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Propel schools' performance profile scores vary

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

State School Performance Profiles vary widely for the nine Propel charter schools, including seven that draw Mon-Yough area students.

The revised list released last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Education gave an 82.8 to Propel McKeesport and a 78.5 to Propel East in Turtle Creek.

“Their scores have been pretty consistent,” said first-year Propel Superintendent Tina Chekan, who formerly was principal at the McKeesport charter school.

The scores involve a 0-100 scale. The department said last week that 2,181, or nearly 73 percent of the state's public schools, scored 70 or higher.

Propel McKeesport edged out the 80.4 of Propel Montour west of Pittsburgh and both it and East were “comparable with some of the more affluent districts” in Allegheny County, Chekan said.

On the other end of the spectrum is a 58.7 for Propel Homestead, a figure that takes in both an elementary school in Homestead and Andrew Street High School in Munhall.

“There is a lot of room for improvement,” Chekan conceded. “Their PVAAS showed growth in performance.”

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, PVAAS, or Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System, is a statistical analysis of the state assessment data, meant to provide districts and schools with growth data to add to achievement data.

In-between are 61.9 for the Propel school on Pittsburgh's North Side, 62.5 for Propel Braddock Hills (which also is a combined score for elementary and secondary schools) and 65.5 for Propel Pitcairn.

Chekan conceded there is room for improvement for Braddock Hills. Pitcairn was in its first year.

“It was a great starting point,” the Propel superintendent said. “It was a baseline year.”

Propel fell in among scores of 10 Mon-Yough public school districts. Profiles in those districts ranged from 49.3 for Duquesne Elementary School to 94.3 for Gill Hall Elementary School in West Jefferson Hills.

Braddock Hills, East and Pitcairn schools are in communities near or bordering on the East Allegheny district.

Propel East tops all East Allegheny schools but Braddock Hills and Pitcairn each fell in behind Green Valley Primary (76), Logan Middle (70.8) and East Allegheny High (67.7).

Nonprofit Propel calls itself “a regional asset and a national model, providing measurable evidence of how innovative public schools can expand opportunity for children and families, and can revitalize communities.”

Propel McKeesport was honored twice in recent years as a top performing school by a national consortium of charter schools.

Breaking down by categories the state education department profile issued last week for its kindergarten through grade 8, Propel McKeesport scored 88.93 in math and algebra, 73.61 in writing, 72.15 in science and biology and 69.56 in reading and literature.

Propel McKeesport had a 94.57 score for attendance.

The total profile for Propel McKeesport topped that for all McKeesport Area public schools, whose totals ranged from 51.1 at Francis McClure Intermediate School to 65 at White Oak Elementary School.

Propel's first school opened in Homestead a decade ago with 180 students.

The state education department combined K-8 Homestead and 9-12 Andrew Street results. The scores can be broken down to 61.87 for math and algebra, 55.42 for writing, 48.99 for reading and literature and 24.79 for science and biology.

Propel Homestead's score for attendance was 94.01.

Propel Homestead's total profile edged out Steel Valley's K-8 Barrett Elementary School, which had a 54. That district's high school had 62.3, the middle school 73.4 and Park Elementary a 79.8.

Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman Steve Robinson said the results released by the education department “further illustrate the need for all schools to be held to the same financial and academic accountability requirements as their traditional public school counterparts, especially as the General Assembly discusses the need for charter school reform.”

Robinson said the average profile score for a traditional public school was 77.1, for brick-and-mortar charter schools 66.4 and for cyber charter schools 46.8.

“While there is room for improvement for all schools, it is clear charter schools, especially cyber charter schools, need to be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools so all students receive a quality education,” Robinson said.

The school board association represents public school districts across Pennsylvania.

“The dream was to build an organization with the capacity to transform public education so that all children would have access to high performing public schools,” Chekan wrote to parents in August. “Nine schools and 3,200 students later, on behalf of Propel staff and faculty, I can promise you that we are just as dedicated and passionate in the pursuit of our mission.”

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