Great Public Schools Criteria for PennsylvaniaGreat Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.
Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in Pennsylvania.
Readiness to Learn
- Although Pennsylvania does not have a state-funded prekindergarten program, 6 percent of the state's school districts voluntarily provide a preschool education to four-year-olds through a public school program known as Kindergarten for Four-Year-Olds. State law does not consider this program to be a distinct preschool initiative and the program does not require any specific early childhood standards.
- Pennsylvania has taken steps to begin expanding prekindergarten opportunities and providing state funding for preschool. In 2004, the state legislation approved a new Education Accountability Block Grant totaling $200 million, two-thirds of which will be dedicated to improving early childhood programs. Individual school districts determine how to target these funds and can use them for a range of purposes. (NIEER)
- State Policy: A definition of the minimum number of hours for full-day kindergarten is not specified in Pennsylvania state statutes. Districts are not required to offer full-day kindergarten and children are not required to attend. Pennsylvania funds full-day kindergarten at a higher level than half-day kindergarten.
- Definition, District Offering and Pupil Attendance: Pennsylvania defines half-day kindergarten as 2.5 hours per day for 180 days and elementary school as 900 hours per year for 180 days.
(Education Commission of the States [ECS] Kindergarten Database, 2007)
Class Size. Legal Basis: PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 25-2599.2. Enacted 2003.
The state of Pennsylvania offers grants to districts for various allowable uses like the establishment, maintenance or expansion of a class size reduction program. These programs are authorized to appoint or assign a minimum of one teacher for every 17 students or two teachers for every 35 students enrolled in a kindergarten, first, second, or third grade classroom.
Current Average Elementary School Class Size: 22.2
School Safety. The Pennsylvania Department of Education distributes grants for building security, alternative education and violence prevention. On the local level, Quakertown, Pennsylvania, residents agreed to increase property taxes, partially to fund violence prevention programs.
24 P.S. § 25-2595, 24 P.S. § 2-290.1, 24 P.S. § 17-1706-B,
24 P.S. § 17-1716-B
Act 46 of 1998 (1998 Regular Session)
Senate Bill 652 (2000 Regular Session)
Pennsylvania does not reward but it sanctions districts on the basis of performance. State sanctions on districts include written warning, offer of technical assistance and more funding, requirement that either the district or another entity create and implement a plan for improvement, placement on probation, or state take-over of the school district.
Pennsylvania rewards but does not sanction schools on the basis of performance. Rewards to schools are monetary bonuses for both absolute and improved performance.
Districts in Pennsylvania with a high number of low-performing schools are designated as "education empowerment districts." In these districts, an improvement plan is developed. Based on this plan, the local school board may do any of the following interventions:
- Elect to have any school as a charter school.
- Decide to convert any school as an independent school operated under an agreement with the local school board. The governing body of the independent school is to be established by the board of school directors and is to include representatives of parents and teachers. An independent school has the authority to decide all matters related to the operation of the school but will be in accordance with the guidelines set in the improvement plan.
- Employment of professional staff as it pertains to certification.
- Employment of staff from contracted individual or a for-profit or nonprofit organization that will provide educational services.
- Reconstitute a school.
- Reassign, suspend or dismiss a professional employee.
- Supervise and direct principals, teachers, and administrators.
- Rescind without penalty the contract of the superintendent and other administrative personnel entered into after the effective date of this article.
- Reallocate resources, amend school procedures, develop achievement plan, and implement testing or other evaluation procedures for educational purposes.
This policy was enacted as part of the state accountability system that was in place prior to the enactment of NCLB and appears to be unrelated to NCLB’s AYP timeline. [17-1701-B to 17-1716-B]
NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps
The Pennsylvania State Education Association plans to use its NEA Grant to Close Achievement Gaps to convene two PSEA governance committees to develop an action plan based on the recommendations of the 2006 Action Group and provide professional development to PSEA members based on those recommendations. They plan to research and distribute information about locals that have reduced student achievement gaps, and begin discussions with other stakeholders about closing achievement gaps.