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TAHS PSSA reading, writing success

Overall the Tyrone Area School District and all three of its schools made AYP (adequate yearly progress) despite serving one of the state\’s most challenging student populations. But easily lost among the maze of numbers are a few tale-telling achievements that reveal how well Tyrone\’s schools service their most challenging and needy students.
This year\’s seniors placed second among Pennsylvania\’s 501 school districts in terms of the percentage of students who performed at the advanced level in Writing. Only Upper Saint Clair, one of the wealthiest districts in the state, was able to top Tyrone\’s 34 percent advanced performance.
Just as impressive, in Reading, Tyrone\’s eleventh graders made the top ten in Pennsylvania for the percentage of its economically disadvantaged students (39 percent) who performed advanced.
When asked how so many economically challenged Tyrone students perform at the advanced level, English Department Chair Steve Everhart remarked, \”It\’s simple. You treat non-college bound students like everyone else. The kid who doesn\’t think he has a chance at college is the kid most likely to give up on him/herself. Most schools go wrong by tracking these kids into dumbed-down classes.\”
Everhart added, \”Some schools call them ‘Applied\’ Communications classes to make them sound more relevant, others call them \’Basic\’ English as a euphemism for their lowered expectations.\”
What every kid enrolled in these classes calls them is closer to the truth. Everhart said those students call them \’English for Dummies.\’ That\’s what kids in those classes think about themselves – they look around and see that they\’re in the \’dumb\’ class that their school has set up for them. It\’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that schools should be ashamed of.
\”Schools that don\’t prepare all kids with both relevance and rigor are doing them a tremendous disservice,\” stated Everhart. \”We know that a lot of kids will never go to college, but there\’s no PSSA for gas station attendants and burger flippers. All kids have to pass the same test; all schools face the same consequences if they don\’t.\”
Everhart says it\’s better to set the bar high and encourage them to jump higher than the students believe that they can. Instead of \’English for Dummies,\’ Tyrone offers every high school student an English class with challenging reading, college-level writing, targeted grammar instruction and SAT-level vocabulary development.
Tyrone catches low-income kids as well as special education kids in these courses and accelerates their development by differentiating instruction just beyond their abilities.
\”We stretch them – as long as they don\’t exceed frustration level. What motivates them in the end is blending in with other kids and succeeding at college-level tasks they never dreamed themselves capable of tackling,\” added Everhart.
Against the Pennsylvania averages, the results of TAHS\’s approaches are convincing. In Reading, only 18 percent of the state\’s special education juniors passed the PSSA. In contrast, over the last four years, twice as many Tyrone juniors performed the feat, an average of 38 percent over the time period. In Writing, the results of Tyrone\’s special education students are even more remarkable with over 85 percent reaching the PSSA standard.
The Tyrone students who are least at-risk and are non-special education students are faring very well on the PSSA\’s also.
\”I used to think \’No Child Left Behind\’ was an impossibility,\” Everhart observed. \”But for two consecutive years we\’ve had 100 percent of our non-special education graduates pass the PSSA in Writing – and last year only three of my non-special education juniors scored below proficient on the Reading test.\”
He added, \”If only the law recognized the special learning rates of special education students, we\’d count it as something less than a fairy tale. As it stands, by the year 2014, if a school doesn\’t achieve 100 percent success with every student, it can be taken over, privatized and have its workers replaced. This has happened in some PA schools. If only we had similar law to hold politicians 100 percent accountable. We\’d hear nothing from Washington but crickets.\”
The Tyrone Area School District 2007 PSSA results summary: (TAES) Grade 3: 70 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Reading and 67 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Math. Grade 4: 73 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Reading and 86 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math.
(TAMS) Grade 5: 63 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Reading, 71 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math and 56 percent scored proficient or advanced in Writing. Grade 6: 70 percent scored proficient or advanced in Reading and 70 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math. Grade 7: 72 percent scored proficient or advanced in Reading and 68 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math. Grade 8: 77 percent scored proficient or advanced in Reading, 61 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math and 92 percent scored proficient or advanced in Writing.
(TAHS) Grade 11: 78 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Reading, 60 percent scored proficient or advanced in Math and 97 percent scored proficient or advanced in Writing.