Grading Our Schools: Danville, LM, SCA do best locally
None of the nine public school districts that educate students from Northumberland County met or surpassed all 21 state averages on standardized tests or the SATs in 2011-12, according to Times-Shamrock Newspapers annual Grading Our Schools (GOS) report. Neither did North Schuylkill School District.
But Danville, Southern Columbia Area and Line Mountain are at or above the state averages in almost every category, and six local districts met or surpassed at least half of the averages.
The report analyzes Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and SAT test scores for 500 districts and more than 3,000 elementary, middle and high schools statewide, as well as a dozen other key educational factors. GOS includes a comprehensive online database with searchable information on all 500 school districts in the state, available at newsitem.com/gradingourschools.
In the local analysis, Danville Area School District, which covers much of Montour County and students from Riverside and Rush Township in Northumberland County, fared the best, meeting or bettering the state averages in 20 of 21 categories. Line Mountain and Southern Columbia Area also did well, meeting or surpassing 18. Warrior Run met or surpassed 16, Milton Area 13, Shamokin Area met 12 and Shikellamy 11. Mount Carmel Area, by only meeting 8, and North Schuylkill, by only meeting 3, were the two lowest local school districts in comparison to state averages. (See the bubble chart on Page A8.)
The AYP factor
GOS looks at state averages. That's not to be confused with adequate yearly progress (AYP), a measurement of proficiency school districts and each individual school are required to meet under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. PSSA scores - which are evaluated in GOS - are, however, the biggest component in determining AYP levels, although factors such as attendance and graduation rates are used, too. (While 2012-13 PSSA tests have been taken, those results have not yet been released.)
According to NCLB, all students are required to achieve 100 percent proficiency on math and reading tests next year, but the state's school districts are struggling to meet those goals, and most administrators agree they're nearly impossible to meet.
As of Tuesday, 37 states and the District of Columbia have been granted flexibility with NCLB by the U.S. Department of Education. Pennsylvania and nine other states have requested flexibility and are under review. If it's granted, Pennsylvania officials say they will implement a plan to further improve quality of instruction and outcomes for children.
Districts statewide are also seeing more changes because high school students take end-of-course Keystone Exams (which replaced PSSA tests this school year for 11th-graders) and, beginning with the class of 2017, students will be required to pass exams in algebra I, biology and literature to graduate.
Educators in Pennsylvania and across the nation are also implementing national Common Core standards, which focus on a framework to prepare students to be career- and college-ready.
Not meeting AYP
Of the nine local districts, four - Milton Area, Mount Carmel Area, Shikellamy and North Schuylkill - did not make AYP districtwide based on 2011-12 scores. In fact, almost 40 percent of districts across the state did not make AYP.
It seems meeting AYP is getting more difficult while the required proficiency percentages rise. Consider that three years ago seven of eight local districts made AYP districtwide. (Danville wasn't included in that report.)
Depending on the AYP results, districts may be forced to develop improvement plans, provide tutoring or be taken over by the state. Progressing in severity, the statuses for those that don't make AYP are: making progress, warning, school improvement I; school improvement II; corrective action I and corrective action II. Consequences such as school choice can also be implemented based on AYP levels.
In Milton, the middle school, Montandon Elementary School and White Deer Elementary School made AYP, but the Milton Area Elementary School and high school did not.
The elementary school failed in academic performance in reading for overall students, Individualized Education Program (IEP)-special education and economically disadvantaged, and in math for IEP-special education. The school is in warning status.
The high school failed in one category in graduation, and is considered in School Improvement II status.
At Shikellamy, Grace S. Beck, Oaklyn and Priestley elementaries all made AYP, but Chief Shikellamy Elementary and the middle and high schools did not.
The elementary school failed in academic performance in reading and math for IEP-special education, and is in warning status.
The middle school failed in academic performance in reading and math for IEP-special education and in math for economically disadvantaged. The school is in warning status.
The high school failed in three graduation requirements and all six categories for academic performance in reading and math for overall students, white non-Hispanics and economically disadvantaged. The school is considered in Corrective Action II for the second year.
In North Schuylkill, neither the elementary school nor the junior/senior high school, the district's only two schools, made AYP.
The elementary school failed in academic performance in reading in students overall, white non-Hispanics, IEP-special education and economically disadvantaged and in math for economically disadvantaged. The school is in warning status.
The high school failed in academic performance in reading for students overall, white non-Hispanics and economically disadvantaged and in math for students overall, white non-Hispanics, economically disadvantaged and IEP-special education. The school is considered in School Improvement I.
Line Mountain, Shamokin Area, Warrior Run, Southern Columbia Area and Danville all made AYP overall, but at least one school building in each district did not meet AYP. (Reports and statistics for Line Mountain, Mount Carmel Area, Shamokin Area and Southern Columbia Area are explored more extensively in other stories.)
While Warrior Run's Turbotville Elementary School, Watsontown Elementary School and Warrior Run Middle School all made AYP, the high school did not. It failed in all four academic performance categories in reading and math for overall students and white non-Hispanics. The school is in warning status.
While Danville's primary school, middle school and senior high school made AYP, the district's Liberty Valley Elementary School did not. It failed in academic performance in math for IEP-special education. The school is in warning status.
Levels of proficiency have increased in many districts, but as the 2014 deadline nears, the state expects those gains to be even higher. For example, AYP targets for 2011-12 increased from 67 percent to 78 percent in math and from 72 percent to 81 percent in reading. Many districts, especially in subgroups for students in special education, failed to see such gains.