School board worries about drop in Central state test scores
Central York’s test scores are dropping, but some question whether this is evidence of school failure in the district or a systemic issue with standardized testing.
On Monday, administrators briefed school board members on the district’s standardized test scores for 2018-19, including the Pennsylvania Schools Rating System for Grades 3 through 8 and Keystone exams for high school students.
Central was 1% below the state average for Proficient or Advanced English PSSA students. But math had a much larger gap, with just 30% of students rated as competent or advanced – well below the statewide average of 42%, continuing the trend of low scores for the year. last.
The district was above the state average for proficient and advanced scores in the Keystone literature – 73% versus 71% – and 67% in algebra compared to the state’s 63%, but fell by 1 % lower in biology.
Superintendent Michael Snell said the biggest problem is that PSSAs only provide a “snapshot” of student skills, while Keystones correlate directly to the courses students take that year.
“We don’t teach proof,” Snell said, adding that the district hadn’t done so for three or four years.
Of the 136 students who took the algebra exam at the start of eighth grade – after completing the course that year – 90% achieved higher or advanced results.
“I’ll trust Keystone a lot more than the millions of dollars we’re spending on PSSA,” Snell said.
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But board member Joseph Gothie said the district couldn’t build on that – it needed a metric for grade level assessment without waiting for SATs.
“If I can’t measure it, how can I handle it? ” he said. “I feel like I have a blindfold and we’re heading the ship, and we don’t know if we’re heading for shallows or if we’re heading for port.”
Looking at the average PSSA math scores for fourth-graders from 2015 to 2019, the district’s advanced and advanced scores were only 40% compared to the state’s 60%.
In the last quarterly skills check, only 50 students failed one to three middle school courses, out of 945 students enrolled.
But 101 of the 481 graduates in total in 2019 were at risk of failing at some point, Deputy Superintendent Robert Grove said.
Possible reasons for the decline in PSSA mathematics could be the large number of withdrawals, which many do for religious reasons, Grove said.
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Unsubscribes have increased each year, starting with 117 unsubscribes in 2016 and reaching 246 in 2019, Grove said on Monday.
“The numbers have an impact on our overall scores,” he said.
Central York Middle School principal Kelly Harper said that among other local middle school principals – one of whom cited 13 exclusions as a high number – the district certainly had the highest number in the count.
Other factors affecting scores could be the state’s new standards and the pace of students, Grove said.
“A few years ago, the state of Pennsylvania implemented new benchmarks, raising the benchmark, which resulted in lower scores statewide,” he said.
But that was not enough to allay the concerns of the board.
“We’re talking about the benchmark change like ‘don’t panic’,” Board member Jane Johnson said. “I’m still concerned about the decline before this and the steady decline after that.”
From 2017, especially in math, the bottom fell, it seems, Gothie said.
That year, Central recorded an average growth index of minus 13.59, according to data from the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment, which determines whether students experienced at least one year of growth from the previous year.
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A growth index of less than negative two indicates significant evidence that students did not meet the growth standard on that assessment, according to the PVAAS website.
Grove said that rather than test results, classroom visits can provide first-hand experience of what works and what doesn’t.
But Gothie countered that, like PSSAs, a class visit doesn’t give a sense of the measure over time.
Board member Michael Wagner said the PSSA math scores definitely stand out and he would be interested in consulting with educators who have and haven’t taught the test to compare what they have. have accomplished in each method.
The district could also have done a better job a few years ago keeping students on track with the pace of their peers, while also finding a good balance that allowed them to learn at their own level, Grove said. .
If a student has to take an assessment on material they haven’t yet achieved, it can also hurt scoring, he said, but the end goal is not to prepare students for the PSSA.
“It’s really about making sure kids learn the material – not just being exposed, but really learning.”