22 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by montcopatch
Patch Instagram photo by montcopatch

Norristown Area School District Says State Report is Wrong

The Department of Education put three Norristown schools on its list of low-performing schools. The district says the state is working with outdated and limited info.

Norristown Area School District Says State Report is Wrong

On Wednesday, July 25, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released it's list of low-acheiving schools (schools in the bottom 15% statewide) and three local schools were on the list – , and .

The designation makes it possible for students living in the boundaries of those schools to take advantage of the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (OSTCP) signed into law in July by Gov. Tom Corbett. The program gives low- and moderate-income students in low-achieving schools an option to apply for a scholarship to attend a participating public or private school.

The low-achieving schools are determined based on student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests, but according to The Times Herald, the district argues that the state assessment is flawed.

"We should not be evaluating the worth of a school on one test score," Norristown Area School Board member Al Mauthe told the Herald.

The district contends that it has seen great improvement based on data from the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS).

"It’s a value-added system, so what it looks at for every student is what value is added by being in the district," Sean Gardiner, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for mathematics and gifted education, told the Herald. "Every student has the same opportunity for growth regardless of their score, so you can be the highest advanced student and have the same opportunity for growth as the lowest below-basic student."

According to the Herald, using that measure, the NASD outperformed other districts in Montgomery County in both math and reading from 2007 to 2010. The Herald also notes that information the district has received about the most recent PSSA scores, the high school has seen a 10% bump in in test scores.

"There was a plan at the high school and I think that is what separates it from other high schools in the area," Gardiner told the Herald. "They had a plan; they put that plan in place; they followed through — teachers, students, administration — and got the results because of that."

Read more about the state's assessment and the district's counter argument on The Times Herald's website. You can also download the full list of Pennsylvania's low-achieving schools and information about the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program in our PDF section.

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