Does Octorara Make The Grade?

PSSA BUBBLE SHEETAt the end of the February 18 School Board meeting, Mr. Ganow asked Dr. Newcome if he could furnish a report for next month’s meeting on the graduation rate for the Octorara District and salaries comparing Chester and Lancaster Counties. That was two of my points, another was value of the taxes we pay, and the premium we pay our teachers, when we compare Octorara’s scores to other schools?

For statistical data, even though Octorara straddles two counties, we are identified as a Chester County school district. I pulled the following data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website. It comes from the 2011-2012 PSSA data.

Math Scores

Octrorara had the lowest math scores, 1313, compared to the next lowest Pheonixville, which scored 1751. The highest was Downingtown with a score of 6264. In second place was West Chester, with a score of 6112. Do we see the big disparity?

Octorara students scoring “Advanced” in math was 48.1%. We were the second lowest. Coatesville had only 44.9%. The #1 spot went to Unionville-Chadds Ford who had 78.3% of their students testing as “Advanced,” followed by Tredyffrin-Easttown with 73%.

Our school district also had the second highest percentage of students scoring “Below Basic” at 9.1%. The #1 spot went to Coatesville with 11.8%. The two schools with the least number of students “Below Basic” in math were, as one would expect based on other data, Unionville-Chadds Ford (4.1%) and Tredyffrin-Easttown (5.3%).

Reading Scores

With reading scores, Octorara again finds itself in last place with a number score of 1312. The second lowest was Pheonixville with a number score of 1741. The schools with the highest number scores were Downingtown (6251) and West Chester (6066).

We are seeing the same trend with reading. Octorara has the second lowest percentage of students identified as reading at an “Advanced” level, only 35.7%. The lowest was again Coatesville, with only 33.1%. Again, the #1 spot went to Unionville-Chadds Ford who had 68.4% of their students testing as “Advanced,” and Tredyffrin-Easttown with 67.2%.

Octorara again holds the distinction of having the second highest percentage of students at “Below Basic,” this time with reading. We scored 13.9%. The worst was Coatesville with 16.2% “Below Basic.” Unionville-Chadds Ford and Tredyffrin-Easttown had the lowest percentages of students scoring “Below Basic,” 2.0% and 1.7% respectively.

Science & Writing Scores

I didn’t have the heart. I didn’t want to see. We are doing so poorly, I did not want to add insult to injury. The only school district worse than Octorara is Coatesville. Talk to different people, and you will get a range of opinions about Octorara from horrible to excellent. Listen to Lisa Bowman, School Board President, and Octorara provides a quality education that will motivate people to pay higher taxes.

I understand now why Mr. Ganow did not include comparisons of test scores with other Chester County schools in his request. He knows the answer, and he knows what the response will be if the school district put it in black and white.

23 thoughts on “Does Octorara Make The Grade?

      • Perhaps if we could get more people to stand together and fill those seats at the meetings we just might make an impact greater than the one you made at the last meeting.

      • This blog you created is gaining a ton of public attention! It is about time we had a webpage that tells the truth, unlike some news blogs that just say things to get people upset, and then turn on them for standing up for themselves.

  1. Horrifying statistics. If I were a student today, I would enroll in a charter school. Charter schools are like a financial death spiral for a school district, especially one that has a debt burden from recently built buildings.

    • Ken? Are you off your meds?

      Charter schools SAVE districts money… In this case, Octorara only pays out $10K per student going to charter schools instead of spending $18K on them providing (lackluster) services to each of them.

      • DB don’t listen to Ken, he is on their side. What we need to do is get together and fight this battle together, and Ken wants to derail our train. This blog has many viewers and supporters, and Tim has better detailed coverage than Ken. Lets hope for the best for our children’s future, and do what we can to make it happen!

      • First off, I’m not Ken. I’m sure he could assume a better alias than pbtodayfan.

        Regarding charter schools, It is about marginal cost, not average cost. If all of the students returned to Octorara, the marginal cost for each of those additional students is under the 10k (or 25k for a special needs student). That being said, I am pro-charter school, and would encourage my hypothetical kids to attend one.

        Taxes are way too high, and the idea that they are going up boggles my mind. I appreciate someone taking the time to put together posts like this, I find it very informative.

        Keep up the good work Tim.

      • DB,
        I like how you uncovered Ken’s mask as pbtodayfan, and you have great points here. I believe we should put together a small committee that gets together and brings the school board members and the people together to ensure we have the best for our children’s future. It shouldn’t be hard to get everyone on the same page with taxes and education level, but we need to stick together and make affordable choices for all the school’s needs.

      • Once again, charter schools are an added expense. Octorara already has the teachers and resources in place to educate current charter school students, so paying extra for them to use additional resources is counterproductive. The school does not spend $18k for each new student; that nominal figure is based on the total budget divided by the number of students. Because the resources are already in place, transferring students to Octorara from the charter school would decrease this figure.

      • Joe, every school district deals with Charter Schools. It is a moot argument. Private and parochial schools save school districts. The whole thing starts to become circular.

  2. I always knew Coatesville did poorly and they have some big spending going on there. Great job on your research and stats. Hope your community comes together…

  3. As a parent who sent 4 kids through Octorara and saw each move on to careers in their chosen field I can say Octorara’s teachers and administrators did well by my family.

    • Even with the poor scores, there are those who test advanced. In every school, even the harshest inner city school, there will be students who will do well and achieve.

      “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.”

    • Welcome to the blog Ken, and give us all some insight on what you have experienced in your time as a school board member. I read many rants on your page and figured why argue with people who just want to be rude, so I stay on here where the comments are not deleted and the issue can be discussed in a civil manner. I noticed many people have signed the petition (122 as of today), which means Tim has made progress and alerted the public, but I think we need more than a petition to break through to Harrisburg. Since your a smart guy tell us all what “non rookie” methods we should use to get their attention, so we don’t waste our time!

    • Ken that was in 2001, and things have changed since then. I think what your trying to do here is say the school board and teachers are not accountable for the new age students and their poor education. I appreciate your comments, but you need updated information to back up your so called claims.

    • I’ve seen the scores, but did not break down the comparisons. I don’t think Octorara is as on par with Lancaster County schools as you think. After my conversation with Dr. Newcome, I stopped using Lancaster County as a comparison. I do believe they should be used, but they can’t be used only to favor specific arguments.

      This conversation is primary one about Return On Investment. Octorara has a very high labor cost compared the Lancaster County schools, and many of the wealthier schools in Chester County.

  4. Pingback: Does Octorara Make The Grade? Part 2 : Graduation Rates | Octorara Area School District Taxes

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