Education secretary Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq did her best to educate reporters in Harrisburg about a new evaluation system Wednesday.
Dumaresq had a mock website and demonstrated how the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile will work.
The state has lots of data about every public school - demographics, safety reports, special education statistics and academic achievement - and will soon put it all online, in one place, for all to see.
"I think it's very transparent," Dumaresq said after the briefing. "You'll be able to find good information about your public schools, whether they be traditional brick and mortars, charters or cyber charters, and know strengths and weaknesses and make good decisions about your child."
As per new law, teachers and principals in every school will be evaluated in the system.
A spokesman for the statewide teachers union sat in on the briefing and said he worries that teachers won't be evaluated fairly, and important factors won't be considered.
"Whether the teacher has 20 students or 35," said Wythe Keever of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. "Whether the teacher has a teacher aide or not. Whether the teacher has adequate training and prep time."
Since the topic is websites, Keever directs parents and taxpayers to PSEA's, which shows budget cuts by district, and per pupil, under Governor Tom Corbett.
"That impacts on teaching and learning conditions," Keever said. "Disproportionately, there have been deeper cuts in the poorest school districts, the school districts serving the kids with the greatest needs."
Dumaresq said the state will not fire low scoring teachers or principals. She said that's up to local districts to decide. The Department of Education will merely provide the information.
But the state will intervene to help the lowest performing schools.
"This will show particular issues that may need improvement," Dumaresq said. "It could be third-grade reading or sixth-grade math, and it will direct resources for that school district to say let's look at those particular issues."
The performance profile website goes online September 30. Dumaresq said it will be a valuable tool for parents moving into Pennsylvania and deciding where to locate. She also hopes it fosters healthy competition.
"What I hope to have happen is that school districts, if they have an area of weakness, they can look nearby at another school that has a strength and contact that superintendent and say, "what materials are you using? What strategy are you using? How can I learn from that?" she said.
An Education Department spokesman said the new program cost $2.2 million to develop for the first three years and will cost $850,000 a year to maintain thereafter.