New Castle News

September 1, 2013

New Castle takes action on PSSA erasure issue

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE —  The New Castle Area School District has taken steps to reduce the number of erasures on its PSSA tests.

A matter of eraser marks noted on the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests was called to the district’s attention in a notification sent by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Superintendent John Sarandrea refused to provide a copy of that correspondence this week, saying he does not consider the notice to be public information.

The New Castle News has filed a formal request for information, seeking a copy of the notification.

In an interview late last month, Sarandrea said that contrary to a rumor, the district had not been accused of cheating on tests.

Rather, it was one of many school districts receiving notice from the state education department about multiple erasure marks on PSSA tests, which could be considered a flag.

“They wanted to let us know that in moving forward, they want to have protocols in place,” Sarandrea said, “that no teacher who instructs students at a particular grade level or course can proctor that test.”

That means the teacher of a specific grade and subject cannot be in the room while the students are taking their assessment tests in that subject.

The New Castle district remedied the problem by shifting teachers to different classrooms so they cannot proctor their own students, Sarandrea said.

“The department of education checked that, and sent someone in as a monitor,” he said. “They said they were very impressed with what they saw.”

Sarandrea said there were districts with more significant data showing erasures, and those were investigated. On that level, some educators and principals were dismissed.

“I suppose you could call it a heads up to make sure this isn’t a recurring pattern year after year.”

Sarandrea said the district has been notified of its “raw scores” for the 2013 PSSA tests and there are areas that still need to be addressed.

Attempts to reach a Pennsylvania Department of Education representative who receives reports of violations were unsuccessful.

Terence P. Meehan, administrative assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the notice was not a curriculum concern and he had not seen it. He said it is an administrative matter.

Last year, the district did not make adequate yearly performance on its PSSA tests.