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Franklin Regional students' PSSA scores show improvement

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, 12:54 p.m.

This year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores are not just good news for the Franklin Regional School District; they also give administrators and parents a much clearer picture of where students are academically.

Last year, scores statewide took a precipitous drop due to the introduction of Pennsylvania Core Standards, which meant changes in state academic standards and a change in the cutoff scores.

Scores from 2015, moving forward, would serve as a baseline for school districts' progress in future years, Franklin Regional administrators said last year.

That has been borne out in the 2016 data, recently released by the state: each school receives scores for reading, math and science for not just each individual grade, but also for historically underperforming subgroups and the school as a whole. Franklin Regional students posted gains in nearly half of the whole-school and underperforming subgroups categories. They also were above the state average in 26 of the 48 categories.

All of the schools — for PSSAs, students in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 11 take the tests — scored about 20 percentage points over the state average in reading, and more than 15 points over in math and science.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac said the scores echo what state officials have said: they are trending in the right direction.

“There's still work to be done, but we're very happy with how hard our teachers, students and parents have worked and how that shows in the scores,” Reljac said.

Students scoring “below basic” increased in 13 of 24 categories, but none by more than 7.7 percentage points.

Both Reljac and Superintendent Jamie Piraino noted that some of the scores were affected by students whose parents decided to opt them out of the testing: a student who opts out is automatically given a failing grade in the state's scoring system, she said.

Piraino said 11 percent of third-graders from Newlonsburg Elementary, for example, opted out of the testing.

“When you take 11 percent of that grade right off the top, parents are not getting a complete and accurate picture of what's going on in the classroom,” he said.

The district recognizes that the PSSA represents only one assessment of its students, Reljac added.

“We can use it to celebrate in areas of strength, and to intervene in areas where we need some improvement,” she said.

Piraino agreed.

“Our mission is the same: to produce students who strive for excellence in all that they do,” he said. “The tests are one component of that, so sort of look at it from that perspective.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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