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Norwin School District prepares for new education guidelines

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By Amanda Dolasinski and Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Pennsylvania schools will be judged on student progress rather than lofty performance targets beginning this year.

The state late last month became the 41st to receive a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind mandates that require all students — regardless of ability — to meet proficiency goals on state standardized tests.

Instead, schools will be required to decrease the percentage of students not meeting state standards in math and reading by half.

The waiver is designed to improve education in three areas: making sure students are ready for careers or college, developing recognition and accountability standards by the state, and improving and supporting effective teachers and principals.

The waiver abolishes the idea of annual yearly progress, commonly known as AYP. In the past, all schools were judged based on student performance on annual standardized tests.

If a certain percentage of students didn't meet or exceed state requirements on a series of tests in reading and math, a school would not make AYP.

“The school performance profile will replace AYP (adequate yearly progress),” said Natalie McCracken, assistant superintendent of elementary education. “Each school building within a district will receive a total score out of 100, based on multiple measures of academic achievement.”

For public schools, those academic achievement indicators include student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and Keystone Exams, closing the achievement gap, graduation rate, promotion rate and attendance rate.

“The Norwin School District will implement the areas of the waiver as recommended by the Pennsylvania Department of Education,” McCracken said.

According to the state education department, public schools will receive an academic score based on graduation rates, attendance, student performance on standardized tests and how a school improves student performance.

Most changes will occur with schools that have received a Title I designation as a low-income school, state officials said. Those options aren't in place for non-Title I schools, state education department spokesman Tim Eller said.

Few changes will occur in high-achieving districts, where most students already meet standards, said Linda Hippert, executive director at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

“Sometimes, a school can be high performing but not show significant student growth. That will be required now,” she said.

Every school in Norwin School District, except for Norwin High School, made adequate yearly progress, or AYP, for the 2011-12 school year.

Norwin High School fell short of the state-projected proficiency target of 78 percent in mathematics. The high school missed AYP among students with individualized education plans, and economically disadvantaged students.

Amanda Dolasinski and Daveen Rae Kurutz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Dolasinski can be reached at Kurutz can be reached at

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