G-A schools make adequate yearly progress

PAT FRIDGEN

Students in the Greencastle-Antrim School District made Adequate Yearly Progress last year, and none of the four schools are on any warning list. Administrators were quite pleased with the latest results, released to the public Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students in grades 3,4,5,6,7,8, and 11 take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests annually.

Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover told the school board Sept. 3 that 75 percent of students were advanced/proficient in math. The benchmark was 56 percent. In reading 74 percent were advanced/proficient against a 63 percent benchmark. Each year the mandated goals rise. For math the next three benchmarks are a repeat of 56, then 67 and 78 percent. For reading they are again 63, then 72 and 81 percent. By 2014 both are 100 percent.

"We're making some great strides in math," Hoover said. In the past two years the achievements surpassed nine percent. "We're very proud of that."

Out of the 1,625 students tested, 11 percent were below basic in math and 15 percent were at the basic level. They must be above those levels to be classified 'adequate.'

In reading 12 percent of children were below basic and 14 percent were at basic. The jump in PSSA scores over two years was nearly 12 percent.

"We've worked really hard to bring the scores up," he concluded.

The juniors

While the test scores were up across the district, the juniors followed a classic pattern of making the least improvement. The two-year change in math was actually down 1.6 percent and a positive climb in reading barely registered.

High school principal Ed Rife asked the rhetorical question, "How do you motivate 11th grade students to do better? Our kids have the ability and those who don't try bump the school into the next category."

Every school in Franklin County had the same problem.

"Our scores are flat but the target is going up," he said. "Math is too close for comfort."

Rife has developed programs to move students up the testing ladder. Math and English enrichment classes are in place, with a full year of classes for students who are not proficient. Co-teaching is a part of some courses, resulting in some smaller class sizes. Staff continues to be trained on the Learning Focused Schools concepts. This year freshmen and sophomores will be assessed by the district on English and math skills in each class, rather than at a grade level. Staff will also put more effort into reviewing data.

During his media presentation Rife said, "This is the page that scared me to type, but I'm competitive." He then showed that he and the department heads sought proficiency marks of 63 percent in math and 72 percent in reading next year, significantly higher than required. As he informed the teachers and students of the goals, he hoped they would become motivated and rally to excel.

SAT scores

The 2008-2009 information on Scholastic Aptitude Test scores for college-bound students was also in. With 800 points available in each category, G-A averaged 509 in reading, 494 in writing and 515 in math.  Nationally, the averages were 501 in reading, 493 in writing and 515 in math. The respective scores in Pennsylvania were 493, 483 and 501.

A year ago G-A was below the national average in writing.

"Our writing scores are a celebration," Rife said.