Check out Pa. schools' progress scores newly released online

The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Thursday released School Performance Profile scores that measure the academic progress of 2,860 public schools across the state, including about 800 in the Philadelphia region.

Number one on the statewide list was Unionville High School in Chester County, with a score of 101.6, followed by Wissahickon High School at 100.8, and North Penn High at 100.3. They were the only schools in Pennsylvania to score above 100.

Rounding out the top 10 schools regionwide were Spring-Ford High School in Royersford, Downingtown STEM Academy, Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester, Quakertown Community High School, Springfield High School in Delaware County, Central Bucks High School East, and Haverford High School.

In the annual assessment, each school receives a score up to 100 based on standardized testing, student improvement over the previous year, graduation rates, and other factors. A few outstanding schools can achieve scores above 100 with the help of "extra credit."

The scores are available online at www.paschoolperformance.org.

In a conference call Thursday, Matt Stem, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, stressed that the scores primarily reflect the results of the 2016 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for elementary and middle schools and the Keystone exams for high schools.

Begun in 2012, the performance profiles were suspended last year after the state Education Department adjusted the content of the PSSAs to align with changes in the Pennsylvania Core Curriculum, allowing students and teachers to adjust to the new material.

While some schools and parents might be shocked to find lower profile scores than they expected, state officials say the ratings can't be measured against previous years because of those PSSA changes.

Some typically high-ranked districts such as Radnor and Lower Merion were not among the top scorers. While Lower Merion's Harriton High School came in 20th in the region, Lower Merion High School was ranked 61st and Radnor High School was 54th. None of Radnor's five schools broke a score of 90.

In previous years, education officials said a score below 70 was considered failing, but this year they declined to define a passing grade.

Since the inception of the school "snapshot," Pennsylvania's top scorers have come from the Philadelphia suburbs.

In 2004, Wissahickon High School was number one, followed by Strath Haven High School in Delaware County's Wallingford, and Lower Moreland, Montgomery County. All had scores above 100.

The top school for the two previous years was Downingtown STEM Academy.

Among those on the lower rungs were several Philadelphia schools targeted for overhaul next year, including Bartram and Ben Franklin High Schools, and Warren G. Harding Middle School, as well as schools in the Chester Upland School District, including Chester High School, Toby Farms Intermediate School, and Chester Community Charter School.

The PSSA test in English/Language Arts and Math is administered annually to third- through eighth-grade students. Fourth graders and eighth graders also take a science exam. The Keystones test high school students in algebra I, biology, and literature.

Stem said elementary- and middle-school SPP scores were down slightly this year, while math PSSA scores were trending upward. Keystones were also on the rise, he said. Statewide averages in advanced and proficient scores have gone from 64.5 to 68.2 percent in algebra 1; 58.9 to 65.6 percent in biology; and 72.8 to 76.8 percent in literature.

This year for the first time, the performance profile score for elementary and middle schools measures how well schools are closing the achievement gap. That measure already exists for high schools.

Stem said the information will show "the gap toward proficiency for all students and historically underperforming students" - those who are economically disadvantaged, in special education, or English language learners.

In the coming weeks, he said, the state will release more data for students based on race.

kboccella@phillynews.com

610-313-8232 @Kathy_Boccella

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