Pennsylvania’s Plan for Education Reform
Every student deserves a great teacher and access to excellent schools. We must pass common sense education reforms that will save Pennsylvania's great teachers and will empower Pennsylvania's parents with real school choices.
Fair and Robust Evaluations
At least 50% of teachers' and principals' evaluations will be based on how much academic progress their students make.
Focusing on teacher quality does not mean we believe teachers are the problem. They are the most powerful part of the solution. An effective teacher is the most important ingredient to a student's success. Because of this, fair and robust evaluations are critical.
Senate Bill 1087 will implement a fair evaluation system that is neither arbitrary nor solely driven by test scores.
Beginning in 2013, 50% of a teacher's evaluation will be based on student progress and 50% will be based on multiple assessments of the educator's teaching methods. For principal and administrator evaluations, 50% will be based on how well the whole student body progresses, and the rest will address how well administrators utilize existing resources and staff to support students' academic success.
When teacher layoffs are necessary, the best teachers will get to stay. Our children deserve a great teacher in every classroom.
This year, Pennsylvania lost over a thousand teachers to layoffs, and because of the way the layoffs were conducted, students lost great teachers. Currently, layoffs are based on seniority, an outdated and bureaucratic practice known as "last in, first out" (LIFO). LIFO means that the last teacher hired has to be the first teacher fired, regardless of teacher effectiveness. This harms students and teachers in three ways:
- Research indicates that when districts with LIFO conduct layoffs, they end up firing some of their most highly effective educators.
- LIFO policies increase the number of teachers that districts have to lay off. Because junior teachers make less money, districts have to lay off more of them in order to fill their budget gaps.
- LIFO disproportionately and negatively impacts the highest need schools. These schools have larger numbers of new teachers, who are the first to lose their jobs in a layoff.
SB 612 will require school districts to base layoffs primarily on performance of teachers.
Parents should have quality information and multiple options so they can choose the best school for their child.
All parents regardless of income should have high-quality schools to choose from including high-quality traditional public schools, district-run magnets, charter schools, private schools, or even virtual schools.
Among the biggest barriers to increasing high quality school options are operational regulations. While new school providers must agree to transparency of academic results, there should be no arbitrary limits on the number of schools that can offer high quality public education choices to parents. There should also not be limits on their school governance and management that would infringe on their ability to operate as autonomous and innovative schools. In the specific case of public charter schools, states must provide authorization processes that do not hold schools hostage to district politics.
Senate Bill 904 would facilitate the creation and continued operation of Pennsylvania's charter and cyber charter schools. The Opportunity Scholarship program will provide tuition assistance to low-income students stuck in failing schools to allow them to attend a school that will better meet their needs.