Friday, September 30, 2011

Hazleton Area School District- Poor Performance Continues For Years

In today's Standard Speaker veteran reporter Mia Light writes a story that Hazleton Area School District students failed to meet standardized testing benchmarks according to results released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessments test is administered every spring to every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 in reading and math; students in grades 5, 8 and 11 are assessed in writing; and students in grades 4, 8 and 11 are assessed in science.

The test scores, from the 2010-11 school year, are part of the data used to determine whether schools have achieved Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Other data used to determine AYP includes percentage of student population that takes the test, school attendance rates and graduation rates.

In the Hazleton Area School District, where data from the 10 individual schools are combined to determine whether the district as a whole achieved AYP, the results were split 50/50 - results met the mark in five district schools and failed to make the grade in five others.

Hazleton Area schools that made the AYP grade include Freeland Elementary/Middle School, McAdoo-Kelayres Elementary School, West Hazleton Elementary/Middle School and, by default, Arthur Street Elementary School and its annex.

The state Department of Education classifies Arthur Street and the annex as a "feeder school," which means it contains only students below third grade and does not get tested for AYP. Because Arthur Street and the annex feed into schools that are held accountable for third grade PSSA results, the Arthur Street school and annex receive AYP results based on overall district results. Because the district's third grade met the thresholds in math and reading overall, Arthur Street and the annex are identified as having met AYP.

The five district schools where the AYP requirements were not met include Drums Elementary/Middle School, Hazleton Elementary/Middle School, Heights-Terrace Elementary/Middle School, Valley Elementary/Middle School and the high school.

At Drums, AYP was achieved in attendance and test participation but not in academic performance. Students there did achieve AYP in math and reading overall, but students in the special education sub-group failed to meet the mark in mathematics, which cast an AYP failure on the school's final grade.

According to the Department of Education, this is the first time the Drums school did not meet all AYP measures. In the first year of not meeting AYP, a school is placed in "Warning" status, meaning it fell short but has another year to achieve the standards before any consequences are imposed.

In July the Times Leader ran a story about teachers' ratings in area school districts.  As part of the federal stimulus reporting the teachers ratings were released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education according to school district.  The federal stimulus program poured billions into education and required measures be taken to reform the decline in student test scores witnessed nationwide.

The following charts, produced by Gary Visgatis and Mark Guydish of the Times Leader, show that teachers in the Hazleton Area School district received a 100% approval rating but student acheivement was not one of the measures used to evaluate teachers.

On July 16, 2011 the Standard Speaker published an article written by Mia Light about An investigation is under way into why test scores at several Hazleton Area School District buildings in the 2008-09 school year were "statistically atypical" and highlighted in a state report that questioned whether they were earned fairly.  Subsequently HASD personnel suggested that a reporting error may have skewed that data although a full report has never been filed or reported to the public.

Hazleton Area School District was ranked 402nd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for math, reading, writing and three years of science.  The HASD was rated 368 out of 500 in 2007 by the same publication and went down to 401 out of 498 in 2010.

Hazleton Area School District board members and administrators need to stop the intense bickering, partisan degradations, and outright bullying of each other and get back to educating our children.

At the same time 94% of all Pennsylvania school districts made the grade on performance standards according to Mary Niederberger and Eleanor Chute of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  These facts should be an eye opener for the public.

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