AASD: Test scores ‘close but below’ Pa. average

Altoona Area School District administrators said students’ recent performance on state standardized tests are “close but below” the state average.

Administrators gave an analysis of 2016-17 tests to the school board at a work session Monday and set goals to improve. A district’s performance is determined by the percentage of students who score proficient or higher in reading and math PSSAs for elementary students and Keystone Exams for high school students.

Across all elementary and high school grade levels tested, Altoona Area came up short against the state average, and in many cases saw a drop when compared with the district’s scores from the year prior, Superintendent Charles Prijatelj’s presentation showed.

“The goal (this year) is to shoot for a 10 percentage point improvement for all assessment areas in all grades. We need to do things differently,” he said.

“We are going to work harder. But it’s not always how hard you work that’s the problem, but what you are doing,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Patricia Burlingame said she polled the Altoona Area elementary teachers with the most successful math scores — with up to 90 percent of students proficient — to see what they did.

Burlingame said they scripted out their lessons and had students play games that reinforced them.

“So it sounds like the ones who did the best were the ones who had fun,” board President John Donley said.

Prijatelj said the tests are important to understand “where we are in the process.”

The district is in the process of implementing new math and reading curriculum so that it is uniform across all of the district’s schools. The district has many students who change schools and the curriculum had not always matched, leaving the students at a disadvantage to reintegrate.

Prijatelj said the district is implementing standards for homework equating about two hours for a high school student per night.

Dick Lockard noted many students have parents working multiple jobs, and education has changed to the point where parents have trouble helping their children with homework anyway.

Prijatelj agreed, but made no excuses.

“Yes, some children will have challenges at home. But at the same time, we need to have high standards because when it comes to applying for jobs or taking college entrance exams, nobody is going to care how many jobs mom and dad had,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Brad Hatch said the district’s 1-1 initiative helps alleviate stress on parents. Through the initiative, students receive district-owned personal computer tablets to help collaborate with their peers on the internet after school and complete assignments.

“Students are able to network with each other and teachers. It’s changing the way and where they learn,” he said.

Prijatelj also wants to put more emphasis on teacher-student relationships.

“With a district our size, being impersonal becomes easy. We have to keep education as personal as possible,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.