In 2009, every school district in York County met the overall standards on the state assessments except for York City.
In 2010, it was every district but Red Lion and York City.
And in 2011, it was back to every district but York City meeting the benchmark.
It would seem shocking, then, that in 2012, only half of the 16 York County school districts met the overall benchmark on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, known as making Adequate Yearly Progress.
You'd have to go back to the first year the state tracked AYP, 2003, to find this many county school districts getting the red "X" of failure rather than the green checkmark of success.
The PSSAs are the state's method of meeting No Child Left Behind requirements to have every child proficient by 2014. Proficiency means a student can do work expected of someone in that grade.
Districts need to meet reading and math proficiency benchmarks outright - 81 percent proficiency in reading and 78 percent proficiency in math - or by using other factors, such as margin of error or demonstrating growth in proficiency.
Central, Eastern, Northern, South Eastern, South Western, Southern, Spring Grove and York Suburban made overall state standards, with Eastern having perhaps the best year in terms of hitting reading and math benchmarks at every grade span.
Growth, not AYP, the focus: As for the other districts? There doesn't appear to be panic. Instead, district officials at Red Lion and Southern said they are more focused on getting individual student growth and less concerned on making AYP.
"We are making steady progress," said Amy Glusco, supervisor of curriculum and instruction at Red Lion.
Red Lion has new data-backed programs to work on student weaknesses, Glusco said, and the district is confident it can turn things around next year.
But Glusco, like several school officials, said the moving targets of AYP are a nearly impossible mark to hit if not for using those predictive factors.
Few schools make AYP outright in York County. The 81 percent reading proficiency and 78 math proficiency levels are about 10 percent higher than last year, and will go up again next year.
"We like to make it straight out on performance of course, but as long as our students are growing we feel good about that," Glusco said.
Southern York School District, which missed AYP for the first time in nine years, chalked up missing it this past year in part to that jump in proficiency benchmarks.
"Nine percentage points - that's a huge amount of percentage points. ... It gets harder and harder. And two years from now, there is supposed to be 100 percent proficiency," said Southern Superintendent Thomas Hensley.
Hensley said they would like to meet the state standards but "are not stressing about AYP" because "you have to be realistic with a law that's very flawed by the federal government."
"What we want stressed with our teachers is we want to see continuous growth. You have to go beyond a test score. We have to educate the whole child," Hensley said. Hensley said considering most high schools and eight districts missed AYP, "that should tell you about the standards (we're) being held to."
Eastern York and Kennard Dale were the lone high schools to make AYP in the county.
Dallastown Area School District had met standards for several years until this past year. It had problems at the secondary level.
"I was hoping we'd maintain AYP for our district. I'm not happy," said Superintendent Ron Dyer.
Better than last year: Other districts that didn't meet the standards chose to focus on the progress they made. Hanover Public schools didn't make AYP overall, but Hanover Senior High School made a 13 percent jump in reading proficiency; only a drop in graduation rate prevented the school from making AYP. And Hanover Street Elementary, which did make AYP, had 86 percent of students proficient in math, hitting the benchmark outright.
Superintendent Al Moyer credits the Everyday Math program for that. And a new principal at the high school should help with the graduate rate, he added.
York City Superintendent Deborah Wortham said she was thrilled McKinley Elementary made AYP again, getting it off of the warning list. And Devers Elementary made AYP for the first time in about six years, she said.
"The strategies we put in place last year are sustainable. We can do it again," Wortham said of McKinley.
Still, the rest of the district's schools and the district overall did not make AYP; York City is now in Corrective Action II Fifth Year, which means they once again will get state guidance and have to report its strategy.
Wortham said she chooses to "look under the hood" of data.
There were spots of improvement around the district, particularly in math, she said.
"It's not the whole engine that has to be replaced," she said.
The district's new K-8 model, replacing the elementary and middle school model, should help continue progress, she said. And all the schools are now teaching with the same strategy, so a student or a teacher could switch buildings and know exactly what's going on.
"We are not shooting from the hip. For the first time, we have a strategic plan in place," Wortham said.
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