One third of Alle-Kiski Valley schools fail to make grade on tests
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 12:21 a.m.
Editor's note: A further examination of the state assessment test results will appear Sunday. It will include the scores for all schools and grade levels, including scores for science and writing, which are not counted toward the issue of adequate yearly progress (AYP) discussed in this article.
More than a third of Alle-Kiski Valley area schools did not measure up to standards on state assessment tests given earlier this year, according to data released by the state Department of Education.
At least one school in 13 of the Alle-Kiski Valley area's 15 school districts was marked as not making “adequate yearly progress” on the 2011-12 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, which measure student proficiency in math and reading.
Schools are also measured on attendance, graduation rate and test participation.
Out of the 73 schools in which the tests were given in the 15 districts, 25, or about 34 percent, did not make adequate yearly progress.
With two of its three schools not making AYP, Riverview's percentage was the worst at 67 percent.
A representative of Riverview did not return a call for comment.
The Armstrong, Deer Lakes and New Kensington-Arnold school districts saw half their schools not make AYP.
“I'm disappointed with our scores,” said Tom Rocchi, acting superintendent of New Kensington-Arnold.
The district's high school has slipped to “corrective action I,” and is the only area school at that level. At this point, schools are eligible for technical assistance along with escalating consequences, including changes in curriculum, leadership and professional development.
While the district has people examining the scores, Rocchi said he's more interested in seeing students showing growth than meeting what he called arbitrary performance targets.
“I'm going to spend most of my time trying to discover if there was growth,” he said. “If there was no growth or lack of growth, that is what we are going to attack.”
The performance of subgroups of students classified as special education and economically disadvantaged were factors in 19 of the 25 schools not making AYP.
These groups of students are counted when there are at least 40 students in them.
Highlands' Grandview Upper Elementary School did not make AYP because of how special education students performed on math and reading tests.
At Highlands High School, economically disadvantaged students did not do well enough on both tests, while all students did not make AYP in reading.
Highlands School Board President Debbie Beale said the district's special education director has been moved to Grandview and will be able to address matters there; extra measures, including extra staff, are being taken at the high school. These are being paid for with a grant.
“We are going to work on those weak areas that we have,” Beale said. “That's what we're doing as an administration and a board.”
At the district level, all districts made adequate yearly progress except for one — New Kensington-Arnold.
The Leechburg Area and South Butler school districts were the only two districts that made AYP both at the district level and at all of their schools.
Leechburg Junior-Senior High School was one of five schools that improved from not making AYP in 2011 to making it in 2012.
The others are Armstrong's Lenape Elementary, Franklin Regional Senior High School, Highlands Middle School and Plum Senior High School.
Leechburg Junior-Senior High did not make AYP in 2011 because of student performance in math, Superintendent James Budzilek said.
“We were very happy and very pleased with our results. We also understand there's always work to do,” Budzilek said. “Our smaller school size allows for individualized instruction and help as necessary. Sometimes bigger schools, they don't have the ability to do that.”
Armstrong's Elderton Junior-Senior High School, which closed after the last school year, was the only school to not make AYP for not meeting graduation rate requirements. Graduation rate was the only reason the school did not make AYP.
The problem was specific to male students, who had a graduation rate of just 70 percent; 94 percent of female students graduated.
A district representative did not return a call for comment.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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