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MARION CENTER: School board updated on student assessments

by on August 27, 2013 10:50 AM

MARION CENTER — Administrators in the Marion Center Area School District Monday made presentations on how student assessments are changing in Pennsylvania, how Marion Center students performed on recent assessments, and how data from those tests will be used to revise and improve instruction.

Charles Adamchik, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told the school board that Pennsylvania’s No Child Left Behind waiver request was approved last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

“There’s no such thing as AYP (adequate yearly progress) anymore because of this waiver,” Adamchik said.

The waiver applies to all public schools and replaces AYP with an improved accountability system. Instead of identifying schools as making or not making adequate yearly progress and declaring them in categories such as “School Improvement” or “Corrective Action,” the new accountability system designates Title I schools — those with a high percentage of low-income students — as “Priority,” “Focus,” or “Reward,” Adamchik said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education will recognize “Reward” schools and provide intervention and support services for “Focus” and “Priority” schools.

Adamchik told the directors the new accountability system will focus on four annual measurable objectives and recognition and intervention systems: Achieving at least 95 percent participation in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments and Keystone Exams; achieving a minimum 85 percent graduation rate; closing the achievement gap (by 50 percent over six years) among students who are proficient or advanced on the PSSAs, Keystone Exams or Pennsylvania’s Alternate System of Assessment in the 2012-13 baseline year; and closing the achievement gap (again by 50 percent over six years) among students with disabilities, those who are economically challenged and those learning the English language.

“Achievement is still important … but they’re looking at how much growth you make” instead of reaching an arbitrary target, Adamchik said.

He also said that under the new accountability system, students, parents, taxpayers and educators will have access to a user-friendly means of understanding the school performance accountability system.

Donna Bruder-Smith, elementary principal, and Susan DeVaughn, assistant elementary principal, said the administration and faculty data team during the summer has been reviewing data from student assessments, discussing strengths and weaknesses and formulating recommendations for changes.

The principals said the team decided teachers need more training on the use of the district’s data system and they need additional time to digest the data available.

“We always have data, but what are we going to do about it?” Matt Jioio, high school principal, said, adding that he constantly assesses “needs versus resources” — the remediation help some students need and the availability of teachers, and the time, to provide the assistance.

“I think we did pretty well,” Jioio said of the high school students’ 2013 PSSA averages, although the eighth-grade math scores are a concern to him.

Jioio outlined his plans to offer more remediation instruction during the STAR (Students and Teachers Achieving Results) periods during the school day and during new afternoon tutoring sessions, from 3 to 5:30 p.m., with certified teachers from the AmeriCorps program providing the instruction. Those after-school tutoring sessions will be open to any student.

Jioio said he will explain student assessment scores and planned changes for instruction and remediation at a public data meeting for parents and the public. That session will start at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the high school auditorium, immediately before the open house at the high school.

In another step to improve school building security, the directors agreed to change locks on classroom doors at the Rayne Elementary School at a cost of $300 per door. After the change, classroom doors will be locked whenever they are closed.

Similar locks were installed last year on the doors to high school classrooms.

High school marching band drum majors Jacob Cogley and Kayla Stumpf attended the board meeting wearing their new green-and-gold band uniforms. They thanked the directors for purchasing the uniforms, which Cogley said are more comfortable and make Marion Center’s band members “look the best we have in years.”

Marion Center’s marching musicians will be wearing the new uniforms when they host High School Band Night this evening at the Indiana County Fair.

In other actions the directors:

• On a split vote approved the district’s participation in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), as requested by the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission. PAYS is a voluntary and anonymous survey on how youth view their communities. It is conducted every two years among students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.

The survey questions students on drug and alcohol use, bullying and other anti-social behavior and assesses risk factors in their communities. The data collected is used by the commission and the school districts in grant applications.

• Authorized the architectural and engineering firm of HHSDR to prepare documents for the replacement of the domestic water boiler and hot water supply and return valves for the water system at the high school-McCreery Elementary School campus. The boiler may be replaced next summer.

• Agreed to pay Gordon Davis, of Northern Cambria, $6,200 to remove or prune about 20 trees at the high school-McCreery campus.

• Agreed to participate with other school districts in a new network and allow limited advertisements to be placed on the school district’s website. Thought Process Enterprises, of Ellwood City, solicits the ads from local and regional businesses, does the design work and handles the invoicing, all for a share of the advertising revenue.

The districts retain the right to filter out any ads they do not want on the websites.

• Gave district superintendent Dr. Frank Garritano a satisfactory review rating for his 2012-13 contract year. Garritano received an overall rating of above average and he achieved performance goals contained in his contract for the 2012-13 contract year, including helping to deliver a balanced budget for the district.

• Appointed directors Ronald Oswald and Charles Glasser to be voting delegates to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Assembly.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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