The Warren County School District made the grade.
For the third consecutive year and fourth since the 2002-2003 school year the WCSD met adequate yearly progress (AYP), the benchmarks set for proficiency on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
While the news is encouraging, the grade-span data that breaks down the numbers into grades 3-5 (elementary), 6-8 (middle level) and 9-12 (high school) is a mixed bag.
The elementary grade span failed to meet AYP in both reading and math and the high school range failed to meet AYP in reading.
At the building level, Sheffield Area Middle Senior High School didn't meet AYP solely because of graduation requirements. Warren Area Elementary Center, due to low test scores from students with individualized education plans, didn't meet AYP in both reading and math, and Warren Area High School didn't meet AYP due to insufficient progress on the reading exam.
The middle level range came through with flying colors as did all other district buildings, achieving their benchmarks in both reading and mathematics.
Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel expected the news.
"The district did make AYP, just like we thought," he said on Thursday.
Hufnagel made special note of his concern with the district-wide reading scores.
In an attempt to improve the reading curriculum throughout the district, a reading supervisor has been hired to review and recommend any necessary changes.
On the classroom level, Hufnagel has also made it a point of emphasis throughout the district for 10 percent of students in the basic level to advance to proficient each year, while maintaining the students who are already performing at proficient and advanced levels.
The federal education reform No Child Left Behind mandates 100 percent proficiency by 2014 and next year's goals are set at 91 percent in reading and 89 percent in math. This year's goals were 78 percent in math and 81 percent in reading.
"That's why I set the goal to try to move to percent of our kids from basic to proficient," Hufnagel said, recognizing that there are gaps that need to be closed.
"It will take more than one year to meet that gap," he added, but noted that the 10 percent target is a focus "as it is a state goal."
For example, at Youngsville High School where only 60 percent of students are at the proficient level in reading, Hufnagel said that a class of 20 students will have eight not reading proficiently. In that scenario, Hufnagel is hopeful that one student will be able to move from basic to proficient each year.
While he recognized that people may conclude that excess effort might be placed on moving one student in a class ahead to meet the 10 percent improvement state goal, Hufnagel offered a different perspective. "As we look at the data and made decisions off of that...good instructional practices are good for all kids. We're going to get a lot more kids (to progress)" as instruction is focused in the right places."
And that viewpoint will serve the reading program well.
Hufnagel said without a good foundation in reading in the elementary years, "our middle school teachers are trying to catch them up. It's going to take time. We have a lot of students that are one, two and three grade levels behind. When they get to middle school, it's harder to close that gap."
Facing the NCLB 100 percent proficiency, Hufnagel emphasized that there is work to do.
"I want to say that I'm very happy that we did make AYP," he said, "and I think our teachers are working hard to provide the best education they can for our kids. But we have a lot of work to do to keep up with the standards of No Child Left Behind."