State works on broadening measures of student success

The state Department of Education is working on new measurements for student achievement.

The proposal is to replace School Performance Profile scores with Future Ready PA Index.

And it’s something many local school administrators said is a step in the right direction.

Like other schools districts that serve Centre County residents, State College Area administrators have a goal to set up students for success, Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said.

“I don’t think it tells the whole story,” O’Donnell said about SPP scores. “But this (the planned replacement) is headed in the right direction with some of the changes. When we look at data, especially with reading and math, it can contribute to a more realistic factor to help student progress and help teachers help students.”

SPP, first used in 2013, could be replaced with new PDE-proposed program

SPP, first used in 2013, provides each school in the commonwealth with a rating based on how students perform on standardized tests.

Many administrators argue that SPP measurements aren’t broad enough.

“Focusing on the standardized assessment scores as a major component of the SPP never made much sense,” Bellefonte Area Superintendent Michelle Saylor said. “There are so many elements that go into not just generating opportunities for academic success, but also for building a foundation for lifetime success for our students.”

O’Donnell’s argument is that because those test results aren’t released until the next school year, it could limit student growth since their prior teachers can’t generally help them work on certain academic needs.

If they allow us to also use curriculum for measurement, that would be the most responsive type of tool we can use to measure academic progress

Bob O’Donnell, SCASD superintendent

“If they allow us to also use curriculum for measurement, that would be the most responsive type of tool we can use to measure academic progress,” O’Donnell said.

State Education Secretary Pedro Rivera outlined PDE’s recommendations for replacing SPP during a speech at the 2016 SAS Institute’s annual professional development conference.

This was the same conference Saylor attended earlier this month.

“Like many superintendents, it is encouraging to hear Mr. Rivera, PDE, and the (Gov. Tom) Wolf administration acknowledge a need to move away from emphasizing such a narrow definition of student success,” Saylor said.

Future Ready PA Index to include more than just standardized test scores to measure student success

The proposal calls for a multi-approach to rating school performance.

It includes recognizing career awareness instruction, increasing the weighting of rigorous course offerings, reevaluating how students learning English as second language are rated on English language arts testing, and using other test scores than just state tests to measure performance.

“The truth is that it’s more realistic and can provide a more realistic measurement of what’s going on in the district,” Philipsburg-Osceola Area Superintendent Gregg Paladina said. “We still test kids way too much, and new regulations aren’t really reducing the amount of testing we have to do, but now we could use local data to help students and teachers, and that can be a big advantage for us.”

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo