HARRISBURG (April 22, 2015) –Schools that consistently under-perform will be given additional tools to help their students succeed, under a bill sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster).
“Pennsylvania spends nearly $1.3 billion of taxpayer dollars on schools that consistently produce dismal results,” Smucker said. “We need to support these schools and their students, to ensure that they can turn themselves around, before these children fall further and further behind.”
Known as The Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act, Smucker’s bill will give school districts additional tools to lead turnaround efforts in schools with a consistent track record of poor academic achievement. At the discretion of local school boards, districts may plan and adopt turnaround models for school improvement or contract with outside educational providers to deliver services.
Schools that continue to remain in the lowest-performing tier could be transferred to a new entity called the Achievement School District (ASD). The ASD will be led by an executive director who reports to a board comprised of appointees named by the Governor and leaders in the House and Senate. The ASD will be responsible for managing the school directly or contracting with other educational organizations to help close the achievement gap.
The bill also makes it easier to close low-performing charter schools, allowing the ASD to close the lowest-performing charters without appeal to the Charter School Appeal Board. The ASD would also be empowered to convert a building to a charter school or authorize new schools to serve families living in neighborhoods with schools in the bottom one percent.
Protections are included to ensure that schools already in the process of a turnaround or schools that serve a specialized student population would not be eligible for transfer to the ASD.
“The experience of other forward-thinking states demonstrates that a concerted effort can rescue students in schools with the largest achievement gaps,” Smucker said. “If we demand quality in these schools, they can be turned around.”
Five states, including Massachusetts and Tennessee, have already created similar entities, and two more are considering legislation this session.
“The idea is catching on because taxpayers are demanding a better return on their investment, and families trapped in consistently low-performing schools are desperate for better options,” Smucker stated. “These measures will encourage many schools to create more effective programs and ultimately address their need to improve.”