Plum schools seek edge in state tests

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Plum School District students are on par with others in the state who took the Keystone Exams last winter.

Board member Sal Colella wants better results.

“What do we do to improve?” Colella asked during last week's education committee meeting.

“How do we expose our students to what is on the exams?”

Local school districts, including Plum, recently received data from the first round of the Keystone Exams given to students in algebra I, biology and English language arts in December and January.

The next tests are in May.

Beginning with the Class of 2017, students will be required to score “proficient” or above on the three current Keystone Exams to graduate.

The scores for students in the classes preceding the class of 2017 will be used to monitor districts' Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

In the Plum School District, 842 students took the algebra I exam and 51 percent scored proficient or above.

The state average was 54 percent.

Also, 644 students took the English language arts test, and 72 percent scored proficient or above. The state average was 67 percent.

Plum High School students outpaced the state average in biology by nearly 10 percentage points.

In Plum, 599 students took the biology exam and 51 percent scored proficient and above.

The state average was 42 percent.

Colella said he wants students in the future to be better prepared for the exams, and he showed board members a biology study guide that he said Fox Chapel Area School District students have access to review before they take the Keystone.

“We should have a link to the Keystone exams,” Colella said.

“Students should be looking at the exams in their nightly studies.”

The Fox Chapel Area School District has a biology study guide on Edline, the company that sponsors the district's website, according to Bonnie Berzonski, district communications coordinator.

Berzonski also said hard-copy study guides for algebra I and biology also are available.

Students also can obtain video packets for algebra I.

Berzonski said teachers in each area have developed the study guides.

Plum Assistant Superintendent Guy Rossi pointed out that in some cases students who took the Keystone Exams had taken the course a couple of years ago.

Rossi said he will speak with the district's teachers about making study guides accessible to students.

Colella wants to be kept informed on the progress involving the Keystone Exams.

“If you need more resources, you have to tell us,” Colella said to Superintendent Timothy Glasspool.

“If you need more math and biology teachers (tell us).”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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