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Tyrone board discusses results of school exams

TYRONE — Tyrone Area School Board members and administrators discussed district successes and challenges in state performance outcomes this week.

On Oct. 21, the state Department of Education released the statewide results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exams from the 2018-19 school year.

Tyrone Area High School far exceeded the state average for “proficient or advanced” standardized test scores and has already reached the statewide 2030 goal. The school was rated 97.3 out of 100 on school performance by the DOE.

Tyrone Area High School Principal Thomas Yoder discussed efforts to improve student examination scores, including remediation and helping economically disadvantaged students. He also emphasized the work to increase the graduation rate, which now exceeds the state average.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a long time,” he said. “Attendance and the graduation rate is something we are going to have to continue to work very hard on.”

While elementary students exceeded state averages in standardized testing, their overall score improvement between years (academic growth score) was below the average.

Tyrone Elementary Principal Kristin Musselman explained that despite this number, the subgroup of students with disabilities had met growth standards in English and math.

“That’s a good trend to have,” she said. “That means our special education department is definitely doing something wonderful.”

Despite an overall positive outlook, the group discussed concerns over math testing.

Musselman said that because of a decline in fourth-grade PSSA math scores from the previous year, they are using a “guided reading approach” in teaching math.

“We are, this year, encouraging our teachers to try more small-group, individualized math instruction,” she said. “Hopefully, when we have a really solid math base, we can move forward into those higher levels.”

The middle school exceeded statewide averages in English and science but also fell short in math.

Acting Superintendent Leslie Estep explained that although nearly five years have passed since the PSSA was changed and the curriculum updated to meet those new standards, statewide averages in math and algebra have stayed “lower than expected.”

“One would imagine that we would see trending upwards of everybody, and we’re not in math,” she said.

Estep also expressed concerns that the lag time between when students take the exams in April and the publication of the data six months later hinders a district’s ability to make timely adjustments.

“When I go to meetings where they’re talking about PSSA data, they talk about it as an ‘autopsy,'” she said. “Performance scores are available in summer, but we don’t get the whole picture till October.”

School performance results are available for public viewing at futurereadypa.org.

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