There is plenty to be optimistic about looking at the latest round of Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores throughout the Warren County School District.
A four-point jump in reading and math scores at Sheffield Area Middle Senior High School.
A three-point jump in math at Sugar Grove Elementary School.
A three-point jump in math at Youngsville Elementary Middle School.
A 14-point jump in math at Youngsville High School.
But facing a 2014 deadline for 100 percent proficiency mandated by the federal Bush-era education reform No Child Left Behind, there is plenty of work left to be done.
For example, while the reading benchmark was 81 percent proficiency, only 70.3 percent of students at Youngsville Elementary Middle School tested in the proficient range or above this year. However, due to the a statistical special exception, YEMS was credited with making AYP.
With special conditions in play in many instances throughout the WCSD, all district buildings made AYP except for Warren Area Elementary Center, Warren Area High School and Sheffield Area Middle Senior High School.
WAEC didn't meet the goal "because of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) subgroup," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said, adding that the school "made it in all other categories."
At WAHS, reading scores dipped slightly, from 73 percent proficiency in 2011 to 71.8 percent this year, not exhibiting the needed growth to make the benchmark. However, math scores at WAHS showed improvement, up from 63 percent to 66.5 percent.
Sheffield missed the cut on graduation requirements only, making AYP in all the testing areas.
On a technicality, according to Hufnagel, Allegheny Valley Elementary School in Clarendon did not make AYP but it "does not have any kids that took the test because it is a K,1,2 building" and a "feeder school" for schools that are assessed. He said that the district is contemplating challenging the determination.
Also, because South Street Early Learning Center is a "feeder school" for WAEC, and WAEC didn't make AYP, PDE assessed South Street to not make AYP, even though no students there are tested.
The lone district school that failed to make AYP last year, Youngsville High School, made it this time, even if it was through the use of the special exception.
Math scores at YHS jumped 14 points while reading improved from 53 percent to 59.7 percent.
Youngsville's improvement "took them off of warning status," Hufnagel said.
"Congratulations to the teachers at YHS but 59.7 proficient in reading is not good enough," he cautioned. "We need to make sure we are improving that more. If I have a classroom of 20 kids, eight kids are not proficient. That's a large group in your classroom."
Hufnagel pointed out a perceived inequity in the state's AYP determination. WAHS failed to make AYP in reading, decreasing in proficiency from 73 percent last year to 71.8 percent this year.
"What they're saying is 'Youngsville, you made enough progress to make it. Warren, you didn't,'" he noted.
"I was pleasantly surprised for some of the buildings that did make it," Hufnagel said. "We did make it in a lot of places because we made Safe Harbor with confidence intervals."
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, "A school or district can meet AYP targets through a provision called Safe Harbor, which is a measure of improvement in test performance. Meeting Safe Harbor requires a 10% reduction in the percentage of students scoring below proficient in the previous year."
"This is good, but concerning," Hufnagel said. "Basically, we made progress but we didn't make enough to make the target."