Two local school districts are among a group of 55 praised in a statewide study that measured test scores in schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students.
The Wyoming Area and Wilkes-Barre Area school districts appeared in the Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Service’s annual report released Wednesday titled “School Matters.” The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, examined 496 school districts using Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores from the previous two years.
Wyoming Area Superintendent Ray Bernardi, whose school district was on the same list last year, attributed the success to an education model that uses quarterly student assessments designed to help teachers and officials tweak the curriculum.
“The state has come out with these standards that are quite extensive and quite rigorous,” he said. “These are the things students need to know how to do when they leave a certain grade level. We do not teach to the test. We teach to the standards they need.”
Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Jeff Namey, whose school district appeared on the list for the first time this year, could not be reached for comment.
Close to half – 45 percent – of Wilkes-Barre Area’s 6,952 students and 28.1 percent of Wyoming Area’s 2,607 students are considered economically disadvantaged. Those numbers are equal to, or above, the state average of 28.1 percent, according to the Standard & Poor’s assessment.
More than 72 percent of the Wilkes-Barre Area students are considered proficient in reading and math, while Wyoming Area had an average of nearly 79 percent, the findings show.
Standard & Poor’s spokeswoman Susan Shafer said researchers examine two years of data for each school district to show a trend. She said some districts can have excellent scores for a single year then drop off in the next.
“We hope others might be able to learn from those particular districts that have been able to do good jobs,” she said. “We want to show some of the things teachers in those districts are doing to perform at a particular level.”
Students take the PSSAs in third, fifth, eighth and 11th grades to assess reading and math skills. Students in fifth, eighth and 11th are tested on their writing ability.
To see the Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services report, visit www.schoolmatters.com .