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Quaker Valley superintendent, others cite flaws in assessment report

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 7:44 a.m.

Administrators shared mixed emotions following the release earlier this month of a new state assessment of public schools.

When data in the School Performance Profile — which replaces the Annual Yearly Progress report, the benchmark previously used to evaluate schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act — was released, Superintendent Joseph Clapper said there was a lot of “rage” leading up to the information being made public on a state website.

Clapper wasn'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.”

The report assigns a score — based on a 100-point scale — to every public school in the state. Among items included in the score are standardized testing, Keystone exams, graduation and performance on other tests such as PSAT, SAT and Advanced Placement.

Clapper called the use of multifaceted data a “step above” at the high school level because it is “based on a whole variety of data, not just a single test score taken over two or three days.”

But the report stops short of an overall assessment, Academic Services Director Jillian Bichsel said.

“It provides a snapshot, but misses the arts, (Odyssey of the Mind), QV Creekers” and other extra-curricular activities, she said.

There is more to a learning environment than test scores, Clapper said.

“There's lot of things to think about when you're thinking about what makes a successful school,” he said.

The report fails to fully address middle and elementary school levels, administrators said.

“They are based on a single test again — the PSSA,” Clapper said.

Data shows students at all four Quaker Valley buildings scored high. Middle school scores were suppressed in the state release of data when Quaker Valley leaders found inaccuracies, they said. But the district released the middle school score anyway.

Quaker Valley Middle School was one of more than 600 schools across the state where data was suppressed.

Even as district leaders await the January release of updated data, they said data won't offer a full report on the district.

“We're pleased with where we are,” Bichsel said.

“We have a real and sincere interest in and commitment to developing the whole child – much of which is not quantifiable in a single, building-level score,” Clapper said.

Daveen Rae Kurutz contributed to this report. Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408.

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