On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, spoke at the 50th Anniversary conference of the Keystone State Reading Association. He opened the session by thanking the teachers in attendance for their work with children. Then he reiterated how thankful he was that teacher made a difference in the lives of students every day. Moreover, he acknowledged that these times in education are “interesting.”
He shared that Governor Wolf and the department are working hard to make positive changes to education in PA. He encouraged teachers to become more informed and educated about the impact they were having across the state and that they were making a difference in various department initiatives.
His current work at PDE has been focusing on the overemphasis in Pennsylvania on testing. Additionally, he shared that PDE is looking to change how teachers, school districts, and students are evaluated by one high-stakes test: being reduced to a number.
The governor and Secretary Rivera have reduced testing time by 20% in grades 4th through 8th grades. Testing is reduced by 25% in 3rd grade. Two full instructional days have been given back to teachers. They are working to give the test in 2018-2019 as late as possible, to better align with the curriculum taught across the whole year. Finally, they are working to getting results back to districts before school starts, so the data can guide instruction.
Currently, the PSSA comprises 60-90% of a teacher’s evaluation. This implies that testing matters over everything else. Governor Wolf has engaged in meaningful conversations with stakeholders across the state to move away from the performance profile to Future Ready PA which counts the test only 30-40%.
The state is looking at on track factors. There are certain skills that are research-aligned to show positive academic outcomes, improve graduation rates, and higher attendance. Reading on grade level in third grade is one of those factors. The state would like the PSSA to provide authentic data to inform teachers of this information.
The state will also focus on career and college ready goals that will help students make a more successful transition to life after PK-12 education. PA is the only state in the country that provides students in elementary schools with opportunities to explore career and college information. Giving students college awareness and hands-on career exploration experiences will allow them to start a conversation about what they want to be when they grow up. This will lead to middle schoolers taking interest inventories and having high schoolers participate in career pathways.
PA’s plan can be found here: http://www.education.pa.gov/K-12/ESSA/Pages/default.aspx#tab-1
He ended the session by asking teachers to feel great about the differences they are making one day at a time. Teachers make more of a difference on Monday than others can do in an entire week.