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Assessment scores show mixed results at Tyrone and B-A

While speaking to the 2003 graduating class, Tyrone principal Rebecca Erb remarked on the great scores that the class had on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test the graduates took as juniors. Erb will have to change her speech this year when she addresses the class of 2004.
Both the Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis school districts saw significant drops in test scores last year.
The PSSA test is how Pennsylvania is scored as part of President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program.
The test is taken by fifth, eighth and eleventh graders each year.
The results for the PSSA tests for the 2001-02 school year, showed great promise for both districts accomplishing the president’s goals for proficiency.
Tyrone School District students produced high scores in 2001-02. Fifth graders tested at 59.3 percent math proficiency and 58.6 percent in reading. Tyrone’s eighth graders scored 66.9 percent in math and 64.2 percent in reading and the eleventh grade class scored 64.4 percent in math and 81 percent in reading.
The results of the test given during the 2002-03 school year are mixed. Fifth graders scored 71.2 percent in math, an increase of 11.9 percent, and 66.5 percent in reading, an increase of 7.9 percent, the eighth grade class scored 59.3 percent in math, a drop of 7.6 percent and a 69.5 percent in reading, an increase of 5.7 percent and the junior class scored 45.6 in math, a decrease of 8.8 percent and a 70.5 percent in reading, a decrease of 10.5 percent.
“We’re working to improve the scores,” said Tyrone assistant superintendent Joann Lang. “We were expecting these results. Last year’s senior class was an exceptionally high scoring group. This year’s scores were pretty much in line of the scores when they took the test as eighth graders.”
It wasn’t because of lack of effort by the district and teachers that scores dropped.
“We have had meetings with the math department and we have come up with a plan to help bring the scores up,” said Lang. “The teachers and principals have put in a lot of effort. We are looking forward to this year’s testing to see how this group does.”
At Bellwood-Antis the results were mixed as well.
Fifth graders showed an increase of just over one percent in math and just over eight percent in reading, eighth graders dropped nearly 11 percent in math and increased the reading scores by just over six percent and the high school juniors dropped over 11 percent in math and climbed just over four percent in reading.
Bellwood-Antis high school principal Mike Sakash believes that the PSSA penalizes smaller schools.
“It is tough for small schools,” said Sakash. “One student is one percent here in which at a school like Altoona, 60 students make up one percent. Last year we had 14 students score over 1,200 on the SAT test which is outstanding. This year, we don’t have that.”
The goal of having 100 percent proficiency is going to be tough to reach.
“Unfortunately it has come to almost teaching to the PSSA,” said Sakash. “We will start preparing the kids in January. This is what the state and federal government wants. It is very unrealistic to think that everyone will be proficient by 2014. That is like saying that everyone who steps on a basketball court is going to score 20 points every night.”
Both districts are doing studies of the classes through each PSSA test that they take and tracking results.
“Looking at the class of 2004 as they took the PSSA in eighth grade, we had an idea that this was coming,” said Sakash. “We’re going to work hard to improve our scores every year.”
Currently the PSSA test is issued to fifth, eighth and eleventh grade students.