Harrisburg School District missed the state’s adequately-yearly-progress list for the 10th consecutive year as state standardized test results were released Friday.
But the commonwealth won’t step in and take over the district due to low Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test results no matter how long the district misses the mark, said Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education.
“School districts, when they are not making AYP, they are required to craft and submit a school improvement plan. They submit it to the PDE and if they continue to not make AYP, they have to update their plan,” Eller said.
“And if the school district applies for (school improvement grants), there are four models they must adopt to award them. This is why the governor signed the bill allowing students from poorly performing school districts to attend other schools.”
Gov. Corbett signed the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program bill into law this year, which gives students from poorly performing districts the ability to transfer.
Harrisburg’s PSSA scores were virtually unchanged from last year, but its previous year scores could have been artificially inflated as the city school district is part of a state-wide probe PDE is conducting on districts suspected of cheating on tests from 2009-2011.
About 35 percent of the student body tested at grade level or above in math and 34 percent made or exceeded the state’s reading standard this year.
The state defines AYP as 78 percent of students testing at or above grade level in math and 81 percent testing at or above grade level in reading.
Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney said administrators are still analyzing the data and will compare the results against soon-to-be released Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System results.
PVAS scores give the district a more precise accounting of student growth from year-to-year, as opposed to strict test scores that say students failed or passed.
With three years of mass layoffs, the addition and subtraction of school programs and constant repositioning of teachers due to budget constraints, Knight-Burney said the PSSA results are not surprising.
“We are waiting on the release of the PVAS piece so we can see our areas of growth and we can target those students and have a better handle of needs,” Knight-Burney said. “We will continue to focus and change takes time effort and consistency.”
The only school in Harrisburg to make AYP was the Math Science Academy at Ben Franklin School.
SciTech High normally makes AYP, but it didn’t this year for only the second time.
SciTech didn’t hit the benchmark due to a lower graduation rate and test scores among the school’s economically disadvantaged students did not improve, said Mary Lou Sypolt, the district’s coordinator of pupil services.
SciTech has far less students than other schools and when several student scores are below AYP, it easily skews scores, Sypolt said.
Reading and math scores improved in seventh and eighth grades, which Sypolt noted “is encouraging.”
– Published by The Patriot News September 21, 2012