New Castle News

October 7, 2013

New Castle schools vary in performance results

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Some of New Castle school district’s state testing results leave much room for improvement while others are above average.

Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profiles — report cards for each school’s academic performance — were released Friday afternoon, providing a comprehensive statewide overview.

The profile, based on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone testing results, give districts an idea of which subjects are weaknesses and where districts need to work harder to bring students up to state and federal standards.

New Castle superintendent John Sarandrea said yesterday the district had received its test scores a week ago and sent letters home to parents.

The junior-senior high scored 62.5 percent, which he said is equivalent to a D grade. That school includes grades seven through 12. Next year, junior and senior high scores will be separate, Sarandrea said.

George Washington Intermediate Elementary School’s score was 57 percent, “the equivalent of a failing score,” he said. Washington houses grades four, five and six.

West Side Primary Center scored 88 percent which could be considered “a very high B,” Thaddeus Stevens Primary Center had 70 percent or a C, and John F. Kennedy Primary Center had 82.2 percent, a B, Sarandrea said. The primary centers contain grades one, two and three.

Last year, the New Castle district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, a yardstick that had been used to measure improvements in schools statewide.

“AYP is over now,” Sarandrea said, explaining there are new distinctions applied to individual schools that could be “priority,” which is very low, “focus,” which is in the middle or “reward” or high designation.

New Castle received no designations this year, he said, “because I think this is going to be a baseline year.”

From now on, he said, the state will watch how the individual schools do moving forward.

“Needless to say, there are some areas we’re proud of, and other areas where we all recognize we can stand to do a great deal of improving.”

In addition to providing the overall percentage of each school, the state has broken down the testing scores by subjects on the School Performance Profile, which is an academic performance report card.

The state provided a two-page perspective showing how points can be accumulated based on such factors as growth, PSSA scores, attendance, advanced placement classes offered and percentage of participation on the tests.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of time getting familiar with how we’re being judged and determining what we need to do to improve those scores,” Sarandrea said. “That comes down to growing students one year, in one year’s time. If you’re dedicated to doing that, you’ll always have a positive score.”

New Castle is considered a Title I school district, meaning more than 40 percent of its students are poor and qualify for a free or reduced lunch. That designation qualifies schools for extra federal funds for reading and math. Those schools are required to meet more rigorous federal standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.