Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

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Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

We have been waiting for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to release their School Performance Profile Scores. At the end of September, PDE did release PSSA and Keystone scores. However, they were still working on the SPP scores which take into account more data points, including academic growth, graduation rates, SAT/ACT college readiness, and more. Those of us who are concerned about Octorara;s academic achievement and growth, and follow these numbers, are going to be disappointed but not surprised.

Today’s post shows the building level scores, makes some comparisons with other districts, and gives those data points that I feel are the most disturbing. However, I encourage every parent and taxpayer to review each report on the state website. This article only touches on a few of Octotara’s shortcomings and it is not a complete picture. It is best that you personally evaluate these reports unfiltered, without the political spin and Clintonesque language used by some Administrators and some other members of the Octorara Area School Board.

Octorara’s Building Level Academic Scores

Key takeaways from the Octorara’s Academic Performance reports:

  • Each school FAILED to meet the state minimum score of 70 – Currently, the PLC’s number is not being reported.
  • District-wide, Octorara is FAILING at Math and Reading – The average combined building score for both PSSA and Keystone tests is 45.68 for Math/Algebra and 59.78 for ELA/Literature. Regardless, none of the buildings reached the minimum standard of 70.
  • Octorara starts out well with Science but quickly drops like a rock. – The Elementary School (3rd and 4th Grades) received a score of 80 for Science, but the score drops to 51.16 for Science/Biology at the JSHS.
  • Octorara 3rd Grade Reading is not improving – The 3rd Grade Reading Benchmark is critical for student success, and the District falls short of minimum standards.

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Third Grade Reading Score Comparisons

In our continuing comparisons from SPP information, we will now look at 3rd Grade Reading. Today’s research identifies low reading skills a greater predictor of academic development than socioeconomic status. Studies show a student who can’t read at grade-level, by 3rd Grade, is four times less likely to graduate.

Until 3rd Grade, children are learning to read. After 3rd Grade, children are reading to learn. At least half of all printed 4th Grade curriculum is incomprehensible to a student not reading proficiently.

This is why Pennsylvania singled out 3rd Grade Reading in their School Performance Profiles, separate from a school’s overall Reading/Literature score. It is that important an indicator, and one of the main stated purposes of the SPP profiles is informing the public of how schools are serving our children. Proficient Reading must be seen as a major issue.

I included in this list neighboring Pequea Valley and Solanco High Schools, from Lancaster County.

Elementary School			   3rd Grade Reading
Hillendale El Sch (Unionville-Chadds Ford)	100.00
Hillside El Sch (Tredyffrin-Easttown)		97.60
Pocopson El Sch (Unionville-Chadds Ford)	97.50
West Vincent El Sch (Owen J Roberts)		97.10
New Eagle El Sch (Tredyffrin-Easttown)		96.50
Chadds Ford El Sch (Unionville-Chadds Ford)	96.20
Pickering Valley El Sch (Downingtown)		96.12
General Wayne El Sch (Great Valley)		95.77
Kathryn D. Markley El Sch (Great Valley)	95.28
Unionville El Sch (Unionville-Chadds Ford)	95.24
Westtown-Thornbury El Sch (West Chester)	94.81
Penn Wood El Sch (West Chester)			94.79
Schuylkill El Sch (Phoenixville)		94.00
Charlestown El Sch (Great Valley)		93.75
Uwchlan Hills El Sch (Downingtown)		93.18
Bradford Hgts El Sch (Downingtown)		93.10
East Pikeland El Sch (Phoenixville)		92.75
West Bradford El Sch (Downingtown)		92.55
Devon El Sch (Tredyffrin-Easttown)		91.90
Valley Forge El Sch (Tredyffrin-Easttown)	91.20
Glen Acres El Sch (West Chester)		90.70
East Vincent El Sch (Owen J Roberts)		90.54
East Ward El Sch (Downingtown)			89.90
Mary C Howse El Sch (West Chester)		89.69
Shamona Creek El Sch (Downingtown)		89.02
Brandywine-Wallace El Sch (Downingtown)		88.70
Lionville El Sch (Downingtown)			88.66
East Bradford El Sch (West Chester)		87.88
Hillsdale El Sch (West Chester)			87.25
Exton El Sch (West Chester)			87.10
Bart-Colerain El Sch (Solanco)			87.10
Sarah W Starkweather El Sch (West Chester)	87.04
Sugartown El Sch (Great Valley)			87.00
Beaver Creek El Sch (Downingtown)		86.80
East Goshen El Sch (West Chester)		85.92
Kings Highway El Sch (Coatesville)		85.60
Clermont El Sch (Solanco)			84.21
North Coventry El Sch (Owen J Roberts)		83.91
French Creek El Sch (Owen J Roberts)		83.54
Paradise El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lancaster)	82.86
Fern Hill El Sch (West Chester)			82.35
Barkley El Sch (Phoenixville)			79.52
East Fallowfield El Sch (Coatesville)		77.80
Nottingham Sch (Oxford)				77.29
Providence El Sch (Solanco)			75.67
Friendship El Sch (Coatesville)			75.50
Reeceville El Sch (Coatesville)			74.30
Avon Grove Intrmd Sch				74.20
Salisbury El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lancaster)	73.58
Quarryville El Sch (Solanco)			73.53
New Garden El Sch (Kennett)			72.64
East Coventry El Sch (Owen J Roberts)		72.63
Greenwood El Sch (Kennett)			72.41
Octorara El Sch					72.07
Bancroft El Sch (Kennett)			66.34
Rainbow El Sch (Coatesville)			65.70

