Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Pennsylvania is identifying its poorest performing public schools, for the first time, in an effort to comply with new federal requirements and begin a revamped way of addressing low academic achievement.
The names of the 92 "priority" schools are set to be released Tuesday in an effort to comply with the commonwealth's federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind education law. Under new requirements, as many as 10 state contractors called academic recovery liaisons will be hired to assist priority schools.
The priority schools are in the state's lowest-performing five percent. They all receive federal funding due to their high population of low-income students. Their priority status is based on low math and reading test scores, state education officials said.
The so-called academic recovery liaisons will do a kind of educational triage - evaluating schools methodically to see why they're struggling.
Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said the liaisons will have to figure out whether a school is struggling because of a curriculum out of sync with state requirements, out of date textbooks, ill-prepared instructors, or an ineffective teaching method.
"It's a tiered system of support that takes people down through what to check off first and that's important that we can get out there now," Dumaresq said, "because you don't want to waste a whole other school year in looking at that."
In the past, Dumaresq said, struggling schools didn't receive the same kind of targeted attention. Instead, they were asked to come up with an improvement plan that was too general to be effective.
The state has set aside about $800,000 in federal funding to pay for the new contractors. They'll be assigned to assist potentially multiple school districts in a geographical region. Dumaresq said she hopes the liaisons will be hired in November.
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