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State Issues New Grading System For School Performance

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New Castle Area School District Classroom

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A report card on all public schools in Pennsylvania will be issued Sept. 30, the state’s Secretary of Education announced Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s very transparent. You’ll be able to get a lot of good information out about your public schools,” said Dr. Carolyn Dumaresq.

Called the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile, it replaces a narrow evaluation under the No Child Left Behind law with measurements that lead to a numeric score up to 100.

“It provides multi-measures and many different ways for one to look at a school district and measure its effectiveness,” said Dr. Linda Hippert, head of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

That grade includes academic achievement on the PSSAs and Keystone Exams, SATs and ACTs, student improvement year to year, attendance rates, advanced placement courses, and graduation rates.

While parents and taxpayers will naturally look at that one aggregate score, educators warn that that may not give you a true reflection of a particular school’s success or failings.

“I think there are other factors that go into it. You can’t just take a small school district and compare it to a large school district without understanding the dynamics of that district,” said Dr. Janet Sardon, superintendent of the Yough School District.

Area superintendents worry it doesn’t account for different socio-economic conditions that affect the tax base.

“Some of the data points are based off administrative decisions, school board decisions, and also the economic health of the district,” added Dr. Brian White, superintendent of the Chartiers Valley School District. “What programs we can provide or not provide is really governed by our financing.”

And some worthwhile programs are not counted in the profile.

“Bethel Park, for example, prides itself on the arts and that’s not a measure. Our music program, visual arts programs, aren’t included,” noted Nancy Rose, superintendent of the Bethel Park School District.

Despite shortcomings in the grade, Secretary Dumaresq is optimistic.

“What I hope to have happen is that school districts will look at, if they have an area of weakness, will look nearby at an area school that has a strength and contact that superintendent and say, what materials are you using, what strategies are you using, how can I learn from that,” she says.

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