Pa. unveils new school accountability system that puts less emphasis on standardized testing

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education will unveil a new school quality metric in 2018 — dubbed the Future Ready PA Index — that it believes will foster a more holistic student experience, one less narrowly focused on state standardized tests.

The change was announced Wednesday as part of PDE’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). That is the flagship federal education law, updated under President Obama in 2015.

Under that law, states were given more leeway in how to set education policy and spend federal public school dollars.

"It’s provided Pennsylvania with a once in a decade opportunity to revisit our assessment, accountability, and student support systems and make changes with greater autonomy than we’ve been able to do in the past," said department deputy secretary Matthew Stem. "It’s really given us an opportunity to focus on more holistic supports and holistic instructional strategies."

Pennsylvania will still have a strong, federally required commitment to standardized testing with scores broken down by subgroup, but Stem says the new plan will push schools to foster better critical thinking and collaboration skills.

He says this will happen, in part, based on a change in how the state evaluates school quality and reports the results.

"We believe that trying to use one number to say that one school is better than another is a flawed approach," said Stem.

Read the rest of this story at Keystone Crossroads