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PA Launches Long-Awaited School Assessment Site

HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) -- The state Department of Education has launched a new online index that'll aggregate statistics on public and charter schools for parents, teachers, and students.

Unlike the old school assessment site, this one intentionally steers clear of ranking schools against one another.

The Future Ready PA Index has been a long time coming.

State officials started working on it more than a year ago as part of a plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which took effect under President Obama.

In a major change, schools will no longer get a number grade. Deputy Education Secretary Matt Stem said the new approach tries to express more nuance by measuring more than just test scores.

New criteria include proficiency in different subject areas and career readiness.

"You could have a school that scores, you know, a 95 on their scale, but they could at the same time have one of their sub-group of students that's performing 30, 40, 50 points or more lower," Stem said.

"What we hope will happen," he added, "is that everyone who goes onto the website is going to have a much better understanding of what's happening with students and learning at a given school than they would have had in the past."

Some critics--including an independent panel of education policy experts--have said the new plan for holding low-performing schools accountable is too vague.

Stem said more information is coming in the next few weeks on which schools will be labeled as low-performing, and how the improvement process will work.