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Waynesboro schools put on warning list

September 01, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Pennsylvania's annual report card for public schools released Thursday shows Chambersburg Area School District climbing out of a troublesome status, while the Waynesboro Area School District was one of six districts placed in "warning status" by the state Department of Education.

Waynesboro's failure to meet adequate yearly progress standards, a component of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, primarily comes from what the state sees as a 10 percent drop in the graduation rate, Superintendent Barry Dallara said.

The district unsuccessfully appealed the state's determination about the graduation rate, saying internal child accounting policies had contributed to the decrease from the class of 2004's 89 percent rate to the class of 2005's 79 percent rate. The state's target was 80 percent graduation or any improvements over the previous year.

"The data we have now says the graduation rate for 2006 is above 80 percent," Dallara said.

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Warning status means the district will be safe if it meets targets next year but could enter into a process of state-mandated corrective action if it fails to do so. The corrective action becomes more severe as each year passes that a district does not meet targets, eventually leading to open transfers to other school districts or private companies taking over school management.

Fewer than 5 percent of the 500 school districts with adequate yearly progress reports are in the warning status or a worse classification.

Dallara said the decline in the graduation rate came from the Waynesboro district initially listing participants in the alternative education program as dropouts. Those students then complete standards in the program and earn a diploma, he said.

They are being accounted for differently now, Dallara said.

The state identified further deficiencies in Waynesboro as reading proficiency in grades 3 to 5 and grades 6 to 8; math proficiency in grades 6 to 8 and grades 9 to 12; and high school test participation. Both the middle school and high school were individually placed on warning status, with the middle school meeting 15 of 17 state targets and the high school meeting seven of 11 targets for its level.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education increased standards and maintained 41 targets for 2005-06 in areas like attendance and graduation rates; test performance by special education and economically disadvantaged students; and overall reading and math scores on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. A score classifiable as "proficient" or better on those standardized tests is a graduation requirement in the Waynesboro Area School District, and No Child Left Behind calls for 100 percent of students to be at that level by 2014.

"The good news about No Child Left Behind is that it's making us address individual student needs," Dallara said.

Chambersburg, Waynesboro and 371 other school districts were placed on warning status in the 2002-03 adequate yearly progress report, the first year for the measurement. Waynesboro moved out of the status the following year, while Chambersburg continued on the track of corrective action until now. Chambersburg still must meet state targets next year to be clear of its earlier course.

"We have school improvement teams in all the schools that weren't making AYP," Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. Chambersburg Area Senior High School has been placed on "corrective action one" status due to poor math test scores by black and special education students, according to the latest state report.

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