G-AHS celebrates PSSA scores

PAT FRIDGEN

Greencastle-Antrim High School principal Ed Rife publicly went out on a limb last fall, and today is celebrating the results of his academic challenge. He told the school board on Sept. 9 that while the high school had made Adequate Yearly Progress in reading and math on the Pennsylvania System of State Assessment tests for seven years, the scores were still flat compared to the rising, and mandated, expectations each year.

Rife told the assembly that night he was shooting for a reading score of 72 and a math score of 63 for the juniors. The state target goals in 2010 were 63 and 56, respectively.

Though preliminary reports on the April tests came back in early summer and gave Rife optimism, it wasn't until late August that he had the official results. The students scored 74.1 in reading and 65.7 in math.

"I am elated," he said, before even being able to share the news with the staff, students and school board. "It's a wonderful thing to see the growth that we set as goals with the faculty. It's due to the kids' efforts. They did their best."

Rife also found joy in fulfilling a promise to the students, that if they met the goals, there would be a celebration. Friday the class, now seniors, gets a tailgate party, with food and a DJ, and admission to the first varsity football game of the season, the Blue Devils facing the Chambersburg Trojans.

Rife credited the success of meeting the goals to the team effort exhibited by the students, faculty, staff, administration and school board.

"Everything tied together," he said. "These are the highest scores in the high school for all time."

The next closest were 68.4 in reading in 2008, and 61.8 in math in 2006.

The strategy

PSSA tests are required in grades 3 - 8 and 11, and Rife had noticed that the two-year break of no testing left the upperclassmen not particularly motivated. He met with the students prior to the test dates to explain the importance of the assessment. He also compared the past G-AHS scores with those of area schools. He was certain that information  inspired the students to work harder. While they ranked number one out of seven schools in reading, they were second in math behind Gettysburg, second in writing behind Tuscarora, and fourth in science behind Gettysburg, Tuscarora and Chambersburg. The school also sponsored a breakfast for the juniors the day before the first test.

"Going in, I wanted to make the tests a positive thing for them," Rife stressed.

He and the faculty had also worked on specific objectives during the school year to prepare for the nine test days in April. Enrichment programs were required for students who were not proficient in English and math. Three teams of two teachers co-taught classes of struggling students. The staff received training in being a Learning Focused School, and various benchmarks were measured and data reviews conducted over the months.

The state targets for 2010-2011 are 72 in reading and 67 in math. By 2013-2014 all schools are supposed to be at 100 percent proficiency in reading and math. Rife is determined to keep the momentum going.

"There will be more changes this year. We will keep looking and tweaking to give the extra help where needed."