Please note some information contained in these publications may be out of date.
Every child should have an equal opportunity to attend a local public school that has adequate resources to ensure that he or she can learn and meet state academic standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many children living in Pennsylvania and is far too often not the case for children living in rural communities. More than half of the rural school districts in Pennsylvania are spending less educating their children than their estimated adequacy target or the amount expected to ensure that children can reach the state's rigorous academic standards.
Every June, tens of thousands of students from across Pennsylvania receive high school diplomas and begin the next chapter of their lives. Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has adopted a set of coherent education reform strategies that work together to increase student achievement and better prepare these graduates for the rigors of postsecondary education, 21st century careers or military service. This fact sheet details how these strategies work to help foster student success.
To measure the progress being made to help all students achieve to Pennsylvania's academic standards, including the recently adopted Pennsylvania Core Standards in English and math, the commonwealth uses statewide assessments – the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for students in grades 3 through 8, and the Keystone Exams for high school students. This fact sheet explains why these assessments benefit student learning and improve our schools.
There is growing awareness that effective teachers are a critically important school-based factor when it comes to increasing student achievement. All children in Pennsylvania should have effective teachers in their classrooms every year, but some question whether a state law requiring teacher furloughs to be based on seniority conflicts with this goal. To address such concerns, we must first understand where Pennsylvania is in its efforts to evaluate teacher effectiveness and to provide supports and professional development to help all teachers become more effective. Only then can we consider the appropriate timing for any possible changes to state law.
As Pennsylvania schools adapt to stronger academic standards – called the Pennsylvania Core Standards – and begin using assessments aligned to those standards, some schools might see standardized test scores decline. This would not be a unique experience, as several other states have seen declines in test scores as stronger academic standards were introduced in their schools. Here are some questions that might arise about how the Pennsylvania Core Standards relate to student test scores.
The most recent iteration of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), rightly established measurable goals, accountability and a roadmap to identify struggling schools and students. Any legislation to reauthorize ESEA should retain these basic goals, while building upon what was learned over the last decade from NCLB implementation. It is in our collective best interest to advance changes to ESEA that promote college- and career-readiness and common-sense educational reforms that ensure more children have access to high-quality schools and teachers.
Pennsylvania's effort to set higher goals for learning, teaching and testing has been well under way for more than a decade, but some misconceptions linger about what these goals mean for our students, schools and taxpayers. This fact sheet clarifies what the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards are – and what they aren't.
Pennsylvania adopted its Common Core academic standards nearly three years ago, but lately, critics of this state-led effort to raise student achievement have claimed our schools will start collecting vast amounts of data on students as part of a supposed effort to "mine data" on children and eventually compile a federal database on students. In reality, the Common Core does not entail the collection of any new student data, nor does it create any new information sharing between your local schools and state or federal government.
For too long, Pennsylvania faced a troubling pattern among its high school graduates. Too many of them - tens of thousands each year - were receiving diplomas despite failing to show proficiency in core subjects like reading and math. To remedy this situation, Pennsylvania is phasing in a series of exams - called Keystone Exams - in five core subjects (Algebra I, Biology, Literature, English composition and Civics/Government) along with strong supports, including supplemental instruction for struggling students, model curriculum and diagnostics for districts to use if they choose. Keystone Exams are a critical part of Pennsylvania’s more rigorous graduation requirements and will help ensure Pennsylvania high school students can compete and succeed in the global economy.
Pennsylvania, like many states, has taken critical steps to improve teacher effectiveness, but more work remains. How do we help our public school teachers become more effective? The same way we help our students achieve — by giving them the constructive feedback and supportive resources they need to reach their full potential. This report provides a status update on Pennsylvania’s efforts thus far to help teachers become more effective in the classroom and looks at the work that lies ahead.
Smart budgeting means investing in what works. When it comes to K-12 education, few investments match the benefits of full-day kindergarten. Pennsylvania has seen a proven connection between full-day kindergarten enrollment and later success in elementary school. Districts that have elected to provide full-day kindergarten have seen improved performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA).
As budgets are crafted in Pennsylvania and across the nation, lawmakers are rightfully asking, “Are we getting good value for our money?”
The data prove that the investment first made in 2004-05 is paying off. Today, there are children in fifth grade scoring proficient or better on math and reading tests who might have fallen below proficient if they hadn’t received full-day kindergarten.
There's a growing awareness that having an effective teacher in every classroom is one of the missing links in assuring that every child learns – every day – from kindergarten until he or she graduates from high school ready for the rigors of college and careers. In Pennsylvania, more and more teachers,principals, school board members and union leadership agree: It’s time to continue building on our student achievement gains by making sure that all teachers and principals have the opportunities and supports needed to be highly effective professionals. Evidence of this movement can be found in national initiatives with state participants.
In its almost 20-year history, PPC has never had a position on school choice. Despite this fact, it was clear that PPC could not ignore this important policy debate heading into the 2011-12 legislative session or negate our responsibility as the Commonwealth’s only independent statewide children’s advocacy organization. Public education is, after all, the largest statewide child-serving system. Our work in K-12 education, particularly on accountability, full-day kindergarten, graduation requirements and school finance, requires us to examine the issue, look at research and data, and finally ask ourselves: What is in the best interest of Pennsylvania’s children and youth?
The passage of Pennsylvania’s charter school law in the late 1990s gave children and families more choices within public education and provided an opportunity to facilitate reforms in the traditional K-12 education system. More than a decade after implementation and as conversations turn toward how to improve the charter school law, policymakers should consider changes that would improve educational opportunities for all children, increase academic achievement and provide better accountability for the public dollars that are being invested in charter schools.
More than 21 percent of Pennsylvania teen agers (nearly 35,000) failed to graduate with their class in 2010. Many of these young people dropped out and set themselves up for a life of insufficient earnings and possible government dependency because they failed to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to earn a self/family-sust aining wage or compete in a 21st centur y marketplace. This paper examines strategies for re-engaging dropouts (up to age 25) in quality education options.