NEW BETHLEHEM – Board members listened intently Monday night as Redbank Valley administrators broke down the results of the district’s latest round of PSSA scores for grades three through eight.
The PSSAs are standardized tests given each year to assess student proficiency in academic standards set by the state.
Since the new state standards took effect in 2015 with the introduction of Common Core, administrators said they hoped that the data collected from year to year will guide individualized instruction and programmatic improvements so that more students will progress from the basic to the proficient or advanced level on the tests.
“Administratively, we’re fully aware that we have issues that need to be addressed,” district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo told board members during their meeting on Nov. 4. “There are some grade levels that are doing OK, and there are some grade levels that aren’t doing OK.”
During the presentation, Mastillo pointed out that the current scores allow for analysis on two levels — “Are our students growing from year to year by year level and are they achieving advanced or proficient on the PSSA?”
He went on to say that the scores also have to result in a matching of testable standards to the appropriate grade level.
“We have to align what’s being taught to each grade level,” he said.
High school principal Amy Rupp and elementary principal Cheryl McCauley both told the board of their responses to the current scores and plans for moving forward.
Rupp described the implementation of a vertical approach that will help both teachers and students in the educational process. She explained that each student will have a folder that contains test results from each year’s PSSA and Keystone exams. Students will see what skills or concepts they missed on each test and teachers will be able to engage applicable practice to foster both individual and group development.
The Keystone Exam scores show that while biology is at a high for proficiency with 20 percent of the students scoring at the advanced level, algebra has taken a dip.
Likewise, the PSSAs indicate that seventh grade math scores are up slightly, while eighth grade math scores have decreased.
Rupp said that the system will give classroom teachers insight into strengths and deficiencies for a given student and class.
“We’ve got to find out where the gaps are and fill those gaps,” Rupp said. “Yes, it will take longer to fill those gaps, but we’ve got to take that time.”
Concerning the scores at the elementary level, McCauley provided some numbers and offered her plan for action.
According to information provided by the district, the latest test scores for English Language Arts show that 72 percent of third grade students scored proficient or above on the PSSAs, which was an increase from the previous year. The number of students proficient or above dropped to 49 percent in fourth grade, increased to 66 percent in fifth grade and dropped slightly to 58 percent in sixth grade.
Scoring proficient or advanced in math were 65 percent of third-graders, an increase from the previous year; 38 percent of fourth-graders, a decrease; 53 percent of fifth-graders, an increase; and 43 percent of sixth-graders, an increase.
McCauley said that diagnostic testing and RISE and WIN time will be utilized to assess and remediate students at the intermediate and primary schools.
• Board members approved the purchase of flood insurance for the primary campus from Hartford Insurance Company of the Midwest through Charles P. Leach Agency Inc. at a cost of $21,505.
The policy includes a $25,000 deductible for the building and a $25,000 deductible for the contents.
• Sean Weaver was hired as a 260-day custodian/maintenance worker at an hourly rate of $12 per hour — at an annual salary of $24,960.
• Benny Gundlach was added to the cafeteria substitute list.