Ligonier Valley wary as state revises marks for cyber schools
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Recalculated figures used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress for charter schools in Pennsylvania show that less than 30 percent of charter schools met that standard. No cyber schools met the requirement.
The recalculations were ordered by the U.S. Department of Education because the state education department last fall used a less stringent standard for charter schools than that used for traditional public schools.
Under either standard, none of the seven charter or cyber schools attended by students living within Ligonier Valley School District made adequate progress last year, according to state statistics.
Ligonier Valley School District schools have made adequate yearly progress for the last four years.
“This is a travesty, especially considering the tremendous financial burden placed on school districts, to say nothing of the burden that will perpetually be placed on taxpayers due to cyber charter students' inability to secure decent jobs and be contributing members of society,” Ligonier school board member Irma Hutchinson said.
Ligonier officials have publicly criticized cyber charter schools since an exodus of more than 100 students when the school board closed Laurel Valley Middle/High School in 2010.
“I think there's a little too much reliance on (yearly progress) as the only measure of a quality school,” said Tim Eller, spokesman for the state education department. “It's only one measure of a quality education. It would be nice if parents, community members and the media would look at other measures like graduation rate, attendance rate and PVAAS.”
The Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System is standardized testing data that looks at progress of individual students as they move between grades.
Achievement House Cyber Charter School officials said Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests are skewed against cyber schools.
“We're getting kids that are already in failing situations. In our case, we often have seven, eight, nine, 10 years of undoing” a lack of progress in traditional schools, Achievement House spokeswoman Lynn Rodden said. “We see, across the board, the longer students stay in cyber school, the better they do. But we're being judged on something that was never fair.”
Rodden said cyber school advocates continually ask legislators to come up with a better way to assess the quality of education in cyber and charter schools, such as placing a heavier weight on value-added assessments.
“We know the only way to assess is by testing students, but we can do a better job and look at students individually, especially if they're coming to our school several grades behind,” she said.
Rodden said the school has made enormous strides and officials hope to improve next year's assessment on yearly progress.
“I hate to say we're looking forward to the PSSAs. The kids probably aren't, but we are because we think we're headed in the right direction,” she said.
Rodden said the school has improved technology and is assessing students in the beginning and middle of the school years.
“These benchmark tests allow us to make curriculum adjustments where we need to improve,” Rodden said.
The revised calculations for charter schools will be posted by the end of February on the state education department's website, along with the earlier assessment numbers, Eller said.
Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.