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U-CF schools look at test results as blueprint for the future

11/28/2016 11:20AM ● Published by J. Chambless

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

In a school district that's accustomed to superlatives, the Growth and Achievement Report for 2015-16 presented at the Nov. 21 meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board was a chance to acknowledge some good results while keeping an eye on how to improve in the long term.
The principals of each school presented their individual results, which drew on data derived from the Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS),as well as the Pennsylvania System School Assessment (PSSA).
Overall, the report showed high scores across the district, meeting or exceeding the growth standard in all subject areas when examined in aggregate. Each principal stressed that there are still areas for improvement, and laid out plans to strengthen instructional opportunities.
At Chadds Ford Elementary, principal Shawn Dutkiewicz pointed to the development of technical "makerspace" initiatives at the school, as well as an emphasis on STEM-based curriculum. In math PSSA scores, the percentage of proficient/advanced students was 91.4 percent in third grade, 90 percent in fourth grade, and 74 percent in fifth grade. In English/language arts, the percentage of proficient/advanced students was 93.1 percent in third grade, 90 percent in fourth grade and 91.5 percent in fifth grade. In fourth grade science, there was a 100 percent score for proficient/advanced students. The fourth-grade PVAAS also indicated growth in science at all levels. Dutkiewicz pointed to the fifth-grade math achievenent score of 74 percent as an area that will require more focus. 
The next steps at Chadds Ford Elementary include focusing on bettering math scores, extending the math period to 75 minutes for the second through fifth grades, adding math sections to create smaller class sizes, and scheduling professional development for fifth grade teachers to focus on deficit areas and problem solving.
At Hillendale Elementary School, principal Steve Dissinger pointed out that more than 65 percent of the students in all three grades scored in the advanced range for English/language arts. In math, the percentage of advanced or proficient students was 90.9 percent in third grade, 80.8 percent in fourth grade, and 80.9 percent in fifth grade. In ELA, the percentage of advanced or proficient students was 97.7 percent in third grade, 88.5 percent in fourth grade, and 95.3 percent in fifth grade. In science, 98.1 percent of students in fourth grade scored advanced or proficient. Dissinger said an analysis of math shows that fourth and fifth grade students are exceeding the state standard for academic growth. The number of students scoring basic or below basic in fourth and fifth grade crept up in 2015-16, and there was an indication that fourth grade students are not meeting the standard for academic growth in ELA. That will be an area of emphais in the coming school year. The math instruction block will be increased from 60 minutes to 75 minutes as well. 
At Pocopson Elementary School, principal Clif Beaver pointed to the school's many achievements, including being recognized as the top elementary school in Pennsylvania by SchoolDigger.com. Proficient/advanced PSSA scores in math were 94.2 percent in third grade, 88 percent in fourth grade, and 83.5 percent in fifth grade. The PSSA ELA scores for proficient/advanced were 99 percent for third grade, 90.4 percent in fourth grade, and 95.9 percent in fifth grade. Science proficient/advanced was 99.2 percent. An area to work on in fourth grade math was measurement and problem solving, as well as operations and algebraic thinking, and interpreting and representing data. In fifth grade, more than 16 percent of students did not meet the proficiency standard, Beaver said, so there will be steps taken to strengthen math instruction, as well as regular progress monitoring of students on the proficiency plan.
At Unionville Elementary School, principal Michelle Lafferty said math achievement had increased in grades 3 to 5, all fourth-grade students tested proficient or advanced in science, and there was high math achievement in the fifth grade. Scores for proficient/advanced in math were 76 percent in third grade, 80 percent in fourth grade and 85 percent in fifth grade. That will mean an extended math period of 75 minutes for grades 2 to 5, a focus on math improvement in grades 3 to 5, targeted small-group instruction for students who are below proficient, and increased professional development opportunities in math. English/language arts scores at Unionville Elementary were 83 percent proficient/advance in third grade, 81 percent in fourth grade and 94 percent in fifth grade. Those scores met the standard for academic growth, but there will be an increased emphasis on writing arguments, informative/explanatory texts and narrative texts for grades 3 to 5, and a focus on understanding key ideas and details in literature and informational text for third grade. In science, 100 percent of Unionville fourth grade students tested proficient/advanced.
At Patton Middle School, principal Tim Hoffman pointed to a top 10 ranking on SchoolDigger.com since 2013, and a No. 6 ranking in 2016. The school's garden and agricultural science emphais has also gotten state and national acclaim in the past year. In an analysis of the Keystone Exam results, more than 99 percent of the students tested proficient/advanced, and there was a 10 percent increase in advanced students. In math, proficient/advanced students were measured at 69.9 percent in sixth grade, 70.7 percent in seventh grade, and 72.2 percent in eighth grade. In ELA scores, proficient/advanced results were 90.5 percent for sixth graders, 90.3 percent for seventh graders and 91.2 percent for eighth graders. Science scores were 93.1 percent proficient/advanced for 2016. Those were the highest school science numbers in Chester County. There will be a focus on improving the sixth-grade math scores, including possible program changes for 2017-18, and a focus on expressions and equations at all grade levels. 
At Unionville High School, principal Jimmy Conley had plenty of good news, including being rated No. 2 in Pennsylvania on the Newsweek "America's Top High Schools" list, a school performance profile of 101.6 (the highest in Pennsylvania), and a 94 percent score for seniors who will attend college. Of the 361 students who took the AP Exams in 2016, 95 percent of them scored a 3 or higher, Conley said. That compares to a state average of 67.7 percent and a global average of 60.3 percent. The SAT results for Unionville students were: 571 in critical reading, 579 in math, and 563 in writing. That compares to national averages of 494 in critical reading, 482 in math, and 508 in writing. Results of the 2016 Keystone Exams showed Unionville students tested proficient/advanced in algebra (93.9 percent), biology (95.7 percent) and literature (96.8 percent). 
Conley said the school's ACT, AP and SAT scores are among the best in the nation, and that a committee is examining adding the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at the school to provide another curricular path for students. 
After the presentation, School Board member Jeff Hellrung commented that the results were welcome, "but they are not everything," he said. "They're a building block. The important thing is that we learn the appropriate things from it. Our goal is to produce well-rounded, capable citizens. As for the PSSA, it's good that we've had a stable test for more than 10 years. I see there's some consistency there -- the teachers know how to use the data in the right way. I think those PSSA tests take .2 percent of the instructional time for our elementary school students. As long as we don't overdo the test prep, it's a very modest investment fior a pretty significant benefit."
The complete Growth and Achievement Report for 2015-16 is posted on the district's website (www.ucfsd.org).

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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