Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf intends to steer the state away from school accountability measures that he says place too great an emphasis on standardized test scores.
Details of the new plan have not yet been released. Wolf says the state’s existing accountability tool — the School Performance Profile — doesn’t provide parents with a comprehensive view of school performance.
“Education is a full and holistic process. We’ve reduced it to a bunch of high-stakes tests that don’t seem to me to be tied to the specific, comprehensive skills that we want students to have,” said Wolf at a recent interview in the governor’s Philadelphia office.
The School Performance Profile system was unveiled by former Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration in October 2013, replacing the Adequate Yearly Progress measuring stick created by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Both of these tools rely in large part on student performance on standardized tests. SPP was advanced by Corbett as an improvement over AYP in part because it considers a student’s improvement over time, not just raw scores.
A recentreportby Research for Action found schools that score well on the SPP score don’t serve many poor students. Even when analyzing the growth measures intended to show students making progress, low scores were strongly correlated to student poverty. This was the case for science and writing in elementary grades, as well as all subjects in high school.
Wolf’s proposed budget, which promised $2 billion in new preK-12 spending over four years, would do away with block-grants — channeling all funding through the basic education subsidy.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, lauded the proposed shift.
“Our members have continuously expressed a desire to reduce the emphasis on toxic testing in Pennsylvania’s public schools,” said PSEA spokesman Keever. “So we would support the kind of change in direction that Gov. Wolf is talking about, and look forward to hearing details.”
The Wolf administration believes it can revamp the SPP without the approval of the Republicans who control both houses of the state legislature, but invites their input. Wolf would need to gain, though, the blessing of the Obama administration.
Wolf says his ideal school rating tool would represent the “thorough and efficient” education that the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees.
“I want [our] schools to be attractive features in the commonwealth so that people from the outside look at Pennsylvania and say, ‘That’s a place I want to come and live, that’s a place I want to set up a business, that’s a place I would be proud to have my kids go to school.'”
“I agree that we need an accountability system,” said Wolf. “I just don’t agree that the accountability system that the prior administration had in place was the right one.”