New Castle News


September 19, 2013

Our Opinion: State to unveil new system for measuring school success

NEW CASTLE — Get ready for a new way to gauge the success of your local schools.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced this week that, starting Sept. 30, it will begin posting online grades for individual school buildings in the commonwealth. Also covered in the information will be technical schools as well as cyber and charter schools.

The new system is designed to replace the adequate yearly progress designation that was based on standardized test scores for reading and math. This method is being abandoned in light of Pennsylvania receiving a waiver from the federal government under the No Child Left Behind law.

While standardized tests still will make up a signification portion of the new grading system — about 40 percent — other factors will be included in the measurements, such as the rate of progress in educational improvements for individual buildings and graduation rates for high schools. Ultimately, teacher and principal evaluations will be added to the mix.

If you are puzzled by the seemingly constant changes in the way student progress is measured in Pennsylvania, you’re not alone. It’s the result of public and political pressure that seeks to determine of schools are up to the educational tasks assigned to them.

But the reality is you can’t measure student achievement in the same way you can measure the lengths of two football fields. A variety of factors go into determining the success of an educational program, and some assessments are admittedly subjective.

However, common sense would suggest that the broader measurements being used in the new system announced by the state will provide a more nuanced picture than those produced through AYP. Whether they make a difference in helping parents and taxpayers track educational success and schools to decide if they are on the right track remains to be seen.

Just because measurements cite poor performance, that information does not necessarily provide a road map for taking corrective action.

Nevertheless, we expect the new grading system to receive considerable public attention, and well it should. It is difficult to overstate the value of a solid education in the modern world. Young people need a variety of skills in order to prepare themselves for their lives and careers. A solid educational background is crucial.

And it’s always worth noting that a solid work ethic on the part of students plays a decisive role in the educational process. A major duty of educators and parents is to make certain students perform at the highest level possible.

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