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Ligonier Valley holds steady at No. 21 among Western PA schools

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

Ligonier Valley School District remained at No. 21 in the Pittsburgh Business Times' overall ranking of 104 Western Pennsylvania public school districts, released recently.

The list is based on the last three years of district scores on standardized tests, part of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA. The most weight is given to the most recent round of test scores.

“Although we went down in a few areas, our overall net gain was really incredible,” Superintendent Chris Oldham said.

Most notable was a 48-point gain by R.K. Mellon Elementary third-graders, making No. 64 out of 315 schools. Laurel Valley Elementary School third-graders also gained 21 points, putting them at No. 128 this year.

Fourth-graders at both elementary schools also moved up in the ranks. Laurel Valley moved up 18 spots to No. 155, R.K. Mellon moved up from last year's ranking of No. 111 to No. 97, out of 301 schools.

At R.K. Mellon, fifth-graders gained 43 spots, putting them at No. 49. Laurel Valley fell by 11 rungs, ranking in at No. 118 out of 273 schools.

Elementary Principal Ed Moran said the district is working on aligning curriculum to address any areas of weakness, but added that he's proud of the elementary schools' rankings.

Laurel Valley was also recognized as a 2013 Title I school of performing excellence, he noted.

Ligonier Valley Middle School sixth-graders gained seven spots and ranked No. 17 out of 198 schools.

Seventh- and eighth-graders lost ground, however.

Seventh-graders fell by eight spots, which brought them down to No. 48 out of 150 schools. Eighth-graders moved down to No. 13, from No. 8, out of 149 schools.

“I mean, who doesn't want to be No. 1?” asked Dave Steimer, principal at Ligonier Middle School.

“But right now we're putting a lot of focus on literacy in all interest areas to prepare for the changes coming to state testing after next year,” he said.

Ligonier Valley High School's 11th-grade scores fell by one slot, making it No. 20 out of 124 schools.

“Anytime you're in the top 20 of any ranking is a great accomplishment,” said Tim Kantor, principal at Ligonier Valley.

“We're proud of the teachers, students and parents for their support.”

The Pittsburgh Business Times also ranks districts based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students who attend schools in the district.

Ligonier Valley's student population is 39.1 percent economically disadvantaged.

In these “overachiever” ranks, Ligonier Valley moved up two spots to No. 4 out of 105 districts.

In addition, the high school received its second consecutive silver medal from U.S. News and World Report, which ranked 21,000 high schools nationwide.

In magazine's list, Ligonier was ranked 51 out of 687 schools statewide and 1,756 nationwide.