County PSSA math scores lag

BY STACI WILSON

Results from the 2009-10 Pennsylvania Standards of School Assessments tests show local school districts are meeting overall Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks but 11th grade math scores are lagging behind proficient levels in four of the six county schools.

The 11th grade math scores at Elk Lake, Forest City, Montrose and Mountain View all fell short of the target. For the 2009-10 testing year, 56 percent of the students in each grade level taking the PSSA needed to score proficient or better to meet No Child Left Behind benchmarks.

Blue Ridge and Susquehanna Community school districts were the two county schools where 11th grade students exceeded the math test’s 56 percent proficient benchmark.

Montrose Area Superintendent Michael Ognosky said the district was still trying to modify the curriculum so the students are better prepared for the test.

Montrose posted the highest number of 11th grade students who rated below the proficient level.

But Ognosky said, the same trend can be seen in the PSSA results from all over the state.

At Montrose, Ognosky said the district has attempted to have all of the high school students take algebra and geometry in preparation for the exam.

In Montrose the business math and consumer math curriculums have been eliminated which forces students into taking the courses more in line with the PSSA test questions.

Curriculum changes to prepare students for the 11th grade PSSA are not unique to Montrose. Blue Ridge – one of the two county districts that exceeded the 11th grade math proficiency target – has also made course changes.

Blue Ridge High School Principal R. Scott Jeffrey said, “We have eliminated a couple of math classes in certain grade to force students into a more rigorous curriculum to prepare them for how they will be assessed in 11th grade.”

Jeffrey said the district has adjusted the course sequencing. Business electives are not allowed to be used as math credits anymore, said the principal.

He also said the high school math department uses benchmark assessment tests in the first and second quarters of the school year, prior to students taking the PSSA.

“Jeffrey said, “The teachers are using the results of those benchmarks more effectively. They are also learning how to use the data more efficiently to customize their instruction to meet the students’ needs.”

“With accountability so stiff on school districts now and for students to be prepared for assessment in 11th grade, we’ve got to make sure the courses prepare them for the PSSA,” Jeffrey said.

Prior to the 11th grade math PSSA, students are tested in the subject area at the end of the eighth grade year.

However, the state is in the process of instituting Keystone Exams, recently adopted state graduation requirements that don’t fully go into effect until 2017.

Current sixth grade students will be required to pass six of 10 subject-area specific tests to meet state graduation requirements.

But the exams will be gradually implemented in districts in the coming school years and current eighth grade students will be required to pass the Algebra I exam by the time they graduate.

Blue Ridge is field testing the Algebra I Keystone Exam this fall, said Jeffrey, and will administer the final exam to students in the spring.

Ognosky said the change to the Keystone Exams will narrow the focus and allow the district to really map the curriculum to meet the state standards in the testing areas.

Ognosky said a school board work session will be held on Columbus Day and the district will really break down the data for the public.

A link to the Montrose Report Card can also be found on the front page of the district website at www.masd.info.

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