By Steven Hoffman
Avon Grove School District’s four schools posted consistently good scores in the state’s School Performance Profile. That was one of the main points of a presentation by assistant superintendent Dr. Margaret Sharp as she led a review of district-wide student-achievement results at the March 13 Avon Grove School Board meeting.
Sharp explained that Pennsylvania has developed a new accountability system called the School Performance Profile that is designed to provide parents and taxpayers with information about school quality for public schools across the commonwealth.
Each school now receives an overall performance score that takes into account standardized test results and other factors. One hundred is a perfect score. A score of 90 and above is distinguished. A score between 80 and 89 is proficient. All the Avon Grove Schools scored in the proficient range, Sharp said. Fred S. Engel scored 85.5 for 2012-2013. The Avon Grove Intermediate School posted a score of 84.1. Avon Grove High School earned a score of 83.5 and Penn London Elementary's score was 82.1.
Not all school districts posted such consistently good results.
“Academic achievement in the district continues to grow, but there is room to improve,” Sharp said.
She then reviewed the students’ performances on standardized testing. In grades 3-8, students are tested in reading, mathematics, science, and writing.
For elementary school level reading and math results, scores follow a similar trend—there is a declining performance over the last few years after particularly good results in 2010.
Sharp said that a variety of factors are likely at work, causing district officials to continue to review possible explanations and causes for the decline, including the possibility of impact from budget cuts over the past few years.
The overall student performance was much stronger in grades six, seven, and eight, with 92 percent of the students scoring proficient or advanced in reading by the time they are tested in eighth grade. Math scores have been particularly strong in seventh and eighth grade.
Sharp noted that the district is making gains in closing the achievement gap for students in several subgroups, including English as a Second Language learners, students with individualized education plans, and economically-disadvantaged students.
At the high school level, students take Keystone Exams for Algebra I, Literature, and Biology. Members of the Class of 2017, the current ninth-graders must pass these Keystone Exams in order to graduate.
In Algebra I, 83 percent of the students scored proficient or advanced. Ninety percent of the students scored proficient or advanced in Literature. In Biology, 68 percent of the students were proficient or advanced.
School districts are also relying on the Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS) to track the progress that students are making. PVAAS is a statistical analysis of data that looks at how much a student has grown in a school year.
“Our goal should always be to have a student grow a whole grade level in each year,” Sharp said. She noted that getting a student to an advanced level is good, but the challenge is to make sure that even students who are advanced continue to show growth in that category.
High schools are also evaluated on advanced placement courses that are available to students. Sharp said that there are now 18 courses, up from 11 just a decade ago.
SAT scores are also factored into high school’s overall score, and Avon Grove has outperformed state and national scores in reading and math.
“We are extremely pleased in the math performance,” Sharp said.
Sharp said that ultimately the true measure of the school district is how well it prepares students for their post-graduate lives. To that end, the district entered into a partnership with Delaware County Community College (DCCC) in 2009 that allows seniors to take college-level classes at DCCC. In the first year, six students participated in dual enrollment classes, but that number has increased steadily to the point where 31 students participated in dual enrollment in 2013.
Sharp said that the district is considering opening up the dual enrollment program to juniors as well.
The high school’s graduation rate, another factor that impacts the school’s overall performance score, stood at 96 percent in 2012. The graduation rate has been very steady in the last four years.
Sharp said that having all the schools in the district score between 82 and 85 is a positive. It shows that student-achievement is consistently good across the district.
“Now what we want to see is a movement into the distinguished category,” she said. “I am confident that we can get there.”