Last-minute funding might help York City students' test scores

In this file photo, fifth-graders Anajalie Grant, right, and Tytianna Jones look on following a presentation of Kindles to the entire fifth grade by Temple Beth Israel's Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan as part of the temple's Doing Good for Goode project, at Goode K-8 School in York City, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A last-minute grant will allow York City schools to purchase 700 laptops for its classrooms  and take part in a program that will improve student test scores.

The district received a school improvement grant of about $400,000 from the state Department of Education, according to Assistant Superintendent Andrea Berry.

Berry informed board members at the Monday, Aug. 6, planning meeting that the district got a late notification about the funds but was still able to apply for them for the upcoming school year.

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As a result, each classroom in district schools will receive multiple devices to run a program called Success Maker.

The program is "kind of like a rubber band," said Berry, in that it stretches for students of different achievement levels.

Students are tested for initial placement, and after a certain number of sessions, the program gives them a learning path.

If they achieve a specific amount of growth, the program can predict — with 94 percent accuracy — whether they will be below basic, basic, proficient or advanced on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) standardized test.

Berry said York City was looking for measurements of success used in other urban districts with diverse populations, and Success Maker, unlike some similar programs, offered 13 different studies of PSSA correlation.

"They were speaking our language," she said.

Who will participate? Focus and priority schools chosen by the state — which include all schools except Devers, Davis and Hannah Penn K-8 schools, and the STEAM Academy — will each receive an allotment from the grant.

But the administration found a way to draw money from other departments to ensure all schools could benefit from the new technology.

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Dr. Linda Brown, assistant superintendent for special education, contributed $110,000, and Deborah Hioutis, special programs coordinator for English Language Learner (ELL) studies, provided $30,000 to help purchase laptops for the other schools, Berry said.

Though the Success Maker program is designed for K-8 students, the district will have laptops for high school students as well. Berry said the district is  working to obtain a second grant that would allow each ninth-grader to have a device.

Board member Michael Breeland was concerned that students might lose the laptops, but Berry said all devices have been imaged and tagged for specific schools.

The technology department will come in to speak to teachers and students about care of the computers, whichalso will be required to stay in classrooms on charging stations overnight in all schools except for the STEAM Academy.