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District analyses PSSA outcomes

Parents urged to become involved

September 24, 2010
A week after the results of the federal standard known as adequate yearly progress (AYP) were released to the public, Warren County School District administrators have had time to digest the information and reflect on the successes and plan for the challenges ahead. As a whole, the WCSD made AYP, the proficiency measurement of the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Achievement) tests. “The principals and teachers are to be commended for the gains in student performance on the PSSA exams. Gains were a result of analyzing data from prior PSSA performance and adjusting curriculum and instructional strategies. PSSA results are not the only indicators of whether teaching and learning are happening. Post secondary pursuits, academic competition results, career preparation, and variety of curricular offerings are other indicators of a quality school system,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Terrill. “Of particular importance is support from the home and teamwork between the home and school. I urge each parent to become involved in your child’s schooling.” Director of State and Federal Programs Rosemarie Green attributed some of the success to different instruction approaches. “We also took differentiated instruction to the next level and began to train teachers on research-based strategies relevant to how the brain learns.” she said. Individually, Warren Area High School and Sheffield Middle/High School fell short. WAHS didn’t meet the standards for reading proficiency levels in the sub-categories for economically disadvantaged and IEP/special education students. SMHS didn’t meet the standards for math proficiency levels for economically disadvantage students. According Director of Secondary Education Amanda Hetrick, the determination of AYP is based upon a number of factors. Both WAHS and SMHS test approximately 200 students. At WAHS, all the tested students were 11th graders while the tested group at SMHS was comprised of students in grades 6, 7, 8 and 11. In addition, students in specific sub-groups, such as IEP/special education and economically disadvantaged, are then singled out for analysis if there are 40 or more students identified in the sub-group at an individual school. “The difficulty with that is that while a majority of the students are making progress toward the goal, there is a specific group of students that are having more difficulty. While teachers, students and strategies can all contribute to the success or to the lack of progress toward AYP, so can the statistics that are used to rank the school overall,” Hetrick said. “We will certainly need to engage in further study of the results before we can draw any responsible conclusions about how to best support the students and staff at those schools.” In terms of the 11th grade IEP/special education students at Warren Area High School, Director of Special Education Diane Martin believes the lack of proficiency is not a poor reflection of the staff, students or strategies. “We have an extremely dedicated and talented staff that has and will continue to dedicate their time and efforts to meeting the significant challenges of our students with special needs,” she said “Recall that WAHS made AYP every year from 2003 through 2008. We continue to examine the 2009 results for individual students and will adjust our instructional approach as warranted.” With the recent failure to meet the proficiency and the added difficulty of higher targets in 2011, Martin predicted a rough road ahead. “AYP standards for the subgroup of students with IEPs will continue to be a challenge for schools throughout Pennsylvania,” she said. “This year only 7 of 544 schools with reportable results for 11th grade students in this sub-group met the defined standard of 63 percent or more advanced and proficient in reading. We recognize the difficulty that the WCSD faces as the standards increase over time and will continue to focus on continual improvement for each and every special needs student. We believe this focus is in the best interest of our students and will continue to monitor the impact this approach has on individual schools in the future.” Martin indicated that strategies like focusing on the IEP students individually and implementing new reading programs are aimed at increasing proficiency. “Presently, we have implemented to students with noted needs in the research-based reading comprehension program READ 180. Our intent is to help all special needs students progress while reducing the number of IEP students that do not meet the PSSA proficiency standard. We have started the research reading comprehension program READ 280 in the secondary and middle individual schools can make AYP through a reduction of 10 percent from the previous year in the percentage of students who scored below proficient,” Martin said. The proficiency targets are scheduled to increase in 2011 to 72 percent in reading and 67 percent in math from 63 percent and 56 percent, respectively. For some schools, this poses an immediate challenge. “The fact that the proficiency levels will increase certainly presents a challenge for our students and teachers. We will move forward with the attitude that this is a challenge that we can meet,” Hetrick said. “It is our intention to maintain the supports that we have in place and add new supports as we see the need. Once we have the opportunity to further study the results, we will know where strengths and weaknesses appear in student performance so we will tailor our interventions to meet student need.” By further analyzing the data from the current PSSA results, administrators feel changes can be implemented to meeting the new proficiency levels. For example, Green referred to the struggles at Beaty-Warren Middle School. The school failed to make AYP in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. “The changes made at BWMS when they were in warning are a perfect example of a positive impact over time. Both the scheduling changes and the changes in instruction continue to show ever better scores with each year of practice and implementation,” she said. For some some schools, the increased targets may be less of a hurdle. In the current PSSA results, four schools logged overall student proficiency levels, in both reading and math, above the forthcoming increased targets. Those schools are: ¯ Allegheny Valley Elementary School: 72.4 percent in reading; 74.1 percent in math. ¯ Beaty-Warren Middle School: 85.4 percent in reading; 87.2 percent in math. ¯ Eisenhower Middle/High School: 78.2 percent in reading; 75.7 percent in math. ¯ Russell Elementary School: 81.7 percent in reading; 86.6 percent in math. ¯ Sheffield Elementary School: 74.2 percent in reading; 71 percent in math.


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