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Valley's schools fare well on SATs

| Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The 2012 SAT results show that the majority of Alle-Kiski Valley high schools recorded average combined scores above the 1400 mark.

According to the scores released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the region's 19 high schools were led by Fox Chapel Area at 1676 and Franklin Regional with 1603. They were the only two schools to top 1600.

That's probably not surprising given that they are the Valley's two wealthiest school districts and have a track record of doing well on the tests used as one of the factors in college admissions.

For that reason, South Butler Superintendent Dale Lumley was not too disappointed that his district's high school, Knoch, came in third locally, with an average aggregate score of 1541.

“That's pretty good company to keep,” Lumley said. “We're happy that our students do well on the SATs; that's an important test for everybody concerned.

“We really don't do an SAT preparation, per se,” he said. “We feel we have a quality education throughout, and that is what usually leads to a strong showing on the SATs.”

The aggregate scores combine the average scores in the SAT's three component exams — verbal, math and writing — among students who took the test.

Each component test is worth 800 points, which means a perfect SAT score would be 2400.

The numbers of students ranged from a low of 33 at West Shamokin to 307 at Fox Chapel Area.

Allegheny Valley Superintendent Cheryl Griffith also was pleased with how the students at Springdale High School fared, finishing in the top 10 locally with a score of 1484.

That is a jump of 114 points from the district's 2011 average aggregate.

“We have reflected on why that occurred, why we think that occurred,” Griffith said. “It's actually a result of a combination of things. First of all, we work to constantly improve our written, taught and tested program. The staff is becoming more skilled at looking at student information and refining the program to benefit the students.”

She also thinks that more creative approaches to teaching have had a positive effect.

“(Teachers) are applying them to really expand teaching strategies and to give students different opportunities to acquire learning and to demonstrate what they have learned,” she said.

“We are looking to make classes more rigourous, more interdisciplinary and more technology-rich so that students can be prepared to compete to the greatest degree in a more competitive world,” Griffith said.

Only four did not crack the 1400 mark. They are Highlands at 1393, Elderton Junior-Senior High School at 1379, Valley in the New Kensington-Arnold School District with a 1292 average and Lenape Technical School, the only vocational-technical school, at 1277.

“Although the scores are not where we would like them to be, we are moving ahead to get them to improve,” said Pat Graczyk, acting Highlands superintendent.

He said, last year, the district obtained a school improvement grant from the state and is employing data from the value-added information developed by the state. The value-added information is a measurement of each student's academic growth and the district is using that to adjust it's educational program to better help them achieve.

“Usually, we develop a balanced score card and that drives our goals for the year,” Graczyk said. ”While I feel that the scores are not where they should be, we are addressing needs and creating plans of action.”

Graczyk also noted that many Highlands students do not take the test because they opt for career choices that do not require a college degree.

New Kensington-Arnold Superintendent John Pallone found Valley's SAT score to be disconcerting. He noted that, while the high school's aggregate score puts it at right around the state average, it is a decline.

“Our average for the previous four years has been about 150 points higher, so I have to follow up on it and see why,” Pallone said. “It's certainly something that I am going to look into because it is a factor in higher education but it is not the only factor.”

He said, to the best of his knowledge, no student at Valley has been denied admission to college because of SAT scores.

“Raw data like this doesn't necessarily define the student or students who take it,” Pallone said of the 2012 results. “There's got to be some nuance as to why it happened.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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