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East Allegheny makes the grade with test results

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 7:30 a.m.

East Allegheny High School will not be on the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Department of Education “low-achieving” list.

East Allegheny officials made public a “Dear Superintendent” letter dated Monday from Deputy Education Secretary Carolyn C. Dumaresq.

“Based upon combined math and reading scores on (2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests), schools in your district have been removed from the low-achieving classification,” Dumaresq wrote.

East Allegheny High School was reported “Making Progress in School Improvement 2” in the April 2012 PSSAs.

“We are very happy that we achieved success in our math and reading scores,” Superintendent Roger A. D'Emidio said. “We will continue to work hard to make further progress.”

Logan Middle and Green Valley Primary schools dropped from AYP or Adequate Yearly Progress to “Warning” status, but D'Emidio's office said neither dropped onto the “low-achieving” list for 2013-14.

PDE declined comment.

“We plan to post the list early next week,” department spokesman Tim Eller said.

Dumaresq sent a form letter that did not mention any schools by name. She did write why the list of the bottom 15 percent, or “low-achieving” schools is significant.

“Act 85 of 2012 created the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which permits eligible students residing within the boundaries of a low-achieving school, which is defined by the law, to attend a participating public or nonpublic school of their choice,” Dumaresq wrote.

She did not write to all “low-achieving” districts.

“We did not go through the appeal process so, no, we did not receive the letter,” Clairton City district spokesperson Alexis Trubiani said.

Clairton elementary and high schools were listed as “low-achieving,” even though the high school made AYP in April 2011. The high school dropped to “Warning” while the elementary school slipped from “Warning” to “School Improvement 1” in April 2012.

Under PDE guidelines, “Warning” can be overcome quickly, otherwise a district may fall into “School Improvement 1” and “School Improvement 2” categories, respectively, two and three years away from AYP.

“However, until the governor's budget cuts we made AYP and showed growth consistently,” Trubiani said. “We disagree with the whole concept of labeling a school low performing because it's based on one set of tests given one time, and does not take into account AYP or growth.”

McKeesport Area High, Francis McClure Intermediate and Centennial and George Washington elementary schools were labeled “low-achieving.”

GW went from “Warning” to AYP in 2012.

McClure went from “Warning” to “School Improvement 1,” Centennial from “School Improvement 2” to “Corrective Action 1,” and the high school is in its sixth year in “Corrective Action 2.”

In “Corrective Action 1,” changes may be needed in curriculum, leadership or professional development. In “Corrective Action 2” an entity may face reconstitution, chartering or privatization.

McKeesport Area also did not get a letter but does not believe its elementary schools will be impacted by Act 85 grants.

“(McKeesport Area School District) is proud of the dramatic gains that were made in the PSSA reading and math scores at the high school as well as our continuous gains in elementary student performance,” spokeswoman Kristen Giran said. “Due to the change in our elementary alignment for the 2013-14 school year, the students of McKeesport Area will continue to have enhanced academic opportunities within our new state-of-the-art complexes.”

A Duquesne City School District spokeswoman said that district did not receive any word from PDE. Duquesne Elementary, which was on the 2012-13 “low-achieving” list, went from “Corrective Action 1” in 2011 to “Corrective Action 2” status in 2012.

Two districts did not respond to inquiries:

• Steel Valley, where senior high and Barrett Elementary schools are on the list. The high school went from “Corrective Action 1” to “Corrective Action 2.” Barrett had “low-achieving” status even with AYP in 2011 and dropped to “Warning” in 2012.

• Woodland Hills, where senior and junior high and Dickson, Edgewood, Fairless and Wilkins elementary schools were on the list.

Edgewood was “low-achieving” even with AYP in 2011 and shifted to “Warning” in 2012.

The high school is listed as “Making Progress in Corrective Action 2” after five years. The junior high school went from “School Improvement 2” to “Corrective Action 1.”

Wilkins went from “Warning” to “School Improvement 1,” Dickson and Fairless each went from “School Improvement 1” to “School Improvement 2.”

What Dumaresq termed “a participating public or nonpublic school of their choice” is on a list that would be eligible for Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit funds much the same way Educational Improvement Tax Credits benefit any nonpublic school.

The OSTC list in 2012-13 included Praise Christian Academy in North Versailles Township; St. Elizabeth in Whitehall; Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport; St. Agnes, Walnut Grove Christian and Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin; St. Therese in Munhall; Virtuous Academy in Duquesne; Excel Christian Academy in Irwin; and JB's Bright Beginnings-Kindergarten and Queen of Angels in North Huntingdon Township.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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