If you read any of the recent Courier Times articles about PSSA scores, you’re probably confused. First was last Friday’s article with the screaming headline “Neshaminy flunks scholastic goals” and an explanation that “The Neshaminy School District is the lone public school system in the area that did not achieve AYP …” which gave people the impression that Neshaminy’s overall scores were the lowest in the land. Then there was a follow up article on Sunday which posted the scores of Bucks County school districts and it was apparent that Neshaminy’s overall scores were not the worst – not by far. And for those of you who track the yearly progress of PSSA’s, you noticed a substantial improvement in several key categories.
In a memo to the school board, Superintendent Kadri clarified that “In Neshaminy, we had 92 performance targets measured by NCLB. We missed only 9 of them. That is a very strong showing. Of the 9, all 9 of them involved small sub-groups of students. Seven of the nine were related to reading. Unfortunately, because there was at least one of the seven in each of the three grade level categories, (high school, middle school, elementary), the entire district was determined to be failing. This could happen even if all of our scores went up and even if we did better than other school districts that were not identified as failing.“
Mr. Kadri also highlighted some very impressive achievements not addressed by the Courier article including:
· At the high school we increased in reading by 13% in math by 12%. In addition to having substantial growth our overall levels are very strong especially when compared to our peers.
· At the middle school level, our scores are either leading or competitive with the majority of districts in Bucks County. In some places we have advanced proficiency levels near or over 70%. In other words, students are not just passing the exams; they are registering at the highest levels of proficiency.
· The elementary schools continue to be strong and competitive and easily met overall indicators for AYP.
Kadri’s words are powerful proof of what was accomplished this past year in Neshaminy. Having said that, we must continue addressing the special ed subgroup situation. Whether or not we believe proficiency is even achievable for these students, the fact is NCLB is the law of the land and we are obligated to comply. Love it or hate it, AYP is part of our lives.
My problem with all this is the manner in which the Courier Times reported the scores. AYP is a very challenging concept, and the Courier reporter and editor should have considered the confusion such an article would cause without the supporting data. The headline “Neshaminy flunks scholastic goals” was misleading and sensationalistic. Yes it’s true we didn’t achieve AYP, but achieving 90% success in the 92 performance targets is far from flunking. It’s something to be proud of. But after reading last Friday’s article and the subsequent editorials, nobody in Neshaminy is cheering.
In Sunday’s editorial, the Courier embarrassed our superintendent by printing a quote without any clear context of the dialogue. They even admit they didn’t understand Kadri’s statement – so why would they even print it if they didn’t comprehend his point? Obviously they couldn’t fairly represent his perspective, but that didn’t prevent them from using it against him. That was a cheap shot not worthy of the Fourth Estate.
Then in today’s editorial the Courier continued its assault on Neshaminy by criticizing us for not tracking PSSA proficiency of graduates, and accuses us of having a “head-in-the-sand strategy.” I admit to finding the Courier’s stand almost humorous because PSSA proficiency of graduates is a completely useless statistic. While it may be true that good PSSA scores are a reflection of a successful school district, there is no correlation between PSSA scores and academic success. If you believe otherwise then ask yourself this question – if PSSA’s went away, would that result in less students graduating?
Through all these articles and editorials, the Courier does raise some good points about test scores, teacher accountability and empty diplomas – these are all worthy topics. But the Courier went overboard trying to link them into their cause du jour – teacher contracts. As a result of that, lost in all the words was the fact that Neshaminy’s overall scores improved and are worthy of praise.
I consider myself of fan of the Courier Times and read it daily. Unfortunately when articles lack proper balance and editorials do more to insult than inspire, they serve very little purpose. In my mind, the only one who flunked last week was the Courier Times.
What do you think? Feel free to add comments to this post, or you can send your comments directly to the Courier Times, or do both.