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Southmoreland PSSA scores improving

Southmoreland School District students didn't score perfect in every subject in the 2009 PSSA testing but they still have a lot for which to be proud.

Superintendent John Halfhill studied the district's scores in reading and math on every grade level compared to the 500 other districts in the state.

While most of the scores were impressive, the crowning jewel was the seventh-grade math score that placed the district 16th overall in the state.

Halfhill said that 76 percent of all the other school districts in the state are more wealthy than Southmoreland based on the number of students who receive free or reduced lunches.

On the basis of market value and personal income aid ratio, 67 percent of all the districts in the state are relatively more wealthy, he added.

"From these two figures, it's easy to see that we are a relatively poor district and as a general rule, wealthier districts have the ability to generate more local revenues and generally outperform the more poor districts, but our fundamental purpose here is to improve and enhance student achievement, regardless of our economic status," Halfhill said.

In third-grade math, the district's scores placed that grade at number 49, outperforming 90 percent of all the other districts in the state.

But the impressive part is that just the year before, the third-grade math scores placed the district at 221st, outperforming just 56 percent of the other districts.

In fourth-grade math, the scores placed the district at number 132, outperforming 74 percent of the other districts.

These numbers are up from 363rd in the state last year, which had the district outperforming just 27 percent of other schools.

In fifth-grade math, the scores placed the district at 193rd in the state, outperforming 62 percent of the other schools, which was a giant leap from 478th last year, when the district outperformed just 5 percent of other schools.

Sixth-grade math scores also made significant strides rising from 348th in the state last year to 111th in the state this year. Percentage wise, they outperformed just 31 percent of the schools last year. This year that rose to 78 percent.

Seventh-grade math scores were the most impressive of all, placing the district at 16th in the state, outperforming 97 percent of all the other districts in the state.

Eighth-grade math scores also rose dramatically from last year, helping the district go from a 153rd ranking to a 65th ranking.

The 11th-grade math scores were the only ones that saw a decrease, ranking the district at 307th, down from 275th.

"We're working on eleventh grade right now, but these are incredible scores that we're pulling out of this poor, little, rural school district," Halfhill said.

While the district rank in reading scores was not as impressive as those in math scores, Halfhill pointed out that the 2009 scores for each grade, except 11th grade, rose significantly from the scores posted in 2008.

In third-grade reading, the district's rank climbed from 324th in the state to 148th, while fourth-grade reading scores moved the district from 464th to 257th.

In fifth-grade reading, the district climbed from 440th in 2008 to 272nd in 2009. Sixth-grade reading scores placed the district at 273rd in the state -- up from 411th in 2008.

The seventh and eighth-grade scores rose just slightly.

The 11th-grade scores did see a drop, bringing the district's state ranking down from 185th in 2008 to 226th in 2009.

In math, the students' scores in grades fifth, sixth, eighth and 11th did not reach Annual Yearly Progress. The students' reading scores in grades fourth through sixth did reach AYP.

"I really think this is something to celebrate," Halfhill said. "In many instances we are outperforming those who, in conventional wisdom, should be outperforming us."

"We're on the move and we're extremely proud of what we've been able to accomplish within this district," he added.

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