HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said he is encouraged by many of the measures included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) approved by Congress this week and believes the commonwealth's students, educators, and schools will benefit from the law.
ESSA replaces the expired Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
"Senator Casey and members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation were instrumental in securing updates to the nation's landmark education law that will allow us to equitably serve the commonwealth," Rivera said. "Many of the measures in the new law mirror the vision the governor has put forth for moving education forward in the commonwealth, including a focus on restoring equity, investing in high quality early childhood education, and reducing the reliance on standardized tests."
Rivera noted that the new federal law also provides the state with more discretion to develop strategies for improving outcomes in Pennsylvania's lowest performing schools.
"Every school and every student is different," Rivera said. "The old cookie cutter approach to improving schools hindered the state and community's ability to implement smart, innovative, and effective strategies tailored to specific schools' needs.
"Governor Wolf and the Department of Education are working to bring Pennsylvania into a new era where zip codes do not dictate success and where every student receives the education he or she needs to be college or career ready, and grow into productive and engaged citizens."
Rivera added that in the current budget framework Governor Tom Wolf secured a historic $350 million increase for basic education to strengthen the state's share of funding, and an additional $60 million to expand access to high quality early childhood education programs, which aligns Pennsylvania with some hallmarks of the ESSA.
Also, the newly-approved federal law lessens the reliance on standardized tests, while maintaining the annual requirement to administer assessments in grades 3 through 8, and in high school.
"The ESSA supports the direction the commonwealth has adopted regarding standardized tests - they can be a useful tool and benchmark, but should not be the sole indicator of success," Rivera said. "A team from PDE has been meeting with stakeholders, including educators, administrators, advocates, lawmakers and parents, around the state for several months to discuss better ways to evaluate schools and students and provide a much more holistic approach to assessing teaching and learning."
Rivera also noted that Senator Bob Casey helped prevent a change in Title One that would have deprived the commonwealth of significant funding.
"As the Department moves forward in implementing policies that will best serve our students, teachers, and communities, input from Pennsylvania's congressional, state, and local leaders is essential," Rivera said. "The underlying goal we all share is securing a quality education for every student in Pennsylvania."
MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Reigelman, PDE, 717.783.9802
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education