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08-30-07 Educators encouraged by latest PSSA results

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:51 am    Post subject: 08-30-07 Educators encouraged by latest PSSA results Reply with quote

Educators encouraged by latest PSSA results
7 of 10 Pennsylvania students 'on track for success,' state says

Thursday, August 30, 2007
By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

State math and reading test results released yesterday show that, for the 2006-07 school year, 92 percent of Pennsylvania's school districts and 77.5 percent of its schools met or were making progress toward meeting all state achievement targets.

The percentages weren't quite as high as they were the year before, when 95 percent of districts and 82 percent of schools met or were making progress toward the requirements.

But this time, more grade levels were counted -- grades four, six and seven were added to the already-counted grades three, five, eight and 11. In addition, more schools were held accountable for the achievement of racial and socioeconomic subgroups.

"Student achievement continues to rise," said state Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak. "More students are on grade level today in reading and math at the elementary, middle and high school levels than they were five years ago. Nearly seven in 10 Pennsylvania students are on track for success."

The results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment in math and reading, given in the spring, are used to determine whether schools and school districts have made adequate yearly progress -- known as AYP -- under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools or school districts that miss one or more targets are considered to have missed making AYP and are subject to sanctions, depending on how many years they miss the mark.

In 2006-07, schools and school districts were expected to have at least 54 percent of their students proficient or advanced in reading and 45 percent proficient or advanced in math. Or they could meet the targets by some alternative means, such as reducing the number below proficient by 10 percent. There are also targets for attendance, graduation and test participation.

Statewide, 452 districts met AYP and eight were making progress in 2006-07.

During the 2005-06 school year, the same number of districts met AYP and 24 were making progress.

Eight districts -- an increase of five -- were in the most serious category of Corrective Action II in 2006-07, including Pittsburgh Public Schools and Duquesne City School District.

Dr. Zahorchak said the department has no plans to take over any district. He said each will be looked at individually.

As for schools, 2,302 met AYP and 102 were making progress this past spring, compared with 2,458 meeting AYP and 112 making progress in spring 2006. And the number of schools in the Corrective Action II category grew from 79 to 142

In looking at students by grade level, all of the grades that have been tested for many years -- five, eight and 11 -- show improvement over the last five years.

But Dr. Zahorchak noted a particularly troubling spot: fifth-grade math and reading where the 2006-07 fifth-graders didn't do as well as the 2005-06 fourth-graders.

He did not know why, but he thinks drawing attention to it may help, just as it did for an eighth-grade reading problem two years ago.

Schools and school districts are held accountable for various subgroups, including racial, special education and economically disadvantaged, if they have at least 40 in the subgroup tested. Thus, with more grades tested, more had countable subgroups.

In 2005-06, only 18.8 percent of schools were accountable specifically for the achievement of black students. In 2006-07, 25.3 percent had such subgroups.

Even more had economically disadvantaged subgroups, which grew from 47.5 percent of schools to 66.1 percent, and special education subgroups, which grew from 14.5 percent of schools to 43.5 percent.

Dr. Zahorchak noted that the academic performance of all subgroups is growing, some of them in the double digits over five years.

He credited some of Gov. Ed Rendell's initiatives for some of the progress.

He said that the seven of 11 struggling districts getting extra help through the Distinguished Educators program are meeting all AYP targets. They include Clairton, Sto-Rox and Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County and Aliquippa in Beaver County. All of those districts, however, have at least one school not making AYP.

This school year, the percentage of students expected to be proficient or advanced will rise to 63 percent in reading and 56 percent in math.

Dr. Zahorchak presented numbers showing that students statewide at every grade level tested on average already meet that target, which will be in place until 2011.

The figures range from 60 percent of fifth-graders to 75 percent of eighth-graders in reading. In math, the range is 53.7 percent of 11th-graders to 78.5 percent of third-graders.

No Child Left Behind calls for all students in grades three through eight and one grade in high school to be tested annually and be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Dr. Zahorchak's presentation can be found at AYP results can be found at

First published on August 30, 2007 at 12:00 am
Education writer Eleanor Chute can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-1955.
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