Three Luzerne County elementary public schools were designated “reward” schools under the state’s new School Performance Profile system released Friday.
This means they were among the top 5 percent of schools in either academic achievement or in progress made on boosting test scores. Dallas Elementary and Wycallis Elementary in Dallas School District received the designation for high achievement, while Crestwood School District’s Rice Elementary got it for high progress.
No local schools fell into the bottom two designations under the new system, “Priority” for those in the lowest 5 percent and “Focus” for those in the lowest 10 percent but not deemed as priority schools.
Only schools designated “Title I,” a federal program to help low-income children, are considered for the three new designations, meaning they have a high percentage of students from families with income levels that qualify the school for the Title I funding.
Not all local schools are Title I schools, but all schools are supposed to get a single performance profile score of up to 100. The system allows up to 7 “extra credit” points, making a score above 100 possible.
Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn C. Dumaresq said during a teleconference the state had decided to release scores despite the fact that about 600 schools had provided incomplete data and asked for time to resubmit information.
The profile system looks at a wide range of state and national test results, how well schools improved scores in one year, and other data. Locally, 17 schools had no profile score.
Unlike the performance measuring system it replaces, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, the new system does not require schools to achieve a specific percentage of students scoring proficient or better in state tests.
AYP only looked at math and reading tests, while the new system also looks at state science and writing tests, the new state high school Keystone exams given in various subjects, the national SAT and ACT tests used to gauge student readiness for college, Advanced Placement courses, and other standardized tests such as those administered to career and technology center students.
Dumaresq said that, in this first year, a good gauge for success would be schools that scored 70 or better. Stressing that data is still incomplete for many schools, she said about 72 percent of schools statewide met or exceeded that benchmark.
Locally, 28 schools scored 70 or better, compared to 14 scoring below 70 — and four of those fell short by less than one point.
Wycallis had the highest score in the county, 94.2, followed by Dallas Elementary at 93.1. They were the only two schools to top 90 points.
Earning the top score gives Wycallis a second dose of bragging rights in as many weeks.
Last week U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the annual list of National Blue Ribbon Schools and Wycallis was on it, becoming the first Luzerne County School to make the list since the program began in 1982. The Blue Ribbon program is unrelated to the state SPP and looks at fewer tests.
The new system almost certainly casts West Side Career and Technology Center in a more favorable light than AYP did. The school only made AYP once since the system was implemented in 2002, and routinely had the lowest percentage of students scoring proficient or better in the county.
Center officials always noted the school is a relatively rare beast, a “comprehensive” CTC that takes students for a full day and provides both academic and vocational training. Most CTCs, such as Wilkes-Barre Area, only take students for half a day and leave the academic training to the home district.
West Side officials have long said it would be fairer to gauge their students by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) scores, which hone in on vocational skills.
The system now looks at NOCTI tests, and West Side scored 61.2 under the new system. Three local schools, including Greater Nanticoke Area Senior High, scored lower, and most high schools did not have a score because of incomplete data and will not get a score until the state finalizes the data, which Dumaresq said likely will be in December.
Asked why the state opted to release incomplete data, Dumaresq said the profiles, posted online at paschoolperformance.org, contain a total of “4.6 million pieces of data,” and that the state decided not to hold back release for a relatively small amount of missing information.
Currently, the designation as a “reward” school provides little more than bragging rights, though the state has said those schools will be eligible for grant money if some becomes available.
“Focus” schools will be required to review school improvement plans and implement “at least one meaningful intervention” while “priority” schools can receive state assistance, according to a state Department of Education.