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Chester County Press

Avon Grove schools make gains

11/25/2014 04:14PM ● By Steven Hoffman

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

Avon Grove School District officials were pleased—but not content—with academic achievement gains by students during the 2013-14 school year as three schools made significant gains in their results on the School Performance Profile (SPP). At the Nov. 13 school board meeting, assistant superintendent Dr. Margaret Sharp led a presentation about the academic achievement of the district's students. All four of Avon Grove's schools produced School Performance Profile results that fall in the upper level of the “proficient” range.

Fred S. Engle Middle School had the highest overall score on the School Performance Profile after increasing its result by 4.4 points to 88.9. Penn London Elementary School made the largest gain during the 2013-14 school year, jumping 4.7 points to 86.8. Avon Grove High School's score increased 4.1 points to 87.6. Avon Grove Intermediate School's score dropped 1.6 points to 82.5.

The School Performance Profile was developed by the state to inform the public about the performance of each school and to provide parents and taxpayers with performance measures for schools. The School Performance Profile factors in SAT, PSSA, AP scores, and other data. Schools are able to boost their overall scores on the School Performance Profile through high academic achievement by students as well as by closing the achievement gap for under-performing student groups.

During the presentation to the school board, district officials offered strengths and needs for each school.

At the Avon Grove Intermediate School, for instance, the school earned a score of 100 for students meeting annual academic growth expectations for math and reading. That's certainly a strength. But the school needs to close the achievement gap for all students, especially under-performing students in science. Only 69.63 percent of the students scored proficient or advanced in writing.

The Fred S. Engle Middle School students closed the achievement gap in science between historically under-performing groups by a larger margin than expected, which earned the school a grade of 100 for this indicator. As for needs, the middle school is looking to improve student performance in writing.

A strength at the high school was the performance on Advanced Placement tests. Almost 37 percent of the graduating seniors earned a grade of three or higher on at least one AP exam.

Those students who are taking AP exams are performing very well. School Board President Brian Gaerity said that he is impressed that 88 percent of Avon Grove's students who are taking AP exams are scoring a three or higher on them.

High school students exceeded national and state averages on SAT tests. Avon Grove's average SAT score in reading is 521, up from 512 in 2013. The national average is 497.

The district’s average score on the writing part of the SAT was 506, up from 497 a year earlier. The national average is 487.

Math scores at Avon Grove in the SAT average 535, down from 536 a year earlier. It still exceeds the national average of 513.

The high school has also expanded the number of students utilizing a dual enrollment program to get a start on earning college credits. Avon Grove increased its participation from 31 students to 44 students. Those students are taking 89 classes, up from 58 classes just a year earlier.

Avon Grove High School's graduation rate is now an impressive 97 percent, up one point from 2013.

Sharp said that after analyzing all the data, one thing that stood out to her was the progress that the district is making, especially at the secondary level.

From 2013 to 2014, the district was able to earn proficient scores for all schools, increase participation and performance on Advanced Placement exams, boost SAT scores, and have a higher percentage of students performing above the national average on Measure of Academic Progress results.

Sharp said that the district has identified a number of goals. Even though the reading scores have improved in some grades at the elementary level based on PSSA results, the district wants to boost reading performance among all student groups. The performance in both reading and math demonstrates significant achievement gaps among some sub-groups, including Hispanic students and students with individualized education plans, so the district wants to focus on improvement in those areas, too.

MAP results indicate that students are learning less than the national average in a year. Science and writing performance is weak across the district based on state assessment measures.

Improving academic achievement was at the heart of the school district's recently completed strategic plan that establishes goals for the district for the next five or six years. There was a feeling among those involved with the strategic planning process that the community wants the district to move from being a district with good academic results to being a district with great results.

“We need to make sure that we have a clear vision, a clear direction that is supported financially,” superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese said.

Overall, district officials were pleased with the progress that was made in the last year, but the school board president emphasized that that progress needs to continue.

“There's a lot to be proud of,” Gaerity said, “but we're not satisfied with where we are.”

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