The Every Student Succeeds Act in Pennsylvania: Recommendations From Stakeholder Work Groups and Associated Research

Mariann Lemke
Katelyn Lee
David English
Jeremy Rasmussen
Ellen Sherratt

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), requires that states develop and submit a State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education; states have the option of expanding these plans to address other important areas of federal education policy.

To ensure a solid foundation for State Plan development and further stakeholder engagement, the Pennsylvania Department of Education convened four work groups that explored components of the new law: assessment, accountability, educator preparation, and educator evaluation; AIR was asked to independently summarize the work groups’ recommendations and relevant state policy and research.

Key Recommendations


  • Reduce ESSA-required, statewide testing time for all students.
  • Conduct a study to determine the feasibility of administering assessments at multiple points in time to better inform instruction.
  • Utilize a standards-aligned, state-required multiple choice-only assessment to meet ESSA requirements.


  • Start an accountability system with a student-centered approach which considers the whole student experience including academics, physical, and cultural environment and supports.
  • Base the system on an array of indicators of student experiences and growth toward college and career readiness, appropriately selected and weighted to serve different purposes, including identifying schools for ESSA supports, intervention, and recognition; timely reporting of meaningful information to schools, policymakers, and communities; and setting statewide, school, and community goals and interim targets.
  • Enable system-wide continuous and sustainable improvement by providing transparent, timely, and meaningful feedback to all stakeholders.

Educator Preparation

  • Promote and increase opportunities to recruit, retain, and ensure a diverse, talented, and supported educator workforce.
  • Define effective teachers as those who strive to engage all students in learning, demonstrate instructional and subject matter competence, and continuously grow and improve.
  • Promote and support collaborative in-field, practical experiences as a crucial component of educator preparation.
  • Promote and increase opportunities to recruit, retain, and support diverse and talented school leaders.

Educator Preparation

  • Revise the overall components of the professional evaluation systems to reflect the following provisions that support teacher quality and student achievement: 80% professional practice (observation) and 20% student measures.
  • Ensure that LEAs implement Pennsylvania’s educator evaluation system using a differentiated and collaborative process which promotes educator growth.