Highest Economically Disadvantaged
This list includes all Elementary Schools with a percentage of Economically Disadvantaged Students greater than 25%.

Elementary School		3rd Grade Reading   Econ Dis
Glen Acres El Sch (West Chester)	90.70	     25.44%
Bart-Colerain El Sch (Solanco)		87.10	     37.02%
Kings Highway El Sch (Coatesville)	85.60	     42.96%
Clermont El Sch (Solanco)		84.21	     41.85%
Paradise El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lan...	82.86	     48.26%
Barkley El Sch (Phoenixville)		79.52	     46.85%
East Fallowfield El Sch (Coatesville)	77.80	     45.69%
Nottingham Sch (Oxford)			77.29	     42.40%
Providence El Sch (Solanco)		75.67	     45.04%
Friendship El Sch (Coatesville)		75.50	     50.85%
Reeceville El Sch (Coatesville)		74.30	     60.93%
Salisbury El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lan...	73.58	     40.00%
Quarryville El Sch (Solanco)		73.53	     35.40%
New Garden El Sch (Kennett)		72.64	     36.67%
Greenwood El Sch (Kennett)		72.41	     33.77%
Octorara El Sch				72.07	     34.96%
Bancroft El Sch (Kennett)		66.34	     50.37%
Rainbow El Sch (Coatesville)		65.70	     60.00%

Highest Special Education
Below are the High Schools with a percentage of Special Education Students greater than 15%.

Elementary School		3rd Grade Reading   Spec Ed
Barkley El Sch (Phoenixville)		79.52	     23.42%
Friendship El Sch (Coatesville)		75.50	     21.30%
Uwchlan Hills El Sch (Downingtown)	93.18	     21.15%
Reeceville El Sch (Coatesville)		74.30	     19.06%
Unionville El Sch (Unionville-Chadd...	95.24	     17.96%
Shamona Creek El Sch (Downingtown)	89.02	     17.81%
East Bradford El Sch (West Chester)	87.88	     17.57%
Bradford Hgts El Sch (Downingtown)	93.10	     17.00%
East Coventry El Sch (Owen J Roberts)	72.63	     16.72%
Exton El Sch (West Chester)		87.10	     16.45%
Paradise El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lan...	82.86	     16.41%
East Pikeland El Sch (Phoenixville)	92.75	     16.28%
Hillendale El Sch (Unionville-Chadd... 100.00	     16.25%
West Vincent El Sch (Owen J Roberts)	97.10	     16.00%
Rainbow El Sch (Coatesville)		65.70	     15.64%
Pocopson El Sch (Unionville-Chadd...	97.50	     15.34%
Beaver Creek El Sch (Downingtown)	86.80	     15.31%
Chadds Ford El Sch (Unionville-Chadd...	96.20	     15.23%
East Fallowfield El Sch (Coatesville)	77.80	     15.22%
Glen Acres El Sch (West Chester)	90.70	     15.18%
Octorara El Sch				72.07	     15.17%
North Coventry El Sch (Owen J Roberts)	83.91	     15.11%
Salisbury El Sch (Pequea Valley/Lan...	73.58	     15.08%

