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Tyrone Area School Board hears about PSSA results

The Tyrone Area School Board heard about the 2005 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test results at this week’s school board meeting.
Board members received a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Education along with other handouts to help them better understand the results. Principals from the elementary, middle and high school also addressed the board about the results and initiatives designed to improve test scores.
The snapshot report from the state showed how Tyrone performed compared to the statewide results. The comparison showed the percentage of tested students proficient or above in a particular subject test.
Among the findings, third-grade Tyrone students did slightly better in math than students statewide. Students also did slightly better in math at the fifth-grade level. The district’s percentages were slightly lower than the state totals at both grades in reading.
At the eighth-grade level, students did better in both reading and math than the state percentages. Tyrone Area 11th-grade students performed significantly higher in reading than the state figures. They were also above the state totals in math.
The 11th-grade students are also tested on writing through the PSSA. In that category, Tyrone’s results were significantly higher than the state percentage. In writing, Tyrone Area’s percentage of tested students at proficient and above was 90 percent. The state figure was 69 percent.
The school board was given an overview of how the district is attempting to improve scores at the elementary school level. The district is working throughout the school year in an effort to improve those results.
The plan includes guided reading expansion for grades 4 and 5. The district is also using the Harcourt Reading series for grades one through five. The program is designed to align with state academic standards. It also aims to prepare students for the PSSA and includes guided reading, intervention for certain students, spelling and language and a phonics program.
The district is also working to improve the elementary school results through staff development by scheduling in service days regarding certain aspects of the plan. Efforts are being undertaken in writing, math and other areas designed to aid students.
High school principal Rebecca Erb noted the high achievement of Tyrone Area High School career and technical students on the PSSA. She distributed a letter that detailed “best practices” that help students produce good results.
After the meeting, Tyrone Area School Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller spoke about some of the issues facing the district regarding PSSA testing.
Dr. Miller noted, “We continue to address preparing students academically to take the PSSA through strategies that do pay off as expressed here this evening.
“We are judged by test scores,” said Miller. “I think that’s a little unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for the kids…because they, the school and everyone else are judged by a test at a certain time on a certain day or days and that carries a tremendous amount of weight.
“But, that’s where we are,” said Miller. “It’s a test craze that we are in today. It has a downside, but the expectation is there and we prepare our students to take them.”
Miller said, “They have done exceptionally well in reading and math and even more so in writing. In writing, I believe our test score at the senior high level were about second highest in the state.
“We are very pleased where we are,” said Miller. “We don’t want to de-emphasize the other aspects of our curriculum-the fine arts and other areas. We want to maintain a balance, but we also realize what our responsibilities are regarding testing.”