (of learning), with the primary purpose being formative,
  • Use multiple, formative measures that can provide targeted instruction and intervention, prior to a summative indication of student progress toward mastery.
  • Time used for assessment preparation and administration needs to be significantly reduced.
  • Formative assessments need to have immediate turnaround.
  • Assessments need to be concise and also need to cover a range of mastery levels of basic, intermediate, and advanced topics.
  • Districts need an accountability system that gives them the ability to substitute different assessments to meet the accountability requirements of ESSA.
  • Student success should be rooted in a developmentally appropriate approach.
  • Tests should be implemented, scored and used in ways to reduce student and teacher anxiety and promote learning.
  • Assessment needs to be conducted in a manner that protects every student’s privacy, and; data needs to be used in ways that cannot identify individual students outside of their Local Education Agency (LEA).

“Bottom 5%” subgroup

  • Start a comprehensive pilot program that addresses low-performing schools by designating them as innovation school zones.
  • The local school board of directors must establish an innovation committee for each innovation school in any innovation school zone. The role of the innovation committee is to develop a plan that the local school board shall approve and implement.
  • Activities and purposes eligible for implementation by innovation school zones are as follows: school and academic service options, community options, social and wraparound service options.
  • Create an Office of School Innovation and Success at PDE to serve as the point of contact and coordination for innovation school zones, innovation schools, and innovation committees.
  • Innovation schools may exit the innovation school zone designation if the School Performance Profile (SPP) score of the school building has risen to 65 or above, or it has increased its SPP score by at least five points annually for each of the preceding three years. Schools exiting the innovation school designation may choose to continue to utilize and offer any of the programs, services, incentives and waivers that were part of its innovation plan and which were deemed a successful component of its recent increases in achievement and success.

Educator Effectiveness subgroup

  • Maintain the observation/practice component and have it count for 100% of the evaluation for all professional employees (tenured and temporary). The use of SPP scores, building level data, teacher-specific data and mandatory use of elective data should not be used for rating purposes.
  • Add “Gross Deficiency” to the observation rating scale and define it as a “0” in any category. The current mathematical scoring prevents Unsatisfactory ratings and this change will enable evaluators to more clearly and easily identify employees with marginal or incompetent performance.
  • Temporary professional employees (TPE) should also be rated using 100% observation using the same rubric as professional employees with no use of SPP scores for other data. The mandated use of a Performance Improvement Plan currently required for an employee who receives an overall performance rating of Needs Improvement or Failing should be maintained or professional employees but not be mandatory for TPEs. The Performance Improvement Plan should be allowed to be used at the discretion of the employer for TPEs, since educators new to the profession need time to develop their skills.
  • The state’s evaluation system should be applied equally to educators and principals in all public school entities, including those in charter and cyber charter schools.
  • Language currently in Section 1122 of the Public School Code must be changed to remove provisions that link dismissal of an employee to an unsatisfactory rating in instructional practice. Employers must be able to dismiss an employee for unsatisfactory behaviors and actions that are not evaluated by the effective teaching evaluation tool.

Charter Schools subgroup

  • Revise the charter school authorization and renewal process.
  • Strengthen and clarify charter school law on authorization and oversight guidelines, and strengthen the discretion of local school boards to make decisions regarding charter applications, renewal, revocation, and amendment requests.
  • Revise the funding mechanism to reduce the adversarial relationship that has been legislatively created between charter schools and school districts.
  • Create provisions to increase transparency and accountability.

ESSA Study Group participants

• Tammy Andreyko, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Advancement, North Allegheny SD
• Frank Bartely, School Board President, Brookville Area SD
• Amy Beers, Principal, Warren County SD
• Chris Branton, VP of School Board, South Williamsport SD
• Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PASA
• Amber Concepcion, School Board President, State College Area SD
• Cathleen Cubelic, Director – Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment, Midwestern IU
• Mark DiRocco, Superintendent, Lewisburg Area SD
• Marjorie Evans, Coordinator of Data, Assessment & Federal Programs, Parkland SD
• Ed Frick, School Board Director, Manheim Central SD
• Erin Gilsbach, Attorney, Director of Professional Education & Policy Development, King Spry Herman Freund & Faul
• Amy Goldman, School Board Director, Radnor Twp. SD
• Nancy Hacker, Superintendent, SD of Springfield Twp.
• Bill Harner, Superintendent, Quakertown SD
• Adam Jardina, Elementary School Principal, Conneaut SD
• Stuart Knade, PSBA General Counsel (facilitator)
• Daniel Long, Director of Quantitative Research, Research for Action
• Christina Lutz-Doemling, Director of Curriculum & Assessment, Catasauqua Area SD
• Greg Miller, Chief Student Achievement Officer, Boyertown Area SD
• Mark B. Miller, PSBA President-elect (facilitator)
• Nina Sacco, Principal, Pittsburgh Public Schools
• Laurie Waxler, School Board Director, Wyomissing Area SD

