Earlier today, Governor Corbett outlined his 2014-15 budget priorities. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) press release, the Governor’s plan includes the Expanding Excellence Program. If enacted and funded, this initiative would “provide competitive funding to schools that have attained a 90 or higher on the School Performance Profile and are willing to analyze and share best practices that have proven to raise student achievement. Grant recipients will be responsible for supporting schools across the state that strive to replicate these strategies and techniques.”
What does this mean for the schools and students this program may affect? Click here to find out.Read More
Debates on charter school reform are annual occurrences in Harrisburg. This year, amid a number of proposed changes in charter school regulation and oversight, Senate Bill 1085 adds a new element with especially far-reaching implications: allowing higher education institutions to authorize new charter schools.
In its latest Policy Note, Research for Action examines how this provision of Senate Bill 1085 compares with policy and practice in other states. Currently, 12 states permit higher education authorizers, with the number of active authorizers ranging from one to 11 institutions. If Pennsylvania lawmakers adopt Senate Bill 1085 as currently drafted, the Commonwealth could have as many as 100 higher education authorizers. Research provides no evidence that this change will result in stronger student outcomes.
The attached brief provides a review of existing research, an overview of higher education charter authorizers nationwide and in neighboring states, and answers to frequently-asked-questions.Read More
In education policy discussions, there is little disagreement that teachers matter. When the conversation shifts to measuring teacher performance, however, consensus is harder to find.
Despite the lack of definitive research on how best to assess teachers, officials in states across the nation have relied on classroom observation data and complex statistical models designed to quantify a teacher’s impact on student achievement.
Pennsylvania’s approach to teacher evaluation is now defined and applicable to every school building in the state. It includes multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, including classroom observations, building-level student performance and attendance data, and data selected by schools from a list of possible measurement options.
The system also includes value-added measures (VAM), a particular point of contention in policy debates. When used to evaluate teachers, VAM leverages a student’s previous assessment scores to predict their performance on future assessments. Many have expressed concern about relying on high-stakes student testing to assess teacher effectiveness.
RFA’s latest issue brief details some of the factors leading to the development of teacher evaluation systems statewide and in Pittsburgh, along with research and policy considerations facing officials and stakeholders. It builds on an earlier brief on this issue released in September 2011 when the Pennsylvania Department of Education was piloting its system in one in five public schools across the state.Read More
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is currently considering applications that could expand the number of cyber charter schools statewide by 40 percent. In the General Assembly, at least 12 proposals are pending on cyber charter authorization, funding or oversight.
To inform these discussions, RFA used the state’s recently-issued School Performance Profile (SPP) scores to examine the performance of 11 cyber charter schools for which complete data are available. We compared these scores to all public schools statewide (both traditional public schools and brick-and-mortar charters) and looked at student mobility rates using enrollment and demographic data from the five cyber charters with publicly-available data.
Our analysis found that the performance of the cyber charter sector lags behind both traditional public schools and brick-and-mortar charters in SPP scores. Additionally, mobility rates of cyber charter students are significantly higher than for brick-and-mortar charters in almost all cases.
While the small sample sizes for schools with complete data limit the reach of our analysis, this is an important step in understanding a fast-growing sector and the implications for education policy and practice in the Commonwealth.
Click here to read the full brief.
- An op-ed in the Sunday edition of the Harrisburg Patriot-News
- An article in the Pocono Record
- An editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News
- An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer
“Meet me in St. Louis” may be a refrain from a classic musical show tune of the 1940s, but it’s also precisely what RFA’s executive director, Kate Shaw, heard when she learned that she had won a major national award from the Association of the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Shaw was presented with the first-ever Excellence in Public Policy in Higher Education award on November 13 at ASHE’s national conference in St. Louis. The award recognizes an individual who “contributes excellent work at the nexus of academic scholarship and policy practice in the field of public policy and higher education.”