Norwin rises in assessment of state schools
Norwin improved academically in the last school year, compared to the previous year, while the achievement at other Westmoreland County school districts dipped, according to the grade that state education officials use to gauge school performance.
Even though scores for two of Norwin’s seven schools — Sheridan Terrace and Stewartsville elementary schools — dropped last year compared to the previous school year, the district’s average grade went up by 3.5 percent, from 81.59 in 2012-13 to 84.44 in 2013-14.
On average, the grade for Westmoreland County’s 17 school districts dropped 0.7 percent from 80.17 in 2012-13 to 79.60 in 2013-14, according to the state Department of Education’s most recent School Performance Profiles.
Natalie McCracken, the district’s assistant superintendent of elementary education, said the drop in grades at Sheridan Terrace and Stewartsville shouldn’t alarm parents.
“Going down one point is not statistically significant,” she said. “The schools are still demonstrating that they are meeting or exceeding state expectations.”
Superintendent William Kerr said while the administration is “overall pleased” with its schools’ grades, “what we try to do at Norwin is continually improve and ensure that we have the human and financial resources to help our students demonstrate growth and achievement.”
The grades issued by the state are weighted to reflect statewide student exams; overall academic growth; graduation, attendance and promotion rates; and performance factors for English-language learners and children from low-income homes, according to state education officials.
The school performance profiles, which are available at paschoolperformance.org, replace the Adequate Yearly Progress goals mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
School performance results from 2012-13 showed that nearly 73 percent of schools statewide received a 70 or more on a 100-point scale, about half a percentage point greater than in 2013-14. Statewide, no county’s grade increased or dropped more than five points from its average in 2012-13.
Tracy McNelly, Norwin’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the gains made by district school can be attributed, in part, to “spending last year aligning our math, science and English curricula to the newly adopted Pennsylvania Core Standards.”
“As teachers aligned and rewrote portions of the curriculum, they implemented these practices into the classroom,” she said.
Norwin also has been working to identify academically at-risk students so they can receive extra help along with providing professional development to teacher in all grades, McNelly said.
McCracken said that at Hillcrest Intermediate School, where the score increased from 70.9 to 82.7, or 16.7 percent — the greatest increase among Norwin schools — teachers were organized into teams of three: one for English language arts, another for social studies and a third for math and science.
The change is “believed to have had a positive impact on student learning,” she said.
Release of this year’s profiles were delayed by six weeks while state officials verified information with local schools.
Last year, acting education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq twice delayed school scores because of a testing error that led to mistakes for 20 percent of the state’s 3,000 schools. Final results were posted two months after the website’s October launch.
Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].