Pattye Benson

Community Matters

2014 Pennsylvania School District Rankings based on PSSA scores are in — Unionville Chadds Ford tops the list, Radnor moves up to third and T/E places fifth

Spring is PSSA time for public schools in Pennsylvania and the results for 2014 as reported in the Pittsburgh Business Times reveal exciting news for Unionville Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD). For those interested in this type of school district rankings, UCFSD now tops the state’s list, having ousted long-standing Upper St. Clair School District for the number one position based on 2014 PSSA results. The Upper St. Clair School District located in suburban Pittsburgh, had previously held the first place title for the last eight years but dropped to fourth in the rankings behind UCFSD, Mt. Lebanon (Allegheny County) and Radnor school districts for 2014.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) formula ranks the school districts based on three years of state standardized test scores, giving the most weight to the current year. The PSSA is a standards-based assessment of what a student should know and be able to do at varying levels in reading, writing, science and math. Reading and math is assessed in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11; writing is assessed in grades 5, 8 and 11 and science assessed in grades 4, 8 and 11. The rankings do not denote the overall quality and performance of the school district, only the PSSA scores.

Although the 2014 rankings show Upper St. Clair School District dropping to fourth place, another Allegheny County school district, Mt. Lebanon holds at second place. This is the fourth consecutive year that I have tracked the top 15 school districts and the highlighted line in the chart below indicates that T/E School District has moved from second in 2011, third in 2012, fourth in 2013 and to fifth place in the 2014 PSSA rankings. Last year we saw UCFSD drop from second in 2012 to third in 2013. However, UCFSD turned it around for 2014 and ended up first in the rankings. Looking at other Main Line school districts, Radnor had dropped from fourth to sixth in 2013 but they also changed direction and are now third in the state. Great Valley School District jumped a couple of spots this year and for 2014, their PSSA scores have them ranked at 11th in the state.

Looking at the ‘Top 15’ school districts in Pennsylvania (based on PSSA results), Allegheny County continues as the number one county with six school districts represented followed by Chester County with three school districts (Unionville Chadds Ford, Great Valley and T/E), Delaware County with three school districts (Radnor, Wallingford Swarthmore and Rose Tree Media) and Montgomery County with one school district (Lower Merion).

A review of other area school districts indicates that Downingtown School District continues to improve; moving from 25th ranking in 2012 to 24th in 2013 and places at 22nd in 2014. Phoenixville School District moved up four positions this year from 98 in 2013 to 94 in 2014.

A Pennsylvania school district that places in the top 15 or 20 out of 500 districts statewide based on the PSSA exams is an achievement for which students, parents, teachers and administrators can all be proud. Many view PSSA scores as a reliable predictor of future success. As a tool for student assessment, the PSSA exam helps measure and provides useful information of what students are learning. The PSSAs measure the performance of the entire class and provide of measurement of how an overall class is performing.

Pennsylvania allows parents to exempt their children from standardized tests for religious reasons. Some elected officials, including State Sen. Andy Dinniman, have been publicly wary of the way standardized tests are used. As Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, he offers ‘Eight Reasons Why We Oppose Keystone Graduation Exams’, believing that it is fundamentally wrong for three standardized tests to determine a student’s high school graduation.

Beyond bragging rights for a school district or as a sales tool for local real estate agents, how important are these test results? Do children (and teachers) need this level of pressure to ‘measure up’?

PA School District Rankings, Based on PSSA Results for 2011 – 2014 years

School Rankings 14

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  1. I have been posting over and over again. Up in the high school things are sloppy since they added the extra class. No time for one on one any more. Also the teachers are getting a lot of pressure to do curves on grades or retest if the grades hit C level. Are the students getting the education you want?
    The teachers warned Dan, about lack of time. In Dan’s eyes the student s are robots and are all the same because they come from “well” households. All kids are not the same. Some need help. A high scoring student ,yes, but that same student may lack in Calc. Or Algebra. So they do not fall in the category of learning support and they are slipping through a bit. Teachers are stretched, they are doing their preps at home. Students are sadly relying on other students for help. Add to the fact over the last 3-4 years cellphones have jumped. Students cannot put them away. They are to focused on the phone. And when the teachers have to take them away parents get upset that their angel got their phone taken away. They side with their son/daughter. Then the principals run scared of the parents. Thus students not paying attention. The sad thing is the popular thing is time stretched teacher is handcuffed.
    Blame? Dan and the board, saving money on the back of the teachers thus on the back of the students. Amy Meisinger. Lets be for real, do the math, Tim Donovan left about the time the scores started falling. Amy Meisinger is so concerned about keeping Dan happy that she forgets she has to run the school and the teachers under her are wearing out.

    1. Middle school aide makes good points. The cell phone problem is real and big. I would support banning all cell phones from every school in the district, but as MSAide says, parents would probably not like it. The phones allow kids to have private separate lives. They have their own culture that parents are completely unaware of.

      Congratulations to U-CF!

  2. President of the United States

    Vice President of the US

    US Rank-and-File Senators and Representatives

    US Speaker of the House

    US Supreme Court Justices

    Pennsylvania governor (highest paid governor in US)

  3. The Keystone Exam is set to replace the PSSA’s fully for all public schools in PA . It is developed by the Department of Education.

    They are the elephant in the room. Students in the classes of 2017 (9th grade and below) WILL BE REQUIRED to PASS certain Keystone Exams to EARN a High School diploma.

    Keystone Exams have been developed for Literature, Algebra I and Biology. Pending state funding, additional exams are currently being developed

  4. IN NY state, circa 1974, there were the “Regents” exams.not sure if they still have them, but they were state sponsored finals, although teachers could give their own finals as well. In most major subjects, like algebra, geometry, trig, english, social studies, chemistry, biology, physics,at a time when subjects were SUBJECTS.. and the requirements for a regents diploma stipulated a decent base line of the core curriculum. Guess what? The regents exams were ridiculously easy. Plenty of past tests to study from. It was a joke. Teachers finals were much tougher.Probably for a reason.. to test that you knew the material they taught you. It was good to require a baseline of core courses, however to think the school districts needed a mandate from ALbany was folly. how did we ever get along with out bureuocrats teling parents, teachers and principals what should be tought>

    Didnt do that grate in spelling:) yes, great, but that other word up there… forgetaboutit.

  5. @ Shining Light: As of 2 weeks ago, the state decided not to expand the keystone exams beyond the 3 existing tests.

    As far as the rankings, there are several different publications that base their rankings on different things. TESD is still a top notch school district putting out very well educated students who are getting into colleges without a problem.

  6. I think cell phones saved some lives when there was a school shooter on the loose in Colorado. Personally enjoy hearing from my kids and if our schedules changes now we don’t have to call and annoy the school staff.

    Perhaps there is a class rule about phones. While they are a great option many of the kids own their own. As in paid for it themselves. I know the rules but perhaps each teacher handle it his or her own way? Here’s a thought stand up and take a break check your phones and put them away in x amount of time. Why do we have to be so rigid and make school worse than it already can me for the majority of kids?

    Perhaps if we all start to evolve instead of live in the dark ages we may be able to tune in to this generation.
    Maybe if teachers were treated with better respect, had more time to prepare they may actually like to teach and enjoy kids face and embrace that times are changing. With it we must too.

  7. Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Principal forced to retire over PSSA testing!

    Mark Ransford, principal at Chadds Ford Elementary School, was placed on administrative leave Monday night after an investigation revealed some students got extra time to complete PSSA tests. The controversy comes just over a week after the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District was honored by being named the No. 1 district in the state by the “Pittsburgh Business Times” based on three years of PSSA scores….

    To read the article —

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