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Whitehall Elementary goes Hollywood for a day

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Students at Whitehall Elementary School put on the fanciest of clothing - top hats and suits, poofy dresses and feathered boas - to receive reading awards at the first-ever Oscars in the school's gymnasium in March 8. Students use the STAR reading program throughout the 2012-13 school year to test comprehension, fluency and vocabulary. Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record
Alex White, a third-grader at Whitehall Elementary School, shows off his suit and tie after receiving a reading award at the Whitehall Elementary School Oscars. Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record

Feather boas, top hats, sparkles and even a red carpet helped Whitehall Elementary School students transform into the leading ladies and gentlemen at the first-ever Oscars award ceremony on March 8.

The Oscars, or Outstanding Students Care About Reading Scores, were a reward at Whitehall Elementary School for participation in five rounds of the STAR program this school year, said Anissa Rosenwald, assistant principal at Whitehall Elementary School. STAR is an online testing program that helps students improve reading comprehension, fluency and expanding vocabulary, as well as mathematics.

Whitehall's Oscars, held in two assemblies in the school's gymnasium, focused on the students' reading efforts, Rosenwald said.

“We knew we wanted to do some sort of celebration and it's close to the Oscars season,” Rosenwald said. “The kids are really enjoying it.”

The program also helps students prepare for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, Rosenwald said.

“It's a big building-wide effort,” Rosenwald said. “It's not that we're teaching to the test.”

Students in grades three through five will take the PSSA reading and mathematics tests in April, Rosenwald said. Fourth-graders also take a PSSA science test that month.

Fifth-graders take a PSSA writing test in March, Rosenwald said.

The district's PSSA scores will determine if Baldwin-Whitehall and a whole and each individual school meet adequate yearly progress for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These tests measure where a district stands as compared to students in other Pennsylvania public schools, but also show the progress required during the next school year to meet the 2014 No Child Left Behind statewide and federal target.

The students took the opportunity to showcase their Sunday best during the Oscars, wearing poofy dresses, three-piece suits, heels and top hats when they received their awards and walked along the red carpet. Parents, too, got caught up in the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, taking photos on the side of the gymnasium's stage.

“Parents were saying, ‘Can we come?' So we opened it up,” Rosenwald said. “The students, they're standing tall today and walking a little prouder.”

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at

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