Mon-Yough school scores highlight progress, challenges | TribLIVE.com
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As his brother Jacob watches, Francis McClure Intermediate School fourth-grader Connor Anderson uses an electronic device to answer geographic trivia questions during an orientation meeting for that school's new Academy of Cultural Experiences. Connor's school took the biggest jump of any Mon-Yough area school in performance profiles released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education last week, from 51.1 in 2012-13 to 72.6 in 2013-14.

Students improved their academic performance in many Mon-Yough schools in the 2013-14 school year, according to school performance profiles the state Department of Education released last week.

The profile scores, based in part on testing done in the spring, range from 46.7 in the first year for Twin Rivers Intermediate School in McKeesport Area to 98.5 at Jefferson Elementary and 97.7 at Gill Hall Elementary in West Jefferson Hills.

The biggest Mon-Yough jump from 2012-13 came at a McKeesport Area school, Francis McClure Intermediate in White Oak, which went from 51.1 to 72.6.

“McKeesport Area School District is proud of the growth that has been made in our buildings and we continue to work hard in meeting each student’s individual needs,” district spokeswoman Kristen Davis said Monday.

Both West Jefferson Hills scores are improvements from 2012-13, with Gill Hall rising from 94.3 and Jefferson soaring from 86.8. The district’s McClellan Elementary rose from 77.3 to 85.1.

The district congratulated students and staffers on its website.

“Jefferson Elementary School scored in the top 1 percent of schools in the entire state and both Jefferson and Gill Hall elementary schools scored in the top 10 schools in Allegheny County,” the posting said.

Duquesne Elementary remained the lowest-scoring Mon-Yough elementary school at 51.8, but that was up from 49.3.

“Our teachers and principals are working hard to improve instruction and enhance curriculum, and it is beginning to show in these statistics,” said Paul B. Long, Duquesne City School District’s court-appointed receiver.

Long pointed to two indicators of academic growth, one based on mathematics, in which 98 percent of students taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment math test showed improvement over the previous year, and the other on reading, in which 80 percent improved.

“Progress is being made, but room for improvement remains,” Long said.

The biggest drop among area schools was in Elizabeth Forward, where William Penn Elementary declined from 85.4 to 69.9.

Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Bart Rocco said the problem wasn’t achievement.

“Our kids did not grow as much as they should have grown,” he said.

Indicators of academic achievement showed 88 percent of William Penn students were proficient or advanced in mathematics on the tests, 77.3 percent were proficient or advanced in reading, 84.6 percent in science and 62.1 percent in writing.

Rocco said there are other factors to be considered, quoting a policy brief by Ed Fuller, executive director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis at Penn State.

Fuller wrote that the school performance profile scores “should not be used to make judgments about school effectiveness unless the scores from one school are compared to only the SPP scores from schools with similar student- and school-characteristics.”

Rocco said more than 50 percent of the William Penn student body and about 38 percent of Elizabeth Forward High School students are regarded as “economically disadvantaged,” compared to 10 percent in West Jefferson Hills.

Elizabeth Forward Middle School dropped from 78 to 69.3, but Greenock Elementary rose from 88.3 to 90.4, the fourth-highest score in the Mon-Yough area.

Elsewhere in Elizabeth Forward, Central Elementary was up from 75.7 to 78.6, but Mt. Vernon Elementary was down from 79.1 to 75.5 and the senior high school fell from 74.6 to 71.

There were other notable shifts:

• South Allegheny Early Childhood Center jumped from 70.2 to 83.1. The district’s elementary school dipped from 78.1 to 76.5, while the middle/high school rose from 65 to 68.

“We evaluated the Pennsylvania Common Core standards and the expectations for learning,” South Allegheny curriculum coordinator Alisa King said. “We realigned curricular content that was happening in the classroom.”

King said promotion and attendance levels were not taken into account last year at the third-grade level.

“Our promotion rate was almost 98.5 percent,” she said. “Our attendance was almost 94 percent as well.”

King said the nearly 100 percent rate of growth shown by Early Childhood Center youngsters in writing contributed to the district’s results.

• Hillcrest Intermediate School in Norwin rose from 70.9 to 82.7. The district’s high school was up from 85.4 to 87.4, making it the area’s top-scoring high school, and its middle school went from 89.4 to 90.6, the top middle school score in the Mon-Yough area.

Norwin’s Sheridan Terrace Elementary was down from 91.3 to 90.3 but remained the third-best elementary score in the Mon-Yough area. Norwin’s other elementary schools had varied results, with Hahntown up from 73.8 to 77.2, Sunset Valley up from 82.6 to 86.5 and Stewartsville down from 77.7 to 76.4.

• West Mifflin Area’s Homeville Elementary rose from 72.9 to 84.1, while New Emerson Elementary was up from 78.6 to 84.6 and Clara Barton Elementary rose from 83.9 to 87.7. The high school edged up from 71.1 to 73.0, and the middle school dipped from 69.3 to 67.4.

“As with any evaluation, we as a district will use this data to build upon our plan for continuous improvement,” West Mifflin Area Superintendent Daniel Castagna said. “I am very proud of the substantial increases at the elementary level. We have made financial sacrifices these last few years, so to see this growth is a huge credit to the work of our teachers and principals.”

• Thomas Jefferson High School dropped from 88.1 to 77.2 and West Jefferson Hills’ Pleasant Hills Middle School dipped from 90.2 to 87.5.

• In East Allegheny, Green Valley Primary School dropped from 76.0 to 68.4, while Logan Middle School dropped from 70.8 to 62.8. The high school showed minimal improvement, from 67.7 to 67.8.

“We are in the process of breaking down the scores in order to analyze the differences between years,” East Allegheny Superintendent Roger A. D’Emidio said.

• Park Elementary School in Steel Valley dropped from 79.8 to 70.8. No data was available for Franklin Primary School, and the high school was down from 62.3 to 58.8 and the middle school down from 73.4 to 72.5.

Steel Valley’s Barrett Elementary remained the second-lowest Mon-Yough K-8 school at 55.6, but that is up from 54 in 2012-13.

• Clairton showed improvement, with the elementary school rising from 57.4 to 59.3 and the high school from 58.2 to 62.6.

“We are very pleased with the growth in both schools,” Clairton spokeswoman Alexis Trubiani said. “We are proud of the dedication to growth that our students, staff and teachers show daily. Our ultimate goal is growth yearly, and with our teachers, students and staff, we believe that growth will continue to happen.”

• For McKeesport Area, it was a year of transition. Data was not available from the Department of Education for the still relatively new Francis McClure and Twin Rivers primary schools built adjacent to their co-named intermediate facilities in White Oak and the city’s Seventh Ward, respectively.

Centennial Elementary School closed after 2012-13 with a profile score of 60.6.

Founders Hall Middle School was down from 59.7 to 55.2, while McKeesport Area Senior High School rose from 51.7 to 55.9.

“McKeesport Area School District will continue to evaluate all of our strategies and educational opportunities to ensure we offer the best for the children in our five communities,” Davis said.

McKeesport Area High School rose above the lowest area score to include a high school, Propel’s Braddock Hills K-12 facility (down to 53.6 from 62.5 last year).

Propel Homestead combined with Andrew Street High School rose (58.7 to 64.4), as did Propel McKeesport’s K-8 school (82.8 to 83.8), while the charter school chain had lower results for its K-8 Propel East in Turtle Creek (78.6 to 75.6) and Propel Pitcairn (65.5 to 62.9).

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or [email protected].

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