Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pittsburgh Public Schools' PSSA scores drop - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

In a year of disappointing results on state math and reading tests, most schools in Pittsburgh Public Schools saw their scores drop in reading, math or both, with six experiencing double-digit dips in the percentage of students proficient or advanced on both tests.

The district Monday released preliminary school-by-school results for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in math and reading given in the spring to grades 3-8 and 11.

Last month, the district released preliminary overall results showing that student performance dropped for the first time in five years, putting the district close to where it was two years ago. Statewide results have not yet been released.

At a school board education committee meeting Monday night, schools superintendent Linda Lane said, "We lost some ground in 2012."

District officials have offered a variety of reasons, ranging from test security so stringent that students were uncomfortable to a loss of state money to pay for interim testing to see how students were doing as they went along.

PG chart: City scores on state tests
(Click image for larger version)

As for the schools with significant declines, Ms. Lane said after the meeting, those results merit a deeper analysis at each school. She said it was more than would be expected by year-to-year variability.

The state Department of Education has raised questions about atypical erasure patterns on tests given by 19 teachers. Ms. Lane said earlier that although the investigation continues, most have been explained.

She said the schools with significant declines were generally "not the schools where we were looking at particular individuals."

"I wish I could say I have the answers today, but to be honest, I don't," she said.

The school-by-school results show double-digit drops in both subjects at Pittsburgh Concord PreK-5 in Carrick, Grandview K-5 in Allentown, Liberty K-5 in Shadyside, West Liberty K-5 in Brookline, Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill and Perry High School on the North Side.

Some other schools also had double-digit drops in a single subject.

PG chart: City school scores on state math tests
(Click image for larger version)

Overall, the largest decrease was in reading at Perry, 30 percentage points, dropping the percentage proficient or advanced from 52.4 to 22.4.

There are some bright spots within the district. Two places had at least 80 percent of their students scoring proficient or advanced in both math and reading, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, Downtown, and grade 11 of Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy 6-12, known as Sci Tech, in Oakland.

CAPA, which is a creative and performing arts magnet school, had the highest single-subject percentage, 90.7 percent proficient or advanced in reading. But even that figure was a drop of 1.8 percentage points from the previous year.

Of the 56 schools on the list, seven met their all of their targets for adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

That list includes Pittsburgh Arlington PreK-8, which is in the making progress category because it had missed in 2010.

Arlington showed the biggest percentage gains both in math, 9.5 percent points, and reading, 15 percentage points. At Arlington, 63.9 percent were proficient or advanced in math and 50.8 percent in reading.

PG chart: City school scores on state reading tests
(Click image for larger version)

Schools in the making AYP category are Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 on the North Side and Dilworth PreK-5 in East Liberty; Greenfield K-8; and three 6-12 magnet schools, Obama, which has an international studies program and was in Shadyside; CAPA; and Sci Tech.

The state target for making AYP increased this year -- 78 percent proficient or advanced in math and 81 percent in reading -- but schools can make AYP with lower scores if they show significant progress or meet other statistical measures. They must meet the measures on all of a variety of targets, such as racial and special education subgroups, if there are at least 40 in the subgroup.

Aside from Arlington, the other six that met AYP targets had at least 70 percent of their students proficient or advanced in both subjects.

In addition to Arlington, four other places showed more students proficient in both math and reading than the previous year: Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 on the North Side, Sterrett 6-8 in Point Breeze, Milliones 6-12 in the Hill District and grade 11 at Westinghouse 6-12 although some of the gains were modest.

For example, Westinghouse, which was a high school in 2011 but a 6-12 building in 2012, had an increase of 3.9 percentage points in grade 11 reading, bringing the percentage proficient or advanced to 30.2 percent.

The district also released school-by-school data on African-American achievement, but did not provide data for other racial groups.

Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side was the only school to have at least 70 percent of its African-American students proficient or advanced in both math and reading. Grade 11 at Sci Tech also reached that threshold, but its grades 6-8 fell slightly below in math.

Fulton held the highest score for a single subject for African-Americans, 87.4 percent proficient or advanced in math, a drop of 1.3 percentage points from the prior year. The reading results showed 64.6 percent of its African-American students were proficient or advanced, a decrease of 3.4 percentage points.

The lowest levels for African-American students in the district were at Westinghouse in grade 11 for math at 7.7 percent and grades 6-8 in reading at 25.1 percent.

Last month, Ms. Lane released an equity plan aimed at improving opportunities for all children to succeed in city schools.

When compared to students overall, the largest gap for African-American students was 33.6 percentage points in math at Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, where 79 percent of students overall were proficient or advanced but only 45.4 percent of African-American students were.

Colfax also had a substantial gap in reading -- 31.2 percentage points -- with 77.3 percent of students overall proficient or advanced and 46.1 percent of African-American students.

However, the biggest gap in reading -- 32.6 percentage points -- was in Pittsburgh Banksville preK-5, where 68.3 percent of all students were proficient or advanced but only 35.7 percent of African-American students.

There were some schools with smaller achievement gaps, but in some cases, the percentages of African-Americans who were proficient or advanced were smaller as well.

Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 in Bloomfield, for example, has a gap of 2.5 percentage points in reading, but 31.3 percent of students overall -- and 28.8 percent of African-Americans -- are proficient or advanced.

Of schools still open, Pittsburgh Carrick High School had the highest percentage of African-American students doing better than students overall in reading. Of African-Americans, 44.7 percent were proficient or advanced in reading, but 38 percent of the school overall was, a difference of 6.7 percentage points.

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