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Purchase Line seeks ways to improve test scores
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
By Dianne Byers Staff Writer
COMMODORE - Purchase Line School Board is looking for ways to improve student scores on the state System of School Assessment Tests.
Following a recent report that none of the district's schools achieved adequate yearly progress during tests taken in the 2011-12 school year, the board opted to ask instructors working with those students for their opinions on what could be done to help them improve their overall performance and test scores.
The results according to information on the state Department of Education's Web site were 65.3 percent of Purchase Line High School students scored proficient in mathematics and 61.3 percent in reading. At South Elementary School, 71.8 percent of students met the benchmark in math and 65.6 percent in reading and at North elementary, 64.8 percent of students achieved acceptable grades in mathematics and 52.1 percent in reading. The state set a target of 78 percent students in grades 3-8 and 11 to be proficient in math and 81 percent of students in reading.
As a whole or in subgroups, the district has failed to meet goals during the last several tests and as a result the high school has been placed on probationary statues and the elementary school, a warning status.
The board said during last night's meeting, approximately 70 elementary, junior high and high school instructors provided input to the question of what could be done to help the district's students realize higher scores and some of the board members provided insight on what the replies were.
Mary Ann Pittman, board president, noted many teachers believe students are becoming worn out from taking so many types of standardized tests during the school year. "They're tired. They're burned out and they don't care," she said, adding some instructors felt students might do better if there was some way to help them take "ownership" of their test scores.
Pittman also noted she wanted the board to study more closely the effect of inclusion of special needs students in the classroom. She said she was not against inclusion as it works well for some students but noted the board needs to look at "what is working and what is not."
Also discussed was whether to issue punishments such banning driving to school for students who don't score well - another suggestion made by an instructor or offering incentives such as being among the first in line to eat breakfast or lunch.
James Stiffler, said another concern expressed by a number of teachers is that those involved including the board, instructors, administration, students and parents are not working as a team to help students succeed. "We need to do our best to work together," he explained. He added if the board decides to offer rewards to students for good test scores they need to keep the ideas fresh.
The board will review the responses more thoroughly at the November business meeting and discuss developing a plan.
It took three votes to get a majority but the board selected Josh Hopkins to fill a seat left vacant on the board following the recent resignation of Matthew Pearce. Hopkins, 31, of Commodore, is a 1999 graduate of Purchase Line High School. He and his wife have two children, the oldest is a kindergarten student at Purchase Line Elementary School.
He is a 2004 graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a 2011 graduate of St. Francis University, Loretto, with a master's degree in health care. He is employed by Astellas Pharmaceuticals, based in Chicago, as a health care specialist.
Hopkins was one of five district residents seeking to be appointed to the position.
The board pushed back a decision on what to do with the former North Elementary School with members saying they wanted to wait until the district's solicitor, Ron Repak of Andrews and Beard Attorneys at Law, was in attendance.
Repak noted at several board meetings, members have three options to dispose of the building at Mahaffey RD including to advertise for bids, an auction and a private sale.
Last month, James McMullen, board member, said he wanted input from the district's administrators as to whether they believed the building had a feasible educational use. Tina Hazelet, district superintendent, reported she had asked administrators for responses but received no replies.
In other business, the board:
• held a 25-minute executive session for personnel matters.
• transferred Susan Bennett, an 8-hour custodian to a 7-hour cafeteria cook position.
• hired Breanna Voris as a temporary part-time assistant to the business manager at a salary of $11.45 per hour, Kacey Anderson as a staff accountant - a 12-month position at a pro-rated annual salary of $32,000 and Andrew Sleppy as the junior class advisor at an annual salary of $746.
• approved a request from the Evergreen Boys and Girls Club to use the high school cafeteria and library on Dec. 11 from 3-8:30 p.m. for its annual community holiday dinner.
• held a discussion on capital projects. Stiffler said he wanted to board to be aware of what is on the idea's list and what needs to be replaced or upgraded in the coming years in preparation for the 2013-14 budget.
• reviewed a cafeteria participation report for September 2012 and a comparison of numbers from September 2011 that showed the number of students eating lunch in the cafeteria is lower although breakfast participation numbers have remained steady. Members said they were unsure if the smaller number of students may have to do with the new nutritional standards set by the federal government.
The board will meet Nov. 5 for a work session and has rescheduled the November business meeting to Nov. 13. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.
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