School District to look at a number of factors that may have contributed to lower test scores across all grades
Test results from the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) for the School District of Philadelphia show a drop in the percentage of students scoring Advance or Proficient in reading and math for all grades combined. When looking at all grades combined, math scores dropped 8.7 percentage points over last year, from 57.8% to 49.1%, and reading scores dropped grade level and for every subgroup in reading and math. Grade 11 showed the lowest decline in test scores for math and reading.
Math scores declined 1.1 percentage points, from 43.9% to 42.6%, and reading scores dropped 1.3 percentage points, from 37.5% to 36.4%. The historical trend for the overall performance for all students still shows a gain in math by 29.6 percentage points and reading by 20.6 percentage points when compared with initial scores from 2002.
The School District will be conducting a full review of the test results to determine the factors that may have contributed to the decline in student performance. The variables that were new during the 2012 PSSA test session are increased test security procedures and reduction in school funding. Specific factors that will be part of the full review include: increased test monitoring, changes in proctor assignment, changes in test administration training, reduction in education funding and supports (extended day programs, behavioral health specialists, etc.), reduction in school budgets and personnel, and cuts in Central Office support staff.
“These results are clearly disappointing – and they simply remind us of the work we have ahead in developing a strong system of schools in Philadelphia and in supporting our students’ learning,” said William Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. “We must continue to focus on the basics that will allow our students to succeed in the classroom and that is to ensure the best possible teaching and learning environments, supporting our teachers and principals, and empowering our parents.”
In the next few weeks the District will review and release school specific data to allow a complete view of how individual schools performed during on the 2012 PSSA test. Individual schools may continue show growth performance even after declines in overall scores for all students District-wide.
Speaking specifically to the allegations of testing integrity violations, Superintendent Hite added, “The allegations of cheating that have clouded the PSSA test results are disturbing. Adult cheating is a great disservice to our students. It will not be tolerated and there is no room in our District for any adult involved in cheating. We plan to take aggressive action against any individual found to have committed this type of injustice on our students.”
The investigations into the allegations of testing integrity violations on PSSA exams are of the utmost priority to the School District. The District is continuing to work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General as they finalize their investigations into allegations of testing improprieties in 11 District schools and 2 charter schools.
Simultaneously, the School District is continuing to take the lead in the investigations into allegations of testing improprieties in 40 District schools. The District is devoting significant resources towards the investigations. The law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is supporting the District’s efforts by allocating four teams of investigators who are presently in our schools conducting investigations. These resources are being provided at no cost to the District. The District expects that by the end of the current calendar year it will complete the bulk of its investigations.
The District, in conjunction with PDE, will provide updates to the public as the investigations into the testing integrity violations moves forward.
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