HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania school officials gave mixed reviews of their grades under a new system that state officials say will help parents, administrators and the public to assess and improve student achievement.
Education officials released the remaining performance scores Wednesday for all 3,200 traditional, charter, cyber and technical schools after complaints about inaccurately entered data delayed about one-fifth of them, primarily high schools, for two months. The school performance scores are also used to inform the state’s new performance ratings for teachers and principals.
In Pittsburgh’s public schools, just 36 percent of schools reached or exceeded the 70 mark, prompting School Superintendent Linda Lane to tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it’s a “wake-up call.”
“It hits you because you realize the depth of the problem and how much of a struggle it’s going to be,” Lane told the newspaper.
Officials in districts where poverty is more prevalent suggested the results are skewed against them, while charter schools showed signs of struggle.
A spokeswoman for the Clairton City School District in southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the poorest districts in the state, said some of the performance measures stack the system in the favor of more affluent school districts.
Some were pleased with their scores.
“I am pumped,” Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon told the Times-Tribune of Scranton. The school got a score of 95.3.
“I am absolutely thrilled with that score,” he said.
The results indicated that 2,181, or nearly 73 percent, of public schools received a score of 70 or higher, based on a 100-point scale, the state Department of Education said. Acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq has defined a score of 70 as the mark of moving toward success and said it was phenomenal that more than 70 percent of public school buildings in Pennsylvania cleared it.
Of the 166 charter schools that were eligible for a score, 65 received a score of 70 or higher, the Department of Education said. That is just one-third of the schools.
Education Department officials are concerned about the charter school scores, and the agency is in the process of reviewing the performance of the traditional public schools the charter students previously attended, spokesman Tim Eller said.
A student may be coming from a low-performing school and that achievement gap is not something a charter school can erase in a year, Eller said.
Most charter schools are in Philadelphia.
Karen Quinn, the director of curriculum and instruction at central Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Area School District, told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg that the new profile system is a better indicator of academic performance because it relies on multiple measures of student achievement, rather than one.
Still, Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy told the Express-Times of Easton that there is a link between poverty levels and the scores, and the state’s formula must start accounting for that. He also criticized it as too reliant on the Keystone Exam.
Schools are now judged on data including attendance, participation in standardized testing, graduation rates and closing the achievement gap. Forty percent of the score comes from exam results. Ratings will be updated annually.