Jan. 6 committee calls surprise hearing on Tuesday, says it has new evidence

Some Pennsylvania schools to get 1-year delay in performance scores


HARRISBURG — School-by-school performance ratings will be released this month without figuring in a big drop-off in student performance on this year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, state education officials said.

This year's PSSA tests also will not be used to calculate teacher performance ratings, the state Department of Education said.

In a statement, Education Secretary Pedro River said this year's PSSAs should be used to measure future student performance, but they should not be compared to previous years' performance.

That's because the most recent PSSAs tested students for the first time on new standards based on Common Core and are viewed as more rigorous because they require students to learn some skills at earlier grade levels.

The PSSAs are administered in grades three through eight in English language arts and math. The federal government approved the one-year delay.

Educators embraced the move.

Bethlehem Area's superintendent, Joseph Roy, said he thought the state should give all schools a break from what he called a "broken standardized testing regime." He also criticized the decision to use Keystone Exams, but not PSSA scores, for teacher performance ratings.

"It creates fairness and equal-protection issues when districts are asked to treat teachers differently for evaluation purposes," Roy told the Allentown Morning Call.

Quaker Valley School District's superintendent, Heidi Ondek, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that districts can use the break to examine the test score results and make curriculum changes to address concepts with which students struggled.

In his statement, Rivera said the one-year pause in using the PSSAs to calculate school performance is part of a "broader discussion" about revising the school performance profiles to be a more comprehensive measure of school and student performance beyond a single test performance.

Statewide, every grade level showed a drop-off in performance, except fifth-grade English language arts, according to the Post-Gazette. Compared with reading in 2014, performance on the fifth-grade English language arts test rose 2 percentage points, to 62 percent proficient or advanced.

The biggest drop-off was 43 percentage points in eighth-grade math, from 73 percent to 30 percent, the Post-Gazette reported.

Most schools that administer Keystone Exams will receive scores. But schools that administered PSSAs this year will not get one, according to the Department of Education.

The 3-year-old School Performance Profiles rely heavily on standardized test scores but also include attendance and graduation rates. Every school is given a rating on a scale of one to 100 in an effort to provide a measure of how well it performs.