WA ranking a ‘gold star,’ super says

June 9th, 2015 2:51 pm

First Posted: 4/24/2014

EXETER — Wyoming Area School District administrators and union members may be at odds over a teacher contract, but they were in agreement about one thing this week: Getting a high state ranking in an annual list of “best high schools” is an honor everyone shares.

In fact, the district’s secondary center was not only the sole Luzerne County School to be officially ranked in the U.S. News & World Report annual Best High School list, it climbed a few notches within Pennsylvania ratings, from 61st last year to 56th this year. The bump upward came despite a drop — albeit small — in standardized reading test results, a key part of the magazine’s ranking system.

“It’s certainly a gold star for us at the Wyoming Area School District,” Superintendent Janet Serino said, spreading credit to staff, students and parents. “Our entire community should be very proud of this accomplishment.

“It’s all the teachers, it’s the administration, it’s the parents, it’s the students,” teacher union President Melissa Dolman said. “We’ve been up there a while (in the magazine rankings) and continue to stay up there because we have the support of the parents and support of the students.”

Dolman did point out that the improved ranking came despite drawn-out negotiations for a new teacher contract. The last contract expired in 2010. Teachers went on a month-long strike last September and held a one-day strike last week. “There are obstacles,” Dolman said, and the increase in the magazine ranking shows “we are overcoming them.”

But the ranking is not based on data from this school year, or even last year. The magazine looks at state math and reading test results, as well Advanced Placement class tests. All the data used for the 2014 list came from the 2011-12 school year.

The magazine also factors in percentage of low-income and minority students, groups that statistically do more poorly in standardized tests.

According to state data, Wyoming Area Secondary Center had the third lowest rate of low-income students in Luzerne County in 2012-13: 25 percent. The lowest was Crestwood high School with 12.4 percent, while the highest was Wilkes-Barre Area’s GAR with 78.8 percent.

State data show that Wyoming Area has kept the percentage of students scoring proficient or better in math relatively stable, at 76.3 percent in 2010-11, 79.5 percent in 2011-12, and 76.3 percent again in 2012-13, when the type of tests were changed.

Reading results, however, have slipped each year, from 80.4 percent to 77 percent, then 74.7 percent.

Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West High School were awarded “bronze medals” in the magazine system, but were not ranked. Wyoming Area was given a “silver medal.”