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Armstrong School District plans to make good use of state rankings

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 7:26 a.m.
Performance chart of the Armstrong School District's various buildings.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
The exterior of West Hills Intermediate School. Tuesday December 17, 2013

Armstrong School District officials are pleased with rankings provided by the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile, and plan to use them as a tool to improve its educational programming, according to district officials.

The state released the last batch of school performance profiles last week, giving parents and students a complete look at scores from more than 620 schools after a botched rollout two months ago.

In the Armstrong School District, Shannock Valley Elementary School scored the highest, securing a rank of 81.9, while the lowest performing school, West Hills Intermediate School, earned a rank of 65.2. The scores are based on a scale of 100.

Freeport Junior High School scored a 95.5, making it the highest-ranked school in Armstrong County, while West Hills Intermediate was the lowest.

School Performance Profiles, the model approved to replace Adequate Yearly Progress goals mandated by No Child Left Behind, were delayed twice as state officials struggled to make corrections and verify basic information such as enrollment tallies and square footage in school buildings.

Scores incorporate the results of statewide assessments, student academic growth from year to year, graduation rates, attendance and performance rates, and the academic progress of historically underperforming students such as English language learners and those from low-income households.

“The Armstrong School District performance profile will serve as an analysis tool to inform goal setting, planning, and allocating resources to meet the new measures established by the state,” wrote Shauna Braun-Zukowski, the district's coordinator of curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability. in a statement.

“The district will now work with the data to plan for the future to meet new targets set by the state in relation to our baseline scores.”

Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq initially delayed the debut of the state's reporting website — paschoolperformance.org — because 20 percent of the state's 3,000 schools complained that data were incorrect or incomplete and could reflect poorly on students and the schools they attend.

School leaders, including officials at Armstrong School District, asked the department to suppress some inaccurate data in the first version of the performance profiles released in October.

Educators and state officials blamed the newly adopted Keystone Exam taken in early 2013 for the incorrect information.

Thousands of students, proctors and administrators statewide failed to check the correct box indicating whether a student took the test for course credit or to meet federal requirements. Dumaresq said at the time that the state shared the blame for those errors by failing to explain clearly how to fill out test forms.

“(The) update completes the School Performance Profile for the 2012-13 school year,” Dumaresq said in a statement. “Students, parents, educators and the general public can now view academic performance of all Pennsylvania public schools as well as compare results to neighboring schools and schools across the state.”

The results show 2,181, or nearly 73 percent, of public schools received a 70 or higher on a 100-point scale.

Braun-Zukowski pointed out that none of the district's schools fall into the categories of priority or focus schools, which are the lowest 5 percent and lowest 10 percent of schools, respectively, in Pennsylvania.

District administrators plan to focus on professional development for all teachers and administrators, goal setting, after-school tutoring focusing on PSSA and Keystone test remediation, curriculum mapping and focused lesson planning in an effort to improve scores, Braun-Zukowski said in the statement.

“This is the first year of the Keystone testing at the secondary level, so we will work collectively to move the district forward to a higher level,” Braun-Zukowski wrote. “We are excited about the progress we are making within the district, and will structure planning toward these new measures.”

Lenape Technical School received a ranking of 67.4, according to the School Performance Profile website.

The highest performing school in the state, the Downingtown STEM Academy, in the Downingtown Area School District in Chester County, scored a 101.4, while the lowest scoring school, the Philadelphia Learning Academy South, in the Philadelphia City School District, scored 11.4.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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