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Area schools get performance-incentive grants

| Thursday, April 24, 2003

Allegheny County schools will share more than $2.5 million from the state because of improvements on test scores and attendance.

The awards are part of $24.6 million in performance-incentive grants to 878 schools across the state.

Schools that raised their combined scores on the 2002 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, tests by at least 50 points above their baseline -- either their average scores from 1997-1998 or their last award -- qualified for achievement awards, which totaled more than $16 million statewide. Schools that showed an increase of at least 0.75 percent over their baseline in attendance rates received effort awards, which totaled nearly $5 million.

Education Secretary Charles Zogby noted that schools compete with each other for the rewards.

Schools that performed highly in both achievement and effort for three consecutive years earned awards for maintenance of high standards. Ross Elementary School in the North Hills School District and three schools in the Mt. Lebanon School District -- Jefferson Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Middle and Mt. Lebanon Senior High schools -- were among the 27 schools in the state accorded this honor.

Three other North Hills schools -- McIntyre and Seville elementary schools and North Hills Senior High School -- received achievement awards. Two other Mt. Lebanon schools -- Lincoln and Markham elementary schools -- received achievement awards, and Washington Elementary School received an effort award.

"I think it is just is an ongoing testimony of the great work being done with an exceptional student body sent to us by caring parents, and teachers who just address those youngsters where they are and take them where they can go," Mt. Lebanon Superintendent Glenn Smartschan said. "The chemistry of our parents and our students and our staff is very positive."

North Hills Superintendent John Esaias said the awards are evidence of "outstanding educational experience" throughout the district.

The state also handed out $2.1 million in awards to districts where fewer disadvantaged students scored at the below-basic level on the PSSA. Such students are economically disadvantaged, have limited English proficiency or other special needs.

An additional $741,600 went to 28 area vocational-technical schools, including A.W. Beattie in the North Hills and McKeesport Area Technology Center.

The state measures achievement based on the percentage of certificates granted by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute for part-time vocational-technical schools, where students spend part of the day, taking the PSSA in their home district. Comprehensive schools, where students stay all day and take their PSSA, received awards based upon both improved test scores and certificate granted.

Each school principal will lead a committee composed of parents, teachers and community and business leaders to determine how the school should spend the money, officials said. All recipients must spend at least 50 percent of their awards on improving instruction and professional development for teachers. Up to 25 percent of awards may be spent on teacher rewards, and the committee decides where the remaining 25 percent goes.

All schools that received awards must submit detailed financial reports to the Department of Education on how they spent the money, department officials said.

The state introduced the school performance-incentive grant program six years ago and has awarded more than $83 million to schools. A complete list of awards is available online at www.state.pa.us under the keyword "SPF."

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