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How Can EAHS Improve PSSA Scores?

School board members concerned about 'flat line' in Easton High School PSSA results.

Students in the Easton Area School District did better than the statewide average on the PSSA tests in the 2011-2012 school year.

But at Easton Area High School, scores continued to be lower than at the other schools in the district, a notion that concerned school board members during a discussion of PSSA results Tuesday night.

"It remains extremely troubling to me. If you look at the trend, it’s a flat line over many, many years," said board member Robert Moskaitis. "What is happening to change that?"

He argued that one of the reasons residents of Riegelsville lobbied to move out of the Easton Area School District was due to PSSA scores.

Moskatis noted that the nearby Wilson Area School District seemed to perform much better on its PSSAs.

"How are they succeeding where we are failing?" he asked.

Last school year, 54 percent of Easton's high school students reached the state's math benchmark, compared with 85 percent in seventh- and eighth-graders, according to results released last month. In reading, 63 percent of high school students met their goal, compared with 79 percent of seventh- and eighth-graders.

(We've included a PDF with a complete rundown of all the district's scores.)

Stephen Furst, the district's director of teaching and learning, said he thinks the high school's switch this year to flexible scheduling will help improve the scores.

Students and teachers are spending more time on material under the new schedule, which went into effect this year.

"This is going to be one of the things to propel us into more success," he said.

Furst also said there's a number of students at the high school who need to work, often pulling an eight-hour shift after school ends. PSSA scores show the high school's poorer students scoring nearly 20 percentage points lower than the student body as a whole in math and reading.

Board member Pat Vulcano said it's harder to keep students interested in school as they get older.

“They’re raring to go," said Vulcano, a former teacher. "Then they hit high school, and it’s like ‘Do I have to go today?'”

His colleague Janet Matthews said it's not just about helping high school kids. She argued the district needs to be concentrating on reading early on.

“Kids who are not reading at grade level by third grade, by fifth grade, they’ve emotionally dropped out," Matthews said. “What’s wrong at the high school starts way, way before the high school.”

And at the root of all of this, said board member William Rider, is money. Every year, students are expected to do better on the PSSAs, to the point that the state expects 100 percent of students reaching the advanced or proficient categories by 2014. Yet the state hasn't increased funding for education, he said.

“We’ve raised the stakes each year," Rider said, "but we haven’t raised dollars and sense each year."

Kevin October 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Well this is a no brainer. Why did Wilson do better? Smaller class sizes! EASD needs to cut administrators, NOT teachers! Let a few principals go. Focus monies where it's important. It's a spending issue, not a revenue issue. Block scheduling isn't working either. Cramming a whole year of class requirements into a half year isn't doing anything but stressing out both students and teachers. Students need core curriculum of math, English, Science, etc all year, every year!
Anonymous October 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM
I agree with Kevin.. Math,Science & English ALL year. You learn LESS info in the block because kids can only handle so much new info at a time. The block is only helpful in keeping kids out of the hall where problems are & to eliminate study halls. Before block kids are in the hall 7 times/with block only 3. Getting kids to class & settled down in class is sadly very hard. Our problems always come down to behavior. The high schooler's obsessions with facebook, texting etc. is one of the biggest problems. Perhaps having to do hard labor would get their attention. Most are not interested in reading at home but rather being on the computer. Parents NEED to have limits or take away stuff. There needs to be more value for the individual student in getting better scores. If they think the PSSA scores only help or hurt the school, they really are not going to care. Also please I hope that nobody mentions "teaching to the test"...because I can tell you that I taught for years & NEVER saw the test, so that is baloney...what you are teaching are the basic skills that they SHOULD know. It is not teaching to the test when you are teaching the skills that they NEED to know! The PSSA is needed since there are some teachers who grade very easy and others who are very challenging. This evens it up between schools and takes out the teacher personality in their philosophy of grading. Bottom line, kids need to want to do better. Parents take away phones/computer unless you see improvement.
Armed Citizen November 11, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Teaching to take the test is a reality. We pulled our kids out of EASD and put them in private school. It's one of the best decisions we made. They are learning at a full grade level ahead of their EASD peers and we as parents don't have to rely on burearocrats in a failing system to educate our children.

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