HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) has unveiled Solutions That Work, a comprehensive blueprint for change in public education. The program is a far-reaching and fact-based reform plan that includes multi-pronged recommendations grounded in firsthand knowledge and supported by research, including recommendations for all schools, and recommendations that especially focus on struggling schools.
“Solutions That Work is not just a list of ideas,” said James P. Testerman, PSEA president. “It is a campaign to rewrite the book on education. This summer, we will share our ideas with policymakers and community partners, and we invite educators, families, and others to get involved, learn more, and share their thoughts online at www.SolutionsThatWorkPA.org.”
PSEA’s recommendations to create a culture of excellence in all schools include:
- Streamline dismissal procedures for teachers and principals. To ensure ongoing excellence for all students, there must be efficient, fair, and objective procedures in place for removing teachers and principals who fail to meet performance standards.
- Reinvent the teacher and principal evaluation system to support high standards and promote great teaching. Create a more effective process that includes a set of challenging standards to define appropriate practice; multiple objective measures of performance; and investments to support the time and training necessary for meaningful evaluation.
“Public education is facing a tidal wave of policy proposals in states across the nation,” said Testerman. “In Pennsylvania, PSEA is saying ‘yes’ to change that works. Members of PSEA devote more than 150 million hours in the classroom each year, and we have a 150-year history in Pennsylvania classrooms. PSEA members have demonstrated that we have Solutions That Work.”
“Far too often, those working on the front lines educating our students have not had a voice in designing and implementing comprehensive school improvements,” Testerman said. “We want to be part of the solution and offer ideas, and that is why we now have released Solutions That Work.”
PSEA’s Solutions That Work also includes a special focus on struggling schools that PSEA believes should be priorities for policymakers.
“Over the last few months, there has been a lot of attention given to a small number of schools that are struggling to help students achieve. In light of expected budget shortfalls, we believe the state’s limited resources must be focused on solutions for such struggling schools, while ensuring high expectations for all students,” Testerman said. “We must also create safe and secure environments for teaching and learning. These are responsibilities shared by all of us.”
The recommendations that focus on those schools that are struggling to help students achieve include:
- Invest in early childhood education. Proven economic and social benefits clearly outweigh upfront costs. Supporting high-quality pre-K programs is critical.
- Promote and encourage parents, families, and communities to be actively involved and engaged in their public schools. It has been shown that when entire communities take responsibility for their schools, students earn higher grades, score higher on standardized tests, stay in school longer, and enroll in more challenging coursework.
- Provide additional learning time for students who are not proficient. Under the right conditions, extended academic learning time has a positive impact on student achievement especially in schools that serve low-performing students. Regardless of the length of the student day or year, there are many ways to maximize academic learning time.
- Require site-based decision making for schools where students are struggling to succeed. No one solution will fit the unique needs of each struggling school. However, strong leadership teams implemented at the school and composed of those who best know the students is a concept that will work.
- Ensure that school buildings are clean and safe. Students need schools that are clean and safe to be able to learn and achieve high standards. Alternative placements for disruptive and potentially violent students should be available to foster their own success and that of their classmates.
More information about how PSEA is rewriting the book on education in the Commonwealth is available at www.SolutionsThatWorkPA.org.
Testerman is a science teacher in the Central York School District. A state affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 191,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.