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State report frustrates Franklin Regional officials

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Above, the Franklin Regional bonfire in 2013. The 2016 bonfire will be postponed to Oct. 20.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Above, the Franklin Regional bonfire in 2013. The 2016 bonfire will be postponed to Oct. 20.

School administrators across the state — including those at Franklin Regional — are frustrated with the rollout of a new form of school-performance data.

The state Department of Education on Friday released its School Performance Profiles, a series of “report cards” that are part of a new accountability system designed to replace No Child Left Behind. The release was slated for Sept. 30 but was delayed when officials of more than 20 percent of schools statewide complained about the data. Despite the delay, local officials still were frustrated with the new tool.

“We're concerned about the reliability and accuracy of this data,” Superintendent Jamie Piraino said.

Franklin Regional officials withheld the performance data for the high school from Friday's public release because they think the information is incorrect, Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac said. A bug in the state's computer system showed that middle school scores also were withheld, but that wasn't true, Reljac said.

The problems aren't limited to secondary schools. While performance profiles for all three FR elementary schools include overall scores, Reljac said those numbers are lower than those that were sent to districts on Monday.

That was frustrating, Reljac said.

She isn't the only school official unhappy with the site, which has a pop-up dialog box notifying visitors that some information is erroneous.

“What good does that do, though?” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. The organization lobbied the state to postpone the site's release until all data could be added and verified.

“We're frustrated by the lack of communication, clarity and the time frame we were given to approve the data they submitted on our behalf,” he said. “To knowingly release the new system with errors is a totally inappropriate way to represent our schools.”

Reljac said the information was difficult to verify for local districts. But that isn't the only problem. She questions the idea that schools are judged by a number.

“Although the School Performance Profile provides information about our schools, it still reduces a school to a single number,” Reljac said. “No school, just like no student, is just a number.”

Reljac said district officials want to share student-performance information with the community, but administrators aren't sure this is the best way.

Staff writer Megan Harris contributed to this report. Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.

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