Pennsylvania School Report Cards Show Little Progress

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The 2013-2014 School Performance Profiles in the state of Pennsylvania show little change from last year.

The report card offers each school a 1-100 rating based mostly on standardized tests, although graduation and attendance rates are also considered. Overall, 72% of schools in the state received a score of 70 or above.  The same percentage received this score last year.

However, a closer look reveals that more schools saw a decline in their score from last year, with 1,539 seeing a drop and only 1,405 increasing their score or remaining the same.

The Philadelphia school district saw 34 of 214 school make the cutoff of 70 or above.  According to Jura Chung of the District’s Office of Strategic Analytics, scores in the district ranged from 90.8 at Central to 13 at Philadelphia Virtual Academy.

Despite this, acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said this year’s scores are satisfying, when all the changes that schools within the state needed to accommodate for revised academic standards and assessments are taken into account.

“I am pleased that our students and educators continue to meet the challenge of more rigorous academic programs, and I congratulate them for a job well done,” she stated in a news release.

State Education Department spokesman Tim Eller said that such a drop in scores is to be expected during a transition period where schools are trying to change their curriculum to meet new standards.  He also mentioned that the percentage of schools who scored below 60 dropped by 1% this year.

The profiles offer a range of information for parents and taxpayers to see how well local school are performing, as well as to see yearly trends.  The scores are also used to meet federal guidelines concerning school accountability, and for the first time this year, they will be used for teacher evaluations.

Senator Andy Dinniman expressed his disappointment in this year’s scores, stating they reflect a poor record on education.

“If the department is saying, well, it’s not unchanged. That’s not a viable argument. If the program is working, they should show us exactly example after example of improvement in the scores. Their answer should be much better,” he said.

While critics such as Dinniman suggest the delay in announcing the scores was due to the gubernatorial election, the Education Department said it was to offer schools the opportunity to verify the data so it could be used in the new state teacher evaluations.

“Accuracy was and remains the sole reason for why the department provided schools with additional time to review and verify their data,” Education Department spokeman Tim Eller said. “There are nearly 120,000 teachers across the commonwealth whose evaluations will be impacted by this year’s School Performance Profiles. Accuracy is of paramount importance to the department.”