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District Does Not Anticipate State Takeover of High School

Members of the Centennial Education Committee did not find it likely that the state will take control of William Tennent if the school does not achieve Adequate Yearly Progress this year.

District Does Not Anticipate State Takeover of High School

Centennial Education Committee member Mark Miller said Tuesday night that the state is unlikely to come in and take over operations of William Tennent if the high school does not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standards for the 2012-2013 school year.

"What will probably happen instead," said Miller, "is that the state will take about 200 of the high school students and put them in a charter school and take that money out of our budget to pay for it."

The clarification came following a two and-a-half hour meeting with the Education Committee where Assistant Superintendant Joyce Mundy provided more detail and background information regarding the recently released results of Centennial's performance in the May 2012 PSSAs.

According to the results, the only schools that met the AYP targets were Longstreth and McDonald-Davis. In the cases of Stackpole, Willow Dale, Log College and Klinger, the general student bodies achieved the 78 performance goal in math and the 81 percent goal in reading. The schools fell short, however, in the performance of their subgroups.

According to the guidelines established by the No Child Left Behind Act, if a school has at least 40 students in a certain ethnicity or with a particular special need, such as an IEP, English as a second language or economically disadvantaged, a subgroup is automatically created. The subgroups must either meet the state requirements or qualify for Safe Harbor status, meaning the subgroup showed at least 10 percent improvement from the previous year.

Ironically, the consolidation of the six neighborhood schools into three larger schools has created the possibility of more subgroups in those schools. In the case of Willow Dale, for example, students with an IEP did not achieve the goals in math and reading, and Hispanic students and economically disadvantaged students did meet the target for reading.

It's the first warning status for the elementary schools, and only the third for the middle schools, separated by a few years of AYP achievement. The district has spent the summer modifying and implementing the curriculum to include the Common Core Standards that will be mandatory in the 2013-2014 school year.

"We're a year ahead of the game," said school board member Michael Hartline. "These are federal standards adopted by the state and they are very stringent."

Mundy said that the adoption of these standards has helped create more consistency across the district. She also highlighted the new scheduling at the elementary level, allowing at least 45 minutes per day of dedicated intervention time for students struggling with the material.

At the high school level, the general student body and several subgroups fell short of the performance goals in reading and math. The result has placed the school in the fourth year of corrective action. Since William Tennent receives Title 1 funding, the district must prepare a restructuring plan that must meet one of the following criteria:

  • reopen the school as a public charter school
  • replace all or most of the school staff, including the principal
  • enter into a contract to have an outside entity operate the school
  • arrange for the state to take over operation of the school
  • or any other major restructuring of the school's governance arrangement.

The high school has already developed an action plan based on missing the performance goals for the 2010-2011 AYP, which will be revised in November based on data from the first two months of its implementation. As presented by acting Principal Dr. Barbara Stevenson, the plan involves greater oversight of teachers and consistent use of effective instructinal practices throughout the high school.

As the pressure mounts for better achievement in AYP, Centennial also faces the challenge of using a new assessment for the high school, called the Keystone Exams. Taking the place of the eleventh grade PSSAs, the Keystone Exams act basically as final tests in three different courses: Algebra 1, Literature and Biology.

In May 2013, all eleventh graders will take the Keystone Exams in those subjects, but eventually the tests will be admnistered upon completion of the class. For example, if a ninth grader takes Algebra I, he will take the corresponding Keystone at the end of the course. That same student could then take Literature in tenth grade and Biology in eleventh, completing the Keystone Exam each year, as opposed to aking all of the PSSAs in one year. Centennial Superintendant Dr. Jenny Cressman said that students entering the eighth grade in 2012 will have to pass all three exams before they graduate.

"There will be multiple opportunities for students to retake the exams, including in their senior year," said Dr. Cressman.

Several parents attending Tuesday night's meeting searched for more answers about the district's performance in the PSSAs. Committee chair Jane Schrader Lynch promised that more details will be provided at the October 22 Education Committee meeting, when principals from each school will present full analyses of the data.

"If your questions are not fully answered then, someone will be in trouble," said Lynch. "We are trying to look at a problem and find a solution that will make a better future for Centennial students."

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