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Warning list names 96 county schools

Nearly 100 Allegheny County schools are on a final warning list that identifies public schools failing to meet basic state requirements.

A quarter of the 96, including four charter schools, are in the Pittsburgh School District. The rest are a broad mix from 30 county districts, including schools in such districts as Fox Chapel Area, Mt. Lebanon and North Hills.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released the list Tuesday after weeks of hard-fought appeals were exhausted. Scores of schools were removed from the list when administrators demonstrated the schools were placed there by mistake or had extenuating circumstances.

Still, 1,100 of the nearly 2,800 public schools statewide were found to be missing the mark in critical areas, such as attendance, graduation rates, and math and reading scores.

The standards are Pennsylvania’s effort to meet the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that every student be proficient in math, reading and other areas by 2014. The first list was released Aug. 11. Schools then had the chance to appeal before yesterday’s final list was released.

The vast majority of schools, 778, appear on the warning list. If they fail to improve, they will be forced to offer school choice next year. Schools on the state improvement list already are required to offer that option.

It remains unclear how school choice would work in districts with few schools.

The state already is taking action in more than 300 schools found lacking in past years.

This year, 29 Pittsburgh city schools were forced to offer school choice. Another 25 appear on the state warning list.

“It’s a red flag,” district spokeswoman Pat Crawford said.

The list has come under fire from some school officials who charge the categories are too restrictive or misleading.

Educators have been especially critical of the criteria for special-education students and other groups such as foreign or underprivileged students. Nearly 60 percent of 123 area schools — including schools in Allegheny, Beaver, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Washington and Butler counties — on the list were cited for lagging behind state standards in the groups category. In addition, nearly three-fourths of the schools on the list failed the attendance requirements.

“Every school district is really struggling with the special education students in particular because we’re concerned that we’ll be able, over a 12-year period, to get them to a level that Pennsylvania wants them to get to,” Shaler Area Superintendent Donald Lee said. Three of Shaler Area’s eight schools are on the warning list.


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