TASD discusses PSSA test results

The normal attendees arrived for Monday’s school board meeting at Tyrone, where PSSA test results were the topic of discussion throughout the meeting.
Melissa Russell, Elementary Principal, introduced her presentation on the PSSA results for the third and fourth grade students at Tyrone and showed the increase or decrease from yearly recordings each student achieved.
Showing that in 2005, the reading and math portions of the test scored a 65 and 81 percent in the state, but has declined in math (69 percent), and slightly increased in reading to 70 percent. Russell showed her optimistic attitude of improving these test scores and working with the teachers to try and solve these problems within the classroom that may be altering the scores.
The same resulted in the fourth grade classroom as they increased in reading from 2006-07, but then dropped three percent last year. The percentile range was higher than third grade, however, as they scored a 76 percent in reading and 82 percent in math. This is better than the third grade classroom, so students must be coping with the testing and understanding how to conquer the tests more efficiently.
Russell proposed a plan that would “help these students achieve 100 percent in the year 2014,” but the steps to get there are difficult but not unobtainable.
The TAES Improvement Plan includes: aligning math and reading curriculum to the assessment anchors; four slight testing, DIBELS; monthly harcourt reading assessments based on eligible content; math exit slips; data analysis teams; RTI: Response to Intervention; reading skills groups; daily guided reading; literacy coaching, peer observations and large daily doses of reading and writing.
If the content within the improvement plan works out, Russell plans to have the PSSA AYP Targets reached by the year 2014.
Dr. John Vendetti, Tyrone Area Middle School Principal, then took the floor for his presentation in the middle school testing for the PSSAs.
The middle school students at Tyrone scored around the same as the elementary students, but slightly lower. In 2006, the scores read 79 percent in fifth grade math, 70 percent in reading and 72 percent in writing. The math and reading were much higher than the scores in 2008: reading (61 percent) and Math (69 percent).
“I’m not going to be as optimistic as Mrs. Russell,” Dr. Vendetti stated. “But I do believe we can achieve that 76 percent. It is more important for the kids to be healthy mentally, rather than worry about their scores on the PSSAs. It is also very important that they take the tests seriously.”
Sixth grade showed a decrease from 2007 to 2008, as they dropped from 71 to 64 percent in reading and 71 to 63 in math. However, the seventh and eighth grade classes slightly decreased in math, but the eighth grade class increased from 76 to 83 percent in the reading. This shows that the kids are improving with the aid and awareness of the school district to keep things flowing.
An Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) program bases itself around the strengths and weaknesses each class has shown in the past testing. With the program, each grade varies in what to expect for a daily routine.
A fifth grade ELO schedule consists of math 63 minutes a week, writing 42 minutes a week and reading 81 minutes a week.
Sixth grade changes into a more drastic level with reading 135 minutes a week, writing and math 54 minutes a week.
The seventh and eighth grade ELO turns into a regular check-up with the three different levels of ELO students: proficient, basic or below basic and ELO first and second marking period classes who are still performing below the proficient level. This is measured by the students first and second quarter math test scores, Study Island test scores and teacher recommendations.
Study Island Prep Program is aimed to cover all the Pennsylvania anchors tested on PSSAs and use questions similar in style to the testing. Everything will be done online in a user-friendly format. Teachers and principals will have access to detailed statistics and reports that enable them to measure student progress and identify student deficiencies. There are multiple study modes available from testing format to game format. The Study Island is an approved provider for the EAP; Accountability Block Grant; Project 720; Classrooms for the Future; EETT grants; Title monies, etc. The program may be used in summer school, summer tutoring and at home over summer to improve students’ skills.
Francis Bloom and Stephen Everhart, PSSA Coaches, then presented their cases to the board. Bloom brought in some numbers for the eleventh grade class scores and found that they scored an average of 58.8 percent, and progress was not detectably different from the average school in the state.
“We need to get the kids working from eighth grade until eleventh grade to stay focused and prepared for the PSSA testing,” Bloom directed to the board. “Students have a test in eighth grade, and then take the Terra Nova tests, which are a good source to practice, but are in no way the same as the PSSAs.”
Stephen Everhart stated that, “It may not necessarily be the teachers, rather it could be the group of students within a certain grade that might pull the percentile down. This could vary the testing significantly.”
Everhart pointed out some of the plausible causes as to why the PSSA scores did increase within the reading and writing.
For example, the Active-Boards and laptops came after the testing, so they were not an issue as to why the scores increased. The plausible cause to why the scores increased date back to Julie Rice, the remedial reading teacher, who gave at-risk kids a double-dose of reading each day. This could be the primary reason behind the high scoring in the reading and writing portion of the PSSA testing.
Since 2003, the reading proficiency has increased from 69 to 89 percent in the state. Tyrone ranks 14 out of 501 Districts in Pennsylvania, reaching a 97 percentile in the state.
They have also achieved 99 percentile, third out of 501 Districts in Pennsylvania in the writing proficiency.

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