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High school on 'warning' for test scores

October 13, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Principals from Waynesboro Area middle and high schools presented school board members with the latest state testing data on Tuesday and shared plans to increase academic performance.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education placed Waynesboro Area Senior High School in a "warning" status for 2008-09 reading and math scores that did not reach benchmarks.

The state mandated that 63 percent of 11th-graders reach "proficient" or "advanced" classifications in reading, and 56 percent in math. The scores from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests tie into federal No Child Left Behind initiatives.

In Waynesboro, 53 percent of 11th-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading. Slightly more than 47 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.

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The scores went down 6 percent in math and 11 percent in reading compared to the 2007-08 year, Principal Chris Dennis said. He called the results "disappointing to say the least."

"Based on our (preview tests') scores, we weren't expecting this," Dennis said.

Twenty-eight students missed the proficient mark by one to three math questions, and 32 students missed the same mark in reading by one to three questions, according to Dennis.

He told the school board he'll return in December with more information, but said school officials want to stick with what they're already doing and try to do it better. Throwing new initiatives into the mix could further complicate things, he said.

The high school presentation launched a philosophical debate at the school board meeting about adolescence, over-testing, graduation requirements and parent involvement.

School board member Firmadge Crutchfield said he's especially concerned that Waynesboro scored poorer than other Franklin County, Pa., schools.

"I see major differences between Chambersburg, Fannett-Metal and Waynesboro in proficiency levels," Crutchfield said, asking Dennis whether Waynesboro is doing something differently.

The socioeconomic composition of the schools is similar, Crutchfield said.

Assistant Superintendent Evan Williams said school officials talk about their practices at Lincoln Intermediate Unit meetings.

The state is transitioning from the PSSA to graduation exams that, for one thing, will be more suited to students studying vocational skills, Williams said.

"They see the need to move away from PSSA, and they are," he said.

The middle school fared better in the 2008-09 testing, meeting all benchmarks except math scores for special education students. The students overall scored 79.4 percent proficiency in reading and 74.6 percent in math.

"Two years ago, the middle school started putting reading interventions into place. Last year they started the interventions in math," Principal Brian Richter said.

Administrators are learning more about how they can modify the way the test is given to special education students.

"It's very hard for them to perform on this test and make the mark," he said.

Richter said he believes the schools need to do a better job transitioning students by having similar programs in each building.

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