This morning StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based ed reform non-profit headed by Michelle Rhee, released its 2014 State Policy Report Cards. New Jerseyans can check out NJ progress at my column today at WHYY’s Newsworks. And for those of you across the Delaware, here's a little information on StudentsFirst's evaluation of Pennsylvania's education policies.
StudentsFirst creates 24 policy objectives that are divided into three groups: “Elevate the Teaching Profession,” “Empower Parents with Data and Choice,” and “Spend Wisely and Govern Well.” Each of those 24 objectives is graded on a scale of 0-4. Twelve of the 24 are considered “anchor policies” – those that “represent the strongest lever for reform” – and are given extra weight. Then each state is assigned an A-F letter grade “based on how well that state’s policies align with the StudentsFirst policy agenda.”
Here’s a few highlights for Pennsylvania:
- "Pennsylvania’s education policy environment has steadily improved in recent years, but the Commonwealth still has much work to do to create a truly student-centered system of education. Specifically, Pennsylvania can do more to prioritize teacher effectiveness in decision-making and to provide students and parents with high quality options."
- Top marks (well, a B, which is really good) on teaching evaluations that are informed by student outcomes: “Pennsylvania teachers, principals and other certificated individuals employed in schools are evaluated using a four-tiered rating system comprised of 50 percent student achievement. 15 percent of that reflects building-level measures, 15 percent reflects teacher-specific measures, and 20 percent reflects locally selected measures of student achievement. The other 50 percent of the evaluation is based on observation and evidence. Pennsylvania has ensured that evaluation systems remain rigorous statewide and are in the best interest of students.”
- But only a D+ in another item under the rubric of "Elevate the Teaching Profession." Why? Because Pennsylvania still indulges in the student-unfriendly practice of laying off teachers in order of seniority despite a plethora of research that shows that years served has no correlation with classroom effectiveness: “While Pennsylvania has a strong statute that allows for the prompt exit of consistently low-performing educators, Pennsylvania still permits forced placement in limited scope and explicitly requires layoffs to be based on seniority.”
- And –even worse – an “F” for funding equity: “To better support all of its students, Pennsylvania needs a school funding formula that provides comparable funding to students no matter which school district or public charter school they attend.”
- Another high grade in spending tax dollars wisely to improve student outcomes: “The Commonwealth has taken significant steps to spend resources wisely by eliminating class size restrictions throughout K-12 and allowing districts to contract for services when it benefits students and taxpayers.”
- And, like New Jersey, “Pennsylvania could empower its parents further by notifying parents when their child is placed with an ineffective teacher and prohibiting students from being placed with an ineffective teacher for two consecutive years.”