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Waynesboro elementary schools ahead of 2011 test benchmarks

November 16, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Waynesboro-area elementary school students not only performed well on the 2008-09 standardized state tests, but their scores often exceeded benchmarks coming in 2011.

Last week, principals from the Waynesboro Area School District's four elementary schools presented the school board with data from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests conducted in the spring.

Fairview, Hooverville, Mowrey and Summitview elementary schools all made "adequate yearly progress," but Waynesboro Area Middle School and Waynesboro Area Senior High School were placed on state warning lists. The school board talked to principals from the secondary schools in October.

High school on 'warning' for test scores

Overall, 72 percent of students in grades three to six were "advanced" or "proficient" in reading on the PSSAs. Slightly more than 82 percent achieved the same classifications in math.

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No Child Left Behind calls for every student to be "advanced" or "proficient" by 2014.

"It's not something we prepare for two weeks ahead of (testing). It's a work in progress," said Rita Sterner-Hine, principal at Hooverville.

PSSAs test the general student population, as well as certain subgroups if a school has 40 or more students who meet the criteria for that subgroup. Fairview is the only Waynesboro elementary school to test two subgroups -- special education and economically disadvantaged.

Fairview's subgroups made AYP, although they mostly did so through state measurements that recognize progress. Principal Dianne Eberhardt identified teacher dedication, data analysis and targeted small group instruction as some of the factors behind the school's achievements.

The school also holds PSSA rallies.

"It motivates the kids. They want to do well, and we want them to do well," Eberhardt said.

Sterner-Hine said teachers have played kickball or basketball with students at past Hooverville rallies. They talk about the importance of the PSSAs, telling the children, for instance, to take their time and show off knowledge on the six tests.

"I tell them this is their opportunity to really shine," Sterner-Hine said, saying she gives certificates to children who score "proficient" or "advanced" to mark their achievement.

Special Education Director Jean Purnell told the board about a tiered response plan that increases, as needed, students' time with intervention specialists and the frequency of progress monitoring.

Administrators also talked about academic programs like guided reading, Earobics and Everyday Mathematics.

Sterner-Hine credited extended-day kindergarten and a literacy-based curriculum with establishing a solid foundation for test-takers. The district screens incoming kindergartners to determine which ones it feels would benefit from extended-day kindergarten classes.

For 2009-10, the district used Title 1 grants to start the Early Bird program, in which certified teachers spend time with groups of students having similar problems. "Early Bird" operates at Fairview and Mowrey elementary schools.

The schools use 4Sight tests to collect student data several times a year. The exams are used internally and mirror PSSA content areas, allowing school officials to determine students' strengths and weaknesses before the PSSAs, Sterner-Hine said.

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