C-K test scores show improvement

Results of PSSA,?Keystone Exams appeared to trend positive

CLAYSBURG — Newly released 2017 test scores at Claysburg-Kimmel School District show mixed results but are trending in the right direction, administrators said Wednesday, offering hope amid poor district rankings.

The new scores — a mix of PSSA and Keystone Exams results — are widely varied by grade level and subject, with some showing substantial leaps from last year and others dropping precipitously. Overall, however, the district’s elementary and high school principals said the changes appeared largely positive.

“You’ll see the trending, for the most part, going in the right direction,” High School Principal Stephen Puskar told the school board.

The new numbers are raw and still need to be investigated, Puskar and elementary counterpart Matt Hall stressed. But they suggest Claysburg-Kimmel might be chipping away at its low rankings — including the high school’s recent placement as one of Pennsylvania’s bottom 15 percent schools.

There was a sense of tentative hope Wednesday, along with promises from board members to support any curriculum and teaching changes needed to keep improving. Hall and Puskar said they’re set to hold frequent informational meetings with their teachers, through at least November.

“We want to give you guys the tools you need. And if this isn’t the right program, we need to know that,” board member Rich Gergely said.

The test progress wasn’t entirely even. Elementary students who took the PSSA tests improved over last year’s scores across the board, but math proficiency levels fell 17 points among third-graders while rising 19 points among sixth-graders.

It is not always entirely useful to compare grade levels year-to-year, Hall noted. Instead, educators sometimes track progress among cohorts — individual groups of students as they move through each grade level.

Among the cohorts, many classes appear to be inching upward in their test scores.

High school students taking the state-issued Keystone Exams have begun to close the district gap with statewide averages, Puskar said: Among those taking the tests for the first time, algebra scores jumped 5 percent from last year and now sit only marginally below the standard.

But serious concerns remain at the high school, he said. This year, only one in five first-time Keystone Exam takers was rated proficient or advanced in biology — barely a third of the average statewide and a significant drop from last year.

Only 16 percent of eighth-graders were rated proficient or advanced in math PSSAs this year, marking a major drop from their seventh-grade scores.

Puskar said administrators and teachers would pore over the data and look at individual students’ scores to determine what has to change in those programs.

“We have to drill down and find out why that change was that much in biology,” Puskar said. “There are things that immediately come to mind. … What’s being taught? When’s it being taught? Who’s taking the course? What kind of science is being taught before you get to biology?”

It can be difficult to make a full assessment without that deeper analysis, the principals said. And the state Department of Education has not yet converted the scores into rankings and numbered comparisons between districts — a system, Puskar cautioned, that is not always useful for educators.

While Claysburg-Kimmel officials prepare to hire a new superintendent and consider new curriculum strategies, Hall appeared confident that more can be done.

“Most of these were gains. They were growth,” he said. “Not every single one of them, but we’re going in the right direction.”

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.