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15 area schools don’t make grade

Fifteen of 72 public schools in Luzerne County missed goals in the latest statewide reading and math tests, with most schools struggling to raise scores for special education students.

But three schools – Hazleton Area High School, Wyoming Valley West High School and West Side Career and Technology Center – failed to meet the goals because their overall student population did not do well enough in the tests.

The state released its annual “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP, report Thursday. The term refers to the federal mandate that all public school students in grades three through eight and 11 score “proficient” or better on math and reading tests by 2014.

As part of that mandate, the state requires a minimum percentage of students to score proficient or better each year, and the minimum increases periodically. This year the goals were 56 percent in math and 63 percent in reading, the same as last year. Next year they will be 67 percent and 72 percent.

The vast majority of schools typically hit the goals in the overall student population.

But the state also requires the goals be reached by students within certain “subgroups”: Special education, economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners and minorities. Those groups statistically perform more poorly on standardized tests, and the requirement is designed to make sure poor results in a subgroup are not masked by high performances elsewhere.

Most local schools only fell short in one or two subgroups, but Hazleton Area High School fell short in both reading and math overall and in the economically disadvantaged, ELL and some minority subgroups. West Side Career and Technology Center also missed the goals in both subjects overall, and among several subgroups.

Hazleton Area High School has never reached AYP. The system was started in 2003, so the school missed the mark seven years in a row. Legally, the state can step in and take over a school that has missed the goals five consecutive years, but that has not happened. The state has sent more specialists into the district to try to boost results.

Two other schools in Luzerne County have made the goals only once in seven years: Hanover Area Junior/Senior High School and West Side Career and Technology Center. Neither made the goals this year. West Side is a rare breed among schools, a “comprehensive” vocational-technical institution.

Most such schools take students from several districts for half a day and only teach career training, with the sending district responsible for academic training.

West Side takes students for the full day for both career and academic training. Since the center takes students only from ninth grade and up, the bulk of the student’s academic education came from the sending district.

Overall, Luzerne County schools did better this year than last, when 28 schools missed the goals. That reflects a regional trend. In Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, 14 schools missed the goals last year, while 10 did this year.

The majority fall short in test results for subgroups. Of 118 schools in the three-county area, 25 fell short, with 16 schools missing the goals in special education reading and 10 missing them in special education math.

The next most problematic subgroup was economically disadvantaged students, with that group missing the reading goal in eight schools and the math goal in six schools.

Eight local schools missed the goals in only one subgroup and in only subject, meaning they met a host of state objectives yet still did not make AYP because of a single shortcoming. Another 10 schools missed goals in only two categories.

While test results are the primary gauge used by the state to judge AYP, it also looks at the percentage of students who take the tests, the attendance rate in elementary and middle schools and the graduation rate in high schools. All area districts met the minimum rates required in those categories.

Three of Luzerne County’s 11 districts had all their schools make AYP: Dallas, Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Area. In fact, Dallas has the distinction of being the only district in the three-county area to have all its schools make AYP seven years in a row.

Districts collectively must meet AYP as well. Only Northwest Area School District failed to make AYP locally, and it was because of low scores among special education students.

To see AYP and PSSA result details, visit www.times


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