State assessment results mixed locally; some schools, categories show improvement | local news

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Many local schools saw slight improvements in student state ratings this year compared to the previous round, and Principal at North Star Elementary School Renee Lepley credits her teachers for making progress there.

“The teachers did a great job preparing the students with evidence-based teaching,” she said. “We’re constantly reviewing our data to see where support is needed.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released the results of the 2022 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone Exams.

The data shows that at many schools in the region, at least half, if not more, of the students tested score proficient or better on the PSSAs this year, although there have been occasional dips compared to the previous testing period.

Lepley said her school has returned to normal school hours after two years of being affected by COVID-19, which resulted in regular absenteeism. The change allows for better instruction, she said, with North Star elementary school students achieving better results in math and science.

According to the results, North Star Elementary School’s PSSA math scores rose 14 points for a total of 75% of students who scored competent or better, and science scores rose to 96%, a jump of 11 points.

“We’re excited about the growth and our data,” said Lepley. “We have put in place a strong Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process to capture students who may need additional support and interventions to get them or keep them on track. … We rely really heavily on our benchmark test data to meet all of our students’ needs and to ensure that we are providing the interventions needed to get them on track for the PSSA tests.”

‘Keep a good pulse’

Lepley also pointed to the PAWS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program, which the principal said creates a positive school culture and reduces discipline issues within the building, thereby increasing instructional and student performance.

“The combination of the academic and the behavioral MTSS framework allows us to keep a good overview of each student’s performance even in situations like the pandemic,” she said.

Some area counties, such as Greater Johnstown, also saw notable year-over-year improvements in the Advanced and Proficient categories. Fourth grade science scores at Greater Johnstown increased eight points in the advanced column and there was a three point increase for eighth grade English.

In the Johnstown area, dozens more students in assessment classes also took the exams, but still struggled with the majority of testers falling into the foundation and below foundation categories – more than 77% of fifth through eighth graders are considered below the basic knowledge of mathematics.

The Windber Area, Richland, and Westmont Hilltop school districts also saw steady year-on-year progress.

Other districts, such as Ferndale Area and Conemaugh Valley, individually saw small declines in the higher grades, but overall still had about 50% of students in grades three through eight who were proficient or higher with the assessment.

“Like states across the country, we are not yet seeing test results at pre-pandemic levels,” Acting Secretary of State for Education Eric Hagarty said in a statement. “However, student performance is generally improving year on year, and schools across Pennsylvania are working overtime to accelerate learning and get students where they are when we emerge from the pandemic.

“We know that assessments show timing data that does not reflect the full extent of classroom learning across the Commonwealth, and we expect student achievement to continue to improve as students and educators proceed with a more normalized, uninterrupted year of in-person learning.”

Testers in the fifth and seventh grades of the English Language Arts section of the PSSAs have almost doubled in the Advanced category – from 8.6% to 13.3% and from 9.8% to 17.8%, respectively.

Mathematics remained a difficult subject in some grades across the country and region, and science again stood out with high scores relative to the other subjects.

There were also thousands more students in each testing class taking the PSSA and Keystone exams this time compared to 2021.

The Commonwealth Foundation reports that nearly “160,000 more students – a 29% increase – took nationwide tests this year compared to 2021, close to the historical participation rate”.

Despite these improvements, the results show that students are still recovering from pandemic-impacted learning losses.

For example, more than 70% of seventh and eighth grade students in the Commonwealth fall into the elementary categories and below in mathematics.

Lucas Jacobs, director of education for the Forest Hills School District, said that “strategic planning to review and identify our students’ learning loss and deficits due to the pandemic has been and will continue to be a priority in his district,” particularly given the trends during the adjusted learning time are noticed, such as B. Lack of access to computers and the Internet.

He added that a goal of the institution “remains to strengthen core instruction through the development of robust interventions to best identify and intervene in our students’ learning gaps and learning deficits at an early stage.”

Forest Hills students scored at least 50% competency on the PSSA this year in all groups except for seventh and eighth graders in math, which had a 27% competency and intermediate score.

Remedial classes and the hiring of additional intervention specialists – steps taken by several local schools over the past two years – along with the adoption of the LinkIt benchmark program and the development of an advocacy group to assess students were all steps implemented to address learning disabilities to help,” Jacobs said.

The director of education also commended a supportive school board and dedicated teachers and staff for meeting students where they are and helping them succeed.

As for the Keystone exams, algebra and literature saw more students in the advanced category, while biology scores across Pennsylvania fell about 20 percentage points.

There were also declines in the proficient grouping for biology and algebra, but literature scores recorded a 13-point increase in this column.

About 64% of students are considered advanced or proficient in algebra and literature, government data shows, and 41% in biology.

Locally, Keystone exam results have remained variable due to the test being skipped in 2020 and how “trigger courses” work in different districts.

In Cambria and Somerset counties, some high schools had more than 100 students scoring for a subject, while others registered one or two participants, resulting in no score.

Richland led Cambria County schools in algebra, with 96% of students grading proficient or advanced, while Forest Hills earned that title in biology, with 100% of testers ending up in those classifications — and Conemaugh Valley did the same in literature 78% of 11th graders who deserve this achievement.

Jacobs said he spoke to Forest Hills biology teachers about the stellar results and was told they “prioritize their lesson content to focus on the core standards in each lesson and/or subject area.”

“Additionally, the teachers provided a student-centered educational experience where they could make connections with their students through ‘real-world’ examples within their curriculum,” he said.

In Somerset County, Berlin Brothersvalley had 100% of tested students rated proficient or advanced in algebra, with several other counties not far behind, and Conemaugh Township Area had the best Keystone exam slot at 55% and 55% respectively Biology and literature in the county 82% are competent and higher.

For more information on school and state results, go to and click on “Assessment and Accountability”.