Though Haverford School District made AYP for the 2011-12 school year, Haverford High School missed the mark and they weren't the only ones in Delaware County.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 12 out of the 15 high schools in Delaware County had missed the mark on their AYP targets. The only high schools in the county to meet their targets were Penncrest, Radnor, and Wallingford-Swarthmore.
Across the commonwealth, fewer and fewer schools are meeting the AYP targets. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the "new benchmark shows the percentage of students statewide scoring proficient or advanced declined from 77.1 percent in 2011 to 75.7 percent in 2012 in math. In reading, the decline was from 73.5 percent to 71.9 percent."
In 2010-11, 72 percent of Pennsylvania schools made AYP while in 2011-12, the percentage dropped significantly to 49 percent, according to the Department of Education. And the number of schools on the warning list–including Marple Newtown and Springfield high schools–more than doubled from 13 percent in 2010-11 to 31 percent in 2011-12.
Although Rose Tree Media made AYP in 2011-12, RTM Superintendent James Wigo said a time will come within the next two or three years, when the vast majority of school districts in the Commonwealth will be failing school districts.
"And Rose Tree Media will be one of them. Based on the current evaluation system, we will be a failing school district, unless there is some concession made to No Child Left Behind," Wigo said. "It is a political football, that nobody wants to touch. ...The legislature has done what (school districts) would be held in malfeasance for doing, and that is continuing a failing program."
State's AYP Benchmarks Unfair
Marple Newtown Superintendent of Schools Merle Horowitz shared her disappointment on not making AYP this year, but relayed her frustrations on the state's criteria to determine a school's performance through standardized testing especially with the hard-reaching and ever illusive target goals. It's simply just "not fair," according to Horowitz.
"We're not happy," shared Horowitz over the phone about not making AYP this year, considering the high school made it last year. "It's a big issue. "
The 2012-13 target goals are 91 percent of students advanced or proficient in reading and 89 percent of students advanced or proficient in math. And by 2014, according to the No Child Left Behind Act, all schools must be 100 percent advanced or proficient in both reading and math.
Wigo said there are a number of aspects that aren't fair within the system.
"There's always a factor or two that could keep us from 100 percent," Wigo said.
For example, Rose Tree Media has a number of students who are new to the district each year, coming from other districts, charter schools or home schooling, and rather than PSSA grading the student from where they start in the district and measuring their improvements from that point forward, he said, the system measures the students based on each student "answering each test question correctly."
"If last year a student got two questions right, and this year he get 32 questions right, isn't that pretty good growth," Wigo said. "The growth model that they use really doesn't help us at all in terms of our kids moving forward in AYP."
"Every year the bar jumps to another 10 points," said Horowitz. "And it's getting harder and harder every year."
Although Horowitz takes pride in the diversity within the MN district, the diversity can also create a few more challenges and criteria to meet.
Subgroups Can Affect Performance
For a school to meet AYP, they must meet all of these three targets: graduation rate/attendance, performance, and participation. However, the number of goals and targets used for AYP can vary by school district.
According to the Department of Education, this is because the measures associated with subgroups (gender, race, special needs students, or English Language Learners) that have fewer than 40 students in the school do not apply. However, schools with fewer than 40 students are still accountable and are evaluated in the All Students Group.
For instance, in Marple Newtown High School, there are more than 40 IEP students, or students with special needs, many of whom attend schools outside the district. However, all of the students are still required to take the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) and their scores are reflected and weighted on the public school.
According to Horowitz, Paxon Hollow Middle School had nearly 900 students and 21 subgroups taking the PSSA for 2011-12 and they still made AYP. However, Marple Newtown High School's subgroup for IEP students did not make two out of the 15 AYP targets which meant that the high school and district did not make AYP.
Subgroups Can Affect Graduation Rate
According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), this was the first year in which the Department of Education has calculated graduation rates for subgroups in addition to rates for the school and district. However, under federal law, special education students are allowed to attend public schools until age 21 to ensure they have had an appropriate education.
Marple Newtown High School had approximately 15 students who didn't graduate on time and chose to continue their education. "Unfortunately, that's held against us," states Horowitz.
"The combined impact of subgroup performance, new graduation rate formulas and leaps in testing performance targets has meant that some schools that historically have made AYP are now falling short of the increased goals further illustrating the fact that NCLB is in desperate need of revision," states the PSBA.
Eye On the Prize: Staying Positive, Making Progress
"Haverford Township students are getting an excellent education, and we are proud of our instructional staff, students and parents. Throughout the district, our PSSA scores were excellent," said Haverford Superintendent of Schools William Keilbaugh.
Haverford High School was the only school who didn't make AYP in their district for the 2011-12 school year. The high school was in warning for the 2011-12 school year and categorized as Making Progress: School Improvement I. Within three months, an identified schools must develop a school plan, in consultation with parents, school staff, district, and outside experts, according to Department of Education.
"We judge the success of Haverford High School through a variety of student assessments, the professional development of staff, and parental feedback," said Keilbaugh. "Currently, the state of Pennsylvania judges the achievement level of the high school by one test taken by the entire high school population, the PSSA."
For the 2011-12 school year, "in a year where the State increased the performance standard by 11 percent, the varied student population’s performance at Haverford High School falls below the score required for AYP." The high school was labeled in School Improvement II for the 2011-12 school year, meaning the district must continue to provide technical assistance; make public school choice available; and make supplemental educational services available.
But, according to Keilbaugh, Haverford High School was able to reach AYP standards in 2011.
"Over the last two years, Haverford High School students increased their PSSA scores by 7.7 percent in mathematics and by 4.2 percent in reading," said Keilbaugh. "In addition, our Advanced Placement (AP) test scores have been recognized by a national honor roll for the last two years. SAT scores have ranked us as one of the top 30 high schools in the region."
In addition, parents of high school seniors graded the high school "extremely favorably in a recent survey regarding students’ preparation for the next level of education and high academic expectations."
Keilbaugh continued, "We are committed to working very hard to see that each child in our school District receives the very best education. Frankly, we think that Haverford High School is doing a great job."
Delaware County High Schools Who Didn't Make AYP For 2011-12:
- Marple Newtown High School – Warning
- Springfield High School – Warning
- Haverford High School – School Improvement
- Garnet Valley – Warning
- Penn Delco – Warning
- Chichester – School Improvement
- Upper Darby – Corrective Action
- Interboro – Corrective Action
- Southeast Delco – Corrective Action
- Chester Upland – Corrective Action
- William Penn – Corrective Action
- Ridley – Corrective Action
- Garnet Valley School District
- Haverford Township School District
- Interboro School District
- Penn-Delco School District
- Radnor School District
- Wallingford-Swarthmore School District
- Chichester School District
- Marple Newtown School District
- Ridley School District
- Southeast Delco School District
- Springfield School District
- William Penn School District
- Upper Darby School District