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For the first time in five years, the Pittsburgh Public School District saw a decrease in overall student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. This decrease marks the greatest year-to-year decline in PSSA performance in the past 10 years.

“We are extremely disappointed and puzzled by these results since the reforms we have put in place have shown promising results for our students over the past several years,” said Superintendent Linda Lane. “After making (Adequate Yearly Progress) last year, for the second time in three years, the district is committed to understanding this year’s data in order to get back on our positive trajectory.”

The PSSA is a standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards. According to preliminary results from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the percentage of proficient PPS students dropped by 2 percentage points in reading and by 3.8 percentage points in math.

The decrease in performance for African-American students was only slightly higher than that of the overall student population.

The percentage of students scoring proficient or higher dropped by 2.1 percentage points in reading and by 4.3 percentage points in math.

“We know that the most important school-based factor for increasing student achievement is the effectiveness of our teachers, and we are more committed than ever to accelerating our teacher improvement efforts so that every student will have an effective teacher in every classroom, every day,” Lane said.

Over the past decade, PPS has seen their scores nearly double in math from 33.8 in 2002 to 62.4 percent in 2011. PPS saw a similar increase in reading from 39.8 in 2002 to 58.8 percent in 2011.

“The education professionals of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers are disappointed in the preliminary results from the 2012 (PSSA). This one-year deviation from a long upward trend in test scores is a reminder that we can never allow distractions from our efforts to build the best possible education opportunities for the students in our schools,” said PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis. “This district and our union will continue to address the challenges caused by budget reductions and layoffs. In spite of the limited diagnostic information that the PSSA provides, we will not ignore this information, nor retreat from the mission of making the Pittsburgh Promise accessible to all of our students.”

The PPS did see improvement in 8th grade where the District saw an increase of 2.6 percentage points in math and 1.6 percentage points in reading. However, despite having made AYP twice in the past three years, these results indicate the District has failed to make AYP for the 2011-2012 school year.

“I have to say that I am disappointed. I think its just time, that we as a district move in another direction,” said District 6 Rep. Mark Brentley. “Part of the bad results is poor decision-making and poor recommendations made by the administration.

District 1 Rep. Sharene Shealey said she would rather wait to comment until the state has released the full PSSA results. District 3 Rep. Thomas Sumpter and District 2 Rep. Regina Holley did not return calls for comment.

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