Several York County districts consistently fall short on test scores

Standardized test scores for 2019 reveal a number of York County districts  were consistently the lowest performing in the county but still above state averages.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released its school-level data last month for two statewide assessments — the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, and the Keystone Exam.

District-level data from the state shows that, countywide, York districts generally surpassed state averages for overall performance, with an overall average of 72.8% for Keystones compared with the state's 66%, and an average of about 60% in PSSAs compared with the state's 57.1%.

Central York, Hanover Public, Red Lion Area and West York Area school districts were consistently below countywide averages for proficient or advanced scores — though the county's scores were above statewide averages.  

"Would I like to see everything go up? I would. Would I like to be No. 1? I would," said Central York Superintendent Michael Snell at a recent meeting, noting that his district does not teach to the test, which only shows a "snapshot in time" of student proficiency.

Statewide averages for PSSAs were 60.9% in English and 42.4% in math; and for Keystones were 63.3% in algebra, 71.5% in literature and 63.2% in biology.

West York fell short on both of its PSSAs, with 55.6% in English and 33.5% in math. Central York was lower in math with 30.1% and fell just short in algebra with 63%.

York County School of Technology fell just below state averages in all Keystones.

The data corresponds to the 11th grade cohort for Keystones and grades three to eight for PSSAs — except for Lincoln Charter School, which only goes up to grade five. 

This differs slightly from Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment scores, which cover a single testing season, regardless of grade level, said Brian Truesdale, chief of PDE's Division of Assessment and Accountability, in an email.

PVAAS looks at students’ prior testing history to see if there was movement in the right direction.

This is particularly important for low-performing schools, as achievement data is often affected by demographics and other factors outside school control — while looking at growth can show if teachers are having an effect on students, local officials have said.

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That could account for why Dover Area — which compared with last year saw decreases in proficiency on all its state assessments except Keystone algebra, according to district-level data — saw significant improvements in growth on PVAAS.

"We are going in the right direction — and that’s what we care about," said Dover Area Superintendent Tracy Krum.

Dover still beat the county average in proficient or advanced scores in the algebra and biology Keystones and fell just below the average in literature.

York City School District had the lowest percentage of proficient or advanced students in all assessments — but saw some improvements over last year.

More:While York City district's grades improved, its graduation rate plunged

Its PSSA math scores rose from 9.78% proficient or advanced in the 2017-18 school year to 10.2% this year, and its PSSA science scores rose from 26.1% last year to 30.1% this year.

Superintendent Andrea Berry said she would hope the changes in curriculum and behavior under the district's financial recovery plan have been instrumental in moving the district in the right direction but said, "we have a long way to go."  

The district continued to improve this year in growth tracked by PVAAS. An average growth index above 2 indicates a district had significant evidence its students exceeded the state's growth standard of maintaining performance from one year to the next, and York City saw a 5.52 AGI in math.

The district also saw growth in all assessments except biology, where its AGI was minus 3.24.  

More:State report card: York City district excels in growth; Central York, Dover struggle

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The next lowest percentages of proficient or advanced scores in PSSAs on average were from Lincoln, with about 27.6%, Central with 51.5% and West York with about 50%. In Keystones, Central also was among the lowest, with 67.7%.

York County School of Technology is the second lowest in county for Keystones, with an average of 65% scoring proficient or advanced. School officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

West York board President Todd Gettys said this past week he had not yet been briefed on this year's scores but "no matter where they are, I think we've moved the needle," and need to wait for changes put in place to take effect.

Officials from Red Lion, which also fell below the county average at 68.5% in Keystones and about 57.8% in PSSAs, could not be reached for a comment.

Hanover Public was at about 69% in Keystones and 58.3% in PSSAs but saw growth in every assessment in PVAAS.

Graduation rates have been steadily improving since the 2011-12 school year in that district — reaching about 89% in 2017-18, thanks to offerings such as microcredentials that allow students to go directly into the workforce, said the district's Assistant Superintendent Susan Seiple.

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"We’re trying to target what the students want to learn, and that is keeping students from dropping out," she said.

York Suburban School District scored the highest overall with 88% proficient or advanced on average in Keystones and 70.2% in PSSAs. 

Spring Grove Area had the second highest in Keystones at about 85% and Eastern York had the second highest in PSSAs, with about 70%.