Bottom 5%
• David Baugh, Superintendent, Centennial SD
• Mark Brooks, Program Administrator, Montgomery County IU
• John Callahan, PSBA, Assistant ED Government Affairs (facilitator)
• Jill Dennin, School Board President, Boyertown Area SD
• Frank Derrick, Principal, Allentown SD
• Pam Dye, Superintendent, Franklin Area SD
• Jerry Egan, Assistant Superintendent, Penn Manor SD
• Eric Eshbach, Superintendent, Northern York County SD
• Larry Feinberg, PSBA Board & School Board Director, Haverford SD (facilitator)
• Steven Greenfield, Director of Special Education/Student Services, Hanover SD
• Manual Guzman, School Board Director, Reading SD
• Niki Harvey, Director of Educational Leadership Services, Chester County IU
• David Jagger, Principal, Wayne Highlands SD
• Lisa Kaplan, Principal, Philadelphia Area SD
• Kevin Mintz, School Board Director, Chambersburg Area SD
• Michael O’Brien, Superintendent, West Perry SD
• Lorraine Rocco, School Board Director, Freedom Area SD
• Joe Roy, Superintendent, Bethlehem Area SD
• Darryl Schafer, School Board Director, Northwestern Lehigh SD
• Lucas Westmaas, Research Analyst, Research for Action

Educator Effectiveness
• Madeline Arnold, School Board Director, Montrose Area SD
• Britta Barrickman, PSBA Director of Member Engagement & Personnel Services (facilitator)
• Tracy Barusevicius, School Board Director, Rose Tree Media SD
• Melissa Booth, VP School Board, Owen J. Roberts SD
• Elizabeth Daughtery, High School Assistant Principal, Cranberry Area SD
• Laura Davis, Assistant Principal, North Pocono SD
• Dan Duffy, School Board Director, State College Area SD
• Paul Healey, Executive Director, PA Principals Association
• Alan Johnson, Superintendent, Woodland Hills SD
• Emily Leader, PSBA Sr. Deputy General Counsel (facilitator)
• Mike Levin, Attorney, Levin Legal Group
• Art Levinowitz, School Board President, Upper Dublin SD
• Mike Masko, Deputy Executive Director, Bucks County IU 22
• Linda Mehaffie, School Board Director, Middletown Area SD
• Tim Morgan, Assistant Superintendent, Wayne Highlands SD
• Christine Oldham, Superintendent, Ligonier Valley SD
• Kevin Peters, Principal, Red Lion Area SD
• Joe Strauch, Director, Lackawanna Trail SD
• Jeff Sultanik, Chair Education Law Group, Fox Rothschild LLP
• Kathy Swope, PSBA President & School Board President, Lewisburg Area SD (facilitator)
• Mike Webb, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Learning, Delaware County IU
• Brian White, Chartiers Valley SD

Charter Schools
• Steve Bentzel, School Board Director, Dallastown Area SD
• Chris Berdnik, Director of Business Operations, Bensalem Twp. SD
• Charlene Brennan, Executive Director, Colonial IU 20
• Steve Carney, PDE
• Kathleen Conn, Attorney, King Spry Herman Freund & Faul
• Michael Faccinetto, PSBA VP & School Board President, Bethlehem Area SD
• Reese Flurie, CEO, Commonwealth Charter Academy
• John Friend, Superintendent, Carlisle Area SD
• Diane Holben, Assistant Superintendent, North Penn SD
• David Hutchinson, PSBA Board & School Board Director, State College Area SD (facilitator)
• Lauren Iannuccili, Manager, Accountability – Charter Schools Office, SD of Philadelphia
• Thomas Kerek, School Board Director, Kane Area SD
• Denise Manganello, Principal Academy of Choice, Seneca Valley SD
• Allison Petersen, Attorney, Levin Legal Group
• Sam Rotella, Superintendent, Southern Tioga SD
• Ron Sofo, CEO/Principal, City Charter High School
• Tina Viletto, Director of Community & Government Relations, Montgomery County IU
• Desiree Wagner, School Board Director, Cocalico SD
• Ashley White, PSBA Sr. Director of Government Affairs (facilitator)

CONTACT: Steve Robinson, Senior Director of Communication, 717-506-2450, ext. 3315

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