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Pa. high schools get their grades

State releases School Performance Profiles.

By David Limm on Nov 4, 2015 06:06 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Central High School

High schools received their grades Wednesday as the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released the School Performance Profile scores that it uses to rate schools, along with results on the Keystone Exams.

The state's school accountability system provides a snapshot of student achievement and growth that takes into account numerous measures, with most of the weight going to standardized test scores.

Statewide, proficiency rates on the math and English Keystones remained flat from last year. But overall school ratings dipped across the state, said Matt Stem, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education.

“The overall trend is slightly downward," he said. "There are a number of schools that improved their SPP scores year after year.” But a larger number had decreases, he said.

Only those schools with an 11th grade -- the year students' Keystone results are counted --  received scores for the 2014-15 school year. Schools that only administered the PSSAs, which are given in elementary and middle grades, did not receive an SPP score.

In August, the U.S. Department of Education granted Pennsylvania a waiver, allowing PDE a one-year reprieve from assigning these schools performance grades after the PSSA results showed huge declines in proficiency.

The PSSA scores were released earlier this fall with the proviso that the large declines resulted from the rollout of the new, more rigorous, PA Core Standard-aligned tests. Education officials have repeatedly discouraged comparisons to prior PSSA years.

The Keystone Exams, however, have been aligned to the Common Core-type standards since 2012-13.

For the first time, this year, the state has elected to use the best scores from 11th-grade students who took the same Keystone tests in earlier grades. If a student took a Keystone exam more than once, only the highest score would be “banked” in the 11th-grade year, officials said.

“The score that you’ll see on the SPP are scores that reflect last year’s 2014-15 junior class,” said Stem. “It will be the highest score that is reflected in their junior year.”

In addition to test scores, according to the PDE, a school’s SPP score measures how a school performs in relation to college readiness, graduation, promotion, and attendance, among other indicators. But test scores carry the most weight.

Gov. Wolf and his education secretary, Pedro Rivera, have said they want to change that imbalance. In a statement Wednesday, Rivera reinforced the goal to reduce the influence of high-stakes standardized tests in rating schools' performance.

“While SPP scores can be a useful tool in assessing school performance, the Department is engaged in conversations with multiple stakeholders to consider comprehensive measures in evaluating schools.”

On Wednesday, Stem, the deputy secretary, echoed that plan. “We’re looking at ways that we can make the SPP a more effective tool … looking at more holistic ways to measure student success.”


Greg Windle contributed reporting.

The School Performance Profile scores – and their component measures – for Philadelphia's District and charter schools can be found below.

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Comments (14)

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on November 5, 2015 4:13 am

Charters up for renewal - Aspira Olney, Unviersal Audenreid, Mastery Gratz - have very low SPP scores.  Delaware Valley Charter and New Media Communicaitons are also on the bottom - they already were suppose to be closed.  KIPP is lower than Audenreid.

If any Philadelphia public high schools are going to be "turned-around," then the above charters school close.  Granted, closing a charter is nearly impossible in PA (unless the school closes for financial reasons) but the inequity is clear.  A charter gets to operate differently than a public school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2015 2:22 pm

Ironic that you want to close the charters when there are 10+ public high schools that scored lower than those that you named, especially since the charter schools only get a percentage of the money per student that the public schools do, and are still expected to perform at a higher level.

Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on November 5, 2015 9:05 pm

Except all those are neighborhood schools that were overturned on the premise that the turning them over to Charter Networks would lead to immediate and dramatic gains.

Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on November 5, 2015 8:16 am

Mastery Gratz is starting a magnet program - yes, admission requirements.  That will change the enrollment at Mastery Gratz.  Are public high shcools going to start internal magnet programs? (Northeast HS has three programs with admission requirements - changes the playing field.  Other high schools had magnet programs stripped under Vallas.)

So, if Mastery Gratz can cherry pick (beyond their current admission process including "by any means necessary" contract), who not public neighborhood high schools?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2015 12:42 pm

Well I guess Scott Gordon has not figured out the recipe for success afterall.  Mastery hasn't mastered education.  What a shock.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2015 4:33 pm

Scott Gordon is doing more than writing comments on webpage. He is spending his life trying to make a difference in neighborhoods that have been abandoned. How much time do you think it takes to change generations of impoverished ignored schools?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2015 6:55 pm

The only thing he is doing is trying to line his pockets with public funds.  You are foolish if you believe otherwise.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2015 9:58 pm

If you honestly believe the work he is doing at Master is an effective way for him to line his pockets you undersand nothing about the amount of work that he does. Why don't you ask the parents who send their kids there-or the kids themselves-if they prefer the schools in their neighborhoods. Or if instead theyare profoundly grateful Scott Gordon is fighting for their education. It is absurd to think the decades of lack of funding or care could be turned around in the short time the Mastery schools have been open. Have you ever even been inside a Mastery school? Clearly not if you describe thet teachers that way.

Submitted by Me (not verified) on November 5, 2015 6:44 pm

I'm sure he's well intentioned.  The point is this.... public schools out-perform charter schools time and time again.  Would you send your kid to a school being taught by a bunch of 20 somethings who see teaching as a blip on their resume rather than a career?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 6, 2015 1:42 pm

What list are you looking at?  According to the list above, of the top 30 High Schools, only 9 are public, and of those, a few are specialty schools.  To answer the last part, yes, I would like my kids taught by 20 somethings who haven't burnt out or become disillusioned by how the school district truely is.  They still have that passion about teaching.

Submitted by Lillian (not verified) on November 5, 2015 4:49 pm

Probably the people who comment do other things also.  Except that one guy who thinks everything is about pensions.

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