Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Unionville Chaddsford School District

Congratulations TE School District — Ranked 3rd in the Country!

Congratulations TE School District! ‘Niche’ which measures neighborhoods and cities for livability, compares k-12 schools and reviews over 8,000 colleges and universities has released their 2015 national school district rankings.. The Niche K-12″ report, which compares 120,000 k-12 schools has been released. For those interested in rankings, Tredyffrin-Easttown School District was listed as third in the country and first in the state.

Here’s Niche’s ranking of the ‘Top 10’ school districts in the country:

  • Edgemont School District — Edgemont, New York
  • Jericho Union Free School District — Jericho, New York
  • Tredyffrin/Easttown School District — Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania
  • Lower Merion School District — Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
  • Scarsdale Union Free School District — Scarsdale, New York
  • Great Neck School District — Great Neck, New York
  • Pittsford Central School District — Pittsford Town, NY
  • Rye City School District — Rye, New York
  • North Allegheny School District — Wexford, Pennsylvania
  • Chappaqua Central School District — Chappaqua, New York

In addition to TESD (3rd) and Lower Merion School District (4th) Unionville Chaddsford School District and Radnor Township School District also made Niche’s national ranking of school districts, coming in at 15th and 52nd places, respectfully. In addition to the school districts, Niche ranked the 14,000+ public high schools. On the national ranking of individual high schools, Conestoga HS was listed as 26th in the country and first in the state.

Further information about Niche and their rankings, can be found on their website,

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

Do Higher Teacher Salaries in Philadelphia Area School Districts Equate to Higher PSSA & SAT Scores? Not According to Research Study

Periodically I have posted about the Unionville Chaddsford School District (UCFSD) and their ongoing teacher contract negotiation struggles of last year. Deadlocked contract discussions required the PA Labor Relations Board to intervene and assist with the bargaining impasse. However, even after the release of the fact-finding report, it took months for resolution and the signing of a new contract.

After working without a teacher’s contract for over a year and weathering the contract negotiation process, a new contract between the UCFSD and the teachers was signed in September 2011.

Academically, there is a similarity between the UCFSD and T/E school districts – both districts are top performing school districts in the state. On the SAT and PSSA performance, both school districts score in the top 1%. In my post of September 21, 2010, I wrote that “T/E School District ranks #2 for SAT scores and UCFSD is ranked at #5.” Using the high PSSA and SAT scores as a negotiating tool by the teachers union, I wondered if this was a tactic that would similarly be used in T/E and wondered if our school district could learn from the lessons in UCFSD.

All around we are seeing school districts struggling. We are watching Delaware County’s Chester-UplandSchool District as they try to figure out if they can make their payroll next week. Over in Bucks County’s Neshaminy School District, classes for 9,000 students are cancelled for the third day as their teachers strike. Having worked without a contract for four years, the teachers and the school board are battling over the contract and healthcare appears to be a major stumbling block on both sides.

If you follow Community Matters, you may recognize Keith Knauss as one of those that regularly comments on school district issues. Knauss currently serves on the Unionville Chaddsford School Board and brings first-hand experience, especially when dealing with teacher negotiations.

Knauss prepared a report for his own school district, which he has graciously offered for Community Matters readers. He looked at the 61 Philadelphia area school districts for factors that might explain the wide variation in academic achievement on PSSA and SAT tests.

Factors Knauss considered included:

  • Parental education
  • Poverty
  • Student to Teacher Ratio
  • Spending per Student
  • Average Teacher salary
  • Average Teacher experience
  • Average Teacher degrees

In his analysis of the data, Knauss uncovered some interesting results. He discovered that “only two factors are significant – Parental Education and Poverty and those two factors alone can explain the bulk of the differences in academic achievement.” Recognizing that “those two factors are beyond the control of the District”, Knauss notes that the “all other factors, where the District does have control over are not significant, including per student spending, class size, teacher salary, teacher experience, teacher education.”

While most of us might assume that the more experienced teachers, or those with the most education and the highest salaries would be factors associated with higher test results, Knauss research data does not support that theory, at least not in the 61 school districts in the Philadelphia area that he researched. Knauss concludes, “contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence from the 61 districts that spending or the number of teachers has a measurable effect on academic achievement.”

Click here to read Keith’s Spending Trends Presentation TE research study. I would encourage everyone to look at it – see which factors influence test scores in T/E. A fascinating study providing an interesting way to look at what may (or may not) contribute to PSSA and SAT test scores.

Going back to the Neshaminy School District, according to a November 28 article, the teachers in this district are the highest paid in the state. However, when you review the PSSA results, Neshaminy School District doesn’t even make the top 50 — but is number 245 among Pennsylvania’s 500 districts. Over half of the Commonwealth’s school districts have outperformed Neshaminy on PSSA tests for the last 10 years.

The SAT results in Neshaminy have the school district ranking number 156. And according to the article, over half of the teachers (337) make over $90K plus 64 teachers make over $100K. The average teacher’s salary in Neshaminy School District is $80-85K.

Neshaminy parents who are opposing the demands of the teachers, claiming that they are not getting ‘what they are paying for’ — believing that because the teachers are the highest paid in the state, it should equate to higher test scores. But as evidenced by Keith Knauss research data, their assumption would be incorrect. According to the research, higher salaries do not necessarily mean higher PSSA and SAT scores.

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