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Hempfield Area scores big on Keystone Exams

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Hempfield Area High School received high marks on state assessment tests in algebra, reading and science, according to data released by the state Department of Education.

Superintendent Andrew Leopold said the state scores give bragging rights in Westmoreland County to the school district.

“The high school is making strides,” Leopold said. “We were best in the county.”

The school district scored a 93.1 out of 100 on the tests, exceeding neighboring Franklin Regional, a district that includes Murrysville and Export, and Penn-Trafford, a district encompassing Penn Township and Trafford Borough, according to the state figures.

Hempfield school students scored 82 out of 100 on math; nearly 90 in reading; and nearly 58 in biology, according to the reports.

Penn-Trafford School District scored 90.1, followed by Franklin Regional with 89.2, according to the state.

The new assessment test, known as the Keystone Exams, is part of a statewide system designed to test students at the conclusion of specific subjects.

In this case, students were tested in algebra, reading and biology. The scores are used to serve as a guide for improvement and to determine eligibility for federal funding.

“The new Keystone Exams give administrators a more holistic approach toward assessing student achievement,” Leopold said. “The PSSAs are still part of the calculation for a district's performance but the results from the Keystones indicate the achievements are pretty strong. The PSSAs are not a curriculum-based assessment and that requires teachers to teach for the test.

“We've always believed rigorous curriculum will take care of test scores. We believe we're testing what we believe we need to be teaching,” Leopold said.

The tests were conducted during the 2012-13 school year.

Starting in 2016, the tests will be used to determine if a student graduates from high school.

Students who fail to meet certain standards in three subject areas can still graduate if they meet their district's graduation requirements and the district superintendent approves.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or