Pennsylvania’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan Receives Final Approval

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that Pennsylvania’s federally-required replacement to No Child Left Behind was approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Pennsylvania’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan is the state’s most comprehensive federal education blueprint since 2002.

“Today’s approval serves as a historic moment for public education in the commonwealth,” Governor Wolf said. “Pennsylvania is committed to ensuring that all students have access to an equitable, high-quality, well-rounded education, and our ESSA plan greatly enhances that mission.”

The plan sets goals for closing, and ultimately eliminating, achievement gaps; increases attention to student growth in school accountability and improvement efforts; and commits to a full, fair and transparent presentation of school success based on a more comprehensive set of measures.

John H. Eichelberger, the chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, and David Hickernell, chairman of the state House Education Committee, went so far as to deride the plan as a “step backward for this Commonwealth” in a joint statement this past fall. They expressed their disappointment that the Wolf administration did not incorporate any of their suggested changes during the 30-day public comment period prior to the state’s submission in late September.

As an example, a focus on STEM education, and the implementation of a new Career Ready Indicator will highlight school success in career exploration activities, even down to the elementary level.

Additionally, the plan includes the development of the Future Ready PA Index, a new, public-facing school progress report that expands the indicators used to measure school performance, and extends the comprehensive approach to ensuring student and school success.

The Index will place additional emphasis on academic growth, a robust chronic absenteeism measure, attention to both four-year and extended-year graduation rates, and assessments of postsecondary readiness.

“Pennsylvania’s plan reflects our guiding principles of transparency, equity, and innovation, and provides new flexibility to schools as they prepare students for success after graduation,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “We are particularly proud of the extensive stakeholder engagement efforts undertaken during the planning process, which ensures that the plan aligns with the needs and priorities of Pennsylvania’s educators, students, and communities.”

Pennsylvania’s ESSA Consolidated State Plan was submitted to USDE on September 18, 2017, after an extensive stakeholder engagement process.

To develop the plan, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE):

• Assembled four work groups – comprised of teachers, charter school and district level administrators, advocates, civil rights leaders, former policymakers from both parties, and others – to study key aspects of the law and develop framework recommendations;

• Commissioned an independent study to examine workgroup recommendations in the context of academic literature and other evidence;

• Testified before the House and Senate Education committees and worked with lawmakers to address plan components;

• Held six dedicated town halls in regions across the Commonwealth to gather additional stakeholder feedback;

• Participated in approximately 30 statewide conferences, professional association meetings, and parent forums to reach more than 2,000 Pennsylvanians and present on the state’s ESSA planning and early implementation;

• Consulted with national nonpartisan policy and technical experts (American Institutes for Research, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States) to solicit additional insight, feedback, and suggestions for specific plan components; and

• Presented the plan for public comment in English and Spanish for a 30-day period, during which time PDE received more than 400 comments and suggestions.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, or to read the approved ESSA Consolidated State Plan, visit the Department of Education’s website at or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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