HARRISBURG — The U.S. Education Department granted Pennsylvania a partial waiver from the No Child Left Behind school evaluation law Tuesday, giving state officials the flexibility to develop alternatives they say will mean more meaningful assessments of schools and students.
Pennsylvania is the 41st state to receive a waiver, which eliminates the benchmark that relies largely on standardized tests to measure progress toward a national goal of all students reading and doing math at their actual grade level by 2014.
The state Education Department said new, user-friendly school performance profiles will combine standardized test scores, the graduation rate, the promotion rate and the attendance rate to gauge academic progress at all 3,200 school buildings in the state starting this fall.
Also, a new educator evaluation system will use student achievement among other criteria in assessing the performance of teachers starting this year and principals in 2014-15.
State Education Secretary William Harner said the waiver will improve public education statewide.
“Under the state’s approved waiver, Pennsylvania citizens will have access to quality information about the performance of our public schools and students will be provided with high-quality educational programs,” he said.
Wythe Keever, spokesman for the state’s largest teacher union, said the waiver is “a step in the right direction,” but that replacing the so-called AYP benchmark with multiple measures of student achievement won’t solve the statewide need for more education funding.
“If you don’t provide adequate resources for teachers and schools, it’s like asking (teachers) to spin straw into gold,” said Keever, of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the waivers are required because Congress has not finished a rewrite of the education law, which expired in 2007. Some of its goals proved too ambitious, including that all students be working at grade level by 2014.