Conclusions
As with the High School Academic Score Comparisons, we want to look at the Elementary Schools that are “most like” Octorara. Those include Salisbury Elementary (Pequea Valley), Bart-Colerain Elementary (Solanco), New Garden Elementary (Kennett), Quarryville Elementary (Solanco), and Greenwood Elementary (Kennett).

We continue to see many of the same School Districts: Solanco (Lancaster), Kennett Consolidated, and Pequea Valley (Lancaster) School Districts.

3rd Grade Reading Averages*

  • Reading Score – 86.21
  • Economically Disadvantaged – 20.47%
  • English Language Learners – 3.52%
  • Special Education – 13.75%

The 5 schools I am looking at as “most like Octorara” have scores ranging from 72.41 to 87.10. The average score of these 5 Elementary Schools is 75.85. Octorara scores a 72.07 in 3rd Grade Reading.

The “most like us” comparison doesn’t tell the full story. There are 11 schools with significantly higher (above 40%) numbers of Economically Disadvantaged. The School Districts with Elementary Schools having the highest number of Economically Disadvantaged include: Coatesville Area, Solanco (Lancaster), Kennett Consolidated, Oxford Area, Phoenixville Area, and Pequea Valley (Lancaster).

These Elementary Schools have scores ranging from 65.7 to 85.6. The average score, of these Elementary Schools, is 76.80. Octorara only scores better than 2: Rainbow Elementary (Coatesville) and Bancroft Elementary (Kennett).

* The averages contain each of the Elementary Schools within the CCIU, plus the two Lancaster County Districts noted.

Pequea Valley Considering Consolidation Plan To Save Tax Payers

Pequea_Valley_LogoIn this blog’s continuing attempts at looking at what other schools are doing to save taxpayers, we see the Pequea Valley school district looking at consolidation as an option.

“Unless we trim costs,” board member Fred Hertzler said, “doing nothing only makes us digging a deeper hole next year.”

Business manager John Bowden said balancing the 2013-14 budget requires consolidation in the fall, budget cuts or use of district savings. Any potential tax increase is limited by Act 1.

Option A would save about $700,000, Orndorff said, while Option B would save about $600,000 for the 2014-15 academic year. Orndorff said if the board moved Option B up a year, the district would have to furlough four professional staff, instead of eliminating positions by not replacing anticipated retirees.

Board members asked Orndorff to bring more specific information on costs for both options for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years to a May meeting.

Salisbury parents asked the board to find other ways to trim the budget. Parent Christine Zink said residents now send their children to cyberschools that do not have athletics. She would rather see extracurricular activities cut before consolidating Salisbury and Paradise. (Read more…)

Many people agree, Octorara over-built over the last 10 years. The initial report Octorara would need more space was in good faith. However, it was apparent those numbers were not proving correct by ’06, and motivated the district’s Octorara Regional Planning Commission. It was an attempt to push for the growth that was suppose to justify the new buildings, and the expansion of the high school.

The vote to proceed with the renovation and expansion of the high school was in September 2008. The foreclosure and credit crisis had existed since the end of ’06, and America’s largest financial institutions were collapsing, but the district pushed on, despite taxpayers’ vocal concerns. We are now paying $6.1 Million in debt service (roughly 9.1 mills of the proposed 37.5 mill tax rate).

Currently, Pennsylvania Department of Education projections for enrollment expect Octorara’s student population to decrease to 2459 within 7 years, with an expected graduating class of only 167. Consolidating schools may be an option to consider.