Pennsylvania Department of Education: Academic Achievement Report for Octorara

Can-Failing-Schools-be-FixedBelow is the Octorara Area SD’s Report Card, from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which details 2012 information on Achievement, Accountability, Other Indicators and Highly Qualified Teachers. This report provides a more complete breakdown of school performance than previous posted on this site. Each grade tested is reported, as well as comparisons to previous scores.

Below is the Octorara Area SD’s District/LEA AYP Performance Report, a webpage snapshot from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

These documents show how Confidence Intervals, Safe Harbor, the Growth Model exceptions can give parents and citizens a false scene of security. We already know that the District (as a whole), plus the  Primary Learning Center and Jr/Sr High School, is on warning for not making Adequate Yearly Progress. In reality, the Elementary and Intermediate schools are in just as bad a shape, even though they were taken off warning.

The Elementary and Intermediate schools were taken off warning primary because of an exemption called “Safe Harbor with Confidence Interval.” Confidence intervals supposedly take into account the students tested in any particular year might not be representative of students in that school across the years. Confidence intervals are suppose to control for sampling errors or variation across years by promoting schools or subgroups that come very close to achieving their performance goals, thus meeting their specific goal. How the state can determine a group “might not be representative,” when (poor) performance is consistent, is a big question mark.

At the Elementary, IEP-Special Education performance dropped from the previous year in both Reading and Math. Economically Disadvantaged students did not make the 2012 targets for Reading and Math, and did not reach “Safe Harbor” (adequate improvement) in reading. Because these students were classified as “not being representative of students,” the Elementary school was awarding the “Growth Model” status (intended to show the school is on a trajectory towards proficiency), even though overall student performance fell.

The Intermediate school’s primary issue was IEP-Special Education performance. The school did not hit goals in the previous year, placing the school in a warning status, and scores in Reading and Math both fell in the current year. However, the school was given a “Safe Harbor with Confidence Interval” with this group. The school also received a “Confidence Interval” exemption for “White Non-Hispanic” students in Reading.

This is were the question of a return on our tax dollars comes from. We are paying $6.1 Million in debt service payments, and a $2.1 Million premium in teachers’ wages. None of it has improved student performance. However, the school district wants to complain about “Clean & Green” regulations and Charter Schools.

Poor decisions, made by the district, have added more than 12 mills to our property tax burden over the years. Better choices could have meant a proposed tax this year as low as 25.5, rather than the 37.59 mills. These bad decisions have added to roughly $1450.80 (on an avg tax assessment of $120,000) to our property tax bill over the years.

The school district needs to be refocused on the mission of educating students and creating a responsible budget to accomplish that goal. There needs to be greater transparency and accountability on matters including budget adoption, contracts, curriculum adoption, and fiscal planning and oversight. We can no longer afford to give the school district a blank check, hoping for the best.

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