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Duquesne student progress reported

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 7:03 a.m.

Duquesne City School District constituents had a chance on Tuesday to hear what's happening in all of the schools their youngsters attend.

“Our scores are slowly showing improvement,” Duquesne Education Center principal Sharon McIntosh said during the district's first receiver business meeting. She tied it to a decrease in disruptive behavior.

“Our students are behaving in class because they are learning in class,” she said.

“We are looking at our systemic challenges,” acting Superintendent Paul Rach said as he updated the effort to develop a comprehensive school improvement plan.

Rach said the plan should be ready for public review in the next four to six weeks. A final plan then would go to the state Department of Education and serve the district “for the next year or so,” Rach said.

District court-appointed receiver Paul B. Long said his long-range goal remains to provide “improved, quality education for Duquesne students” and “stable and sustainable finances.”

The first scenario in his recovery plan is to maintain a school in Duquesne.

He still is trying to implement the second option, a voluntary transfer of elementary students to another district for the 2014-15 school year.

The third scenario is a mandated transfer. Long said he was not aware of any pending legislation.

“We are monitoring what is happening in the General Assembly,” he said at the meeting. “For instance, charter school reform is being considered right now.”

Former school director Connie Lucas would like to bring a charter school to Duquesne.

She said no hearing has been scheduled by the state Charter School Appeal Board for a plan ignored by the old Duquesne Board of Control.

A mandated transfer to West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny schools continues for students in grades 7-12.

East Allegheny High School principal Donald MacFann said transfers “are not seen as Duquesne students, but as East Allegheny students who reside in Duquesne.”

He talked about programs ranging from cyber education to three-hour after-school programs, all “to help prepare your children, our students” for post-secondary education “and the 21st century workforce.”

MacFann said the highest Pennsylvania System of School Assessment score at East Allegheny in 2011 was by a student who lives in Duquesne.

West Mifflin Area High School principal Philip Woods said his 137 students from Duquesne include two with perfect attendance in 2011-12 and three so far in 2012-13, both slightly better percentages than for the overall student population.

He said 23 students from Duquesne are in honors classes, up from 20 last year; 30 are in college-bound classes compared to 29 last year; nine are in Air Force JROTC compared to 10 last year; and there are 32 student athletes from Duquesne compared to 38 last year.

No Duquesne students are in the West Mifflin Area High School band, but Woods said that's because the band process begins in middle school.

Duquesne students now are being transferred there for grades 7-8 and principal Brian Plichta said 10 from Duquesne are in the band and four are in the chorus and orchestra.

Lucas questioned when Duquesne student scores would be included in the overall PSSA/Keystone Exams scores for the two districts.

Woods reiterated what Superintendent Daniel Castagna recently reported, that Duquesne scores would have boosted the overall PSSA scores for West Mifflin Area.

Long said the state Department of Education set the policy that keeps Duquesne scores separate from other scores in the annual state achievement tests.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or