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Academic achievement performance released for Ligonier Valley | TribLIVE.com
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Academic achievement performance released for Ligonier Valley

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 19, 2014 9:01 p.m.

Academic achievement and performance at Ligonier Valley School District improved at three of its four schools, according to 2013-14 School Performance Profiles released by the state Department of Education.

In their second year, the profiles calculate a score out of 100 for each school in the state, using standardized test scores, student improvement, attendance and promotion rate, along with Advanced Placement and SAT scores at secondary schools.

In the district:

• Ligonier Valley Middle School’s score rose to 89.7 from 89.1.

• Ligonier Valley High School’s increased to 84.6 from 84.2.

• R.K. Mellon Elementary improved to 81.9 from 79.5.

• Laurel Valley Elementary’s score decreased to 73.1 from 75.8.

At a Nov. 10 meeting, Oldham cautioned the school board against comparing Ligonier Valley to other school districts because the data gathered varies from district to district due to differences like grade level configurations.

“When you get into the nuts and bolts, they are not apples to apples,” she said.

For instance, scores vary between an elementary school with only kindergarten and first grade and a school like R.K. Mellon Elementary that has kindergarten through fifth grade.

“The public has to be very cautious wanting to do what we want to do naturally in our competitive society, which is to rank order based upon one score,” she said.

Oldham partially attributed the decline in Laurel Valley Elementary’s score to accessibility to quality preschool programs in that part of the district. “The programs aren’t always accessible nor do all families take advantage of them,” she said.

To address that, Oldham said the district will continue to apply for grants, like the Pre-K Counts grant, to open up preschool opportunities.

She said teachers and parents are working hard to “close the gaps that students are coming into school with.”

“We’re having to make up a lot of ground and a lot of it is simply lack of exposure,” she said.

The assessment students take in third grade, she said, does not look at preschool experience or a lack of preschool experience, and it is also the first time students are tested in science and writing.

Assessments do not reflect students’ experiences with death, divorce, loss of a home or other factors that affect students emotionally, Oldham said. “It doesn’t take into account life, the things that happen to students,” she said. “We know that their academics are impacted by the emotional experiences that they’re going through while they’re in school.”

While there are not necessarily overarching aspects Oldham attributes to the gains or losses in scores at any of the schools, she said the schools have benefited from teachers working to better align curriculum with state standards and adding classroom technology like Apple iPads and apps.

Overall, Oldham said the School Performance Profile’s proficiency levels helps to gauge whether students are meeting standards, but faculty and staff are looking more closely at students’ individual scores, rather than the profile’s scores.

“We’re just continuing to use what we think are the best practices for the students,” she said.

The district is taking several initiatives to improve education.

At a recent in-service day, staff and faculty discussed implementing the Collins writing program in all grades. The program, which develops writing curriculum in all subjects, is already embedded at the middle school.

The district is training all teachers in the Pennsylvania Literacy Network, which allows them to put into place literacy strategies consistent across classrooms and grade levels.

Teachers are nearly finished with updating the English language arts pacing guides for kindergarten through fifth grade, which cover the scope and sequence for elementary reading and writing curriculum. With school board approval, teachers will be moving towards using Everyday Math’s new Common Core edition.

The entire district scored high for attendance and promotion.

“Our attendance is so good that when a kid isn’t here, right away it’s a red flag,” Oldham said.

“I do think attendance and graduation rates tell us the students want to be here,” she said. “They like being here. They want to be here. They and their parents find value in them being here.”

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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