The Pennsylvania Department of Education released results of 2012 standardized tests designed to define Adequate Yearly Progress as required by the federal government.
No high school in Blair County met the state's targets for Adequate Yearly Progress in both reading and math. In the vast majority of districts across the county, test scores were lower than last year.
Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis said test scores overall declined as a result of the state's investigation of cheating in a handful of school districts and charter schools. But the Pennsylvania School Boards Association criticized Tomalis for dismissing critical factors directly related to test results, including the large jump in required performance targets, changes in the methods of measuring progress and cuts in state funding.
Although results were made public Friday, some area districts have shared their results with their communities earlier this week.
"Overall, I'm pleased with the scores," Hollidaysburg Area Superintendent Paul Gallagher said, but he added the high school test scores must be raised.
Board member Peter Hart, however, was concerned with the senior high scores, which were below the target.
"The fall off in scores from junior high to high school is substantial," Hart said at Wednesday's school board meeting.
Gallagher revealed his district's scores, repeatedly noting the jump in expectations year to year and that ultimately 100 percent of students will be expected to pass the test, which is statistically impossible.
Hollidaysburg board members asked: "What happens if we don't make AYP?"
There are no financial consequences in terms of losing or gaining state money, district testing director Linda Dobbi said, but the state sends a team to "work with the district."
"So, they send in administrators to take the school over?" board member Aaron Ritchey asked.
"That takes five or six years of low scores," Dobbi said.
Hollidaysburg Area school district has never been in that danger, but this year marks the second consecutive year that the district fell short of AYP, earning the district a status of "School Improvement I."
The district will provide individual tutoring at the junior and senior high schools to foster test improvement, Dobbi said.
Board Vice President Darlee Sill is concerned with the looming expectation for 100 percent of students to score proficiently because a special needs student who, for example, is in the fourth grade but functions at a second grade level must still take a fourth-grade test.
"It's punitive," Dobbi said.
Adequate Yearly Progress is a term from the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law by then President George W. Bush. It requires each state to set criteria defining AYP. In Pennsylvania, the measure is the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.
In 2012, percentage of students who must be score proficient or higher in reading rose from 72 percent to 81 percent, and math up from 67 percent to 78 percent.
Each state sets increasing annual targets for the number of students that must score proficient or above in order for a school to satisfy that AYP criteria, leading up to the 100 percent level by 2014.
Gallagher and the Hollidaysburg board are hopeful that federal lawmakers will reauthorize the ESEA to spare schools that unrealistic target.
The PSBA believes the No Child Left Behind Act is too narrowly focused on test scores. A broader criteria can include other measures as well, such as percentage of students going onto higher learning or the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses.