Principals discuss schools’ progress

LEWISTOWN – Academic improvement plans were the highlight of discussion during the meeting of the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors Thursday night.

Director Vance Varner said the performance scores for the 2012-2013 school year were released earlier this month. Varner said the score given will continually change until January 2014. The middle, junior high, and high school principals were at the meeting to talk about the scores of the schools and to discuss options to get the scores even higher.

Mifflin County Middle School principal Rob Reeder said his school received a score of 87.4.

“I am very proud of the school,” Reeder said. “In my opinion, morale is high. The staff has been working hard to get these scores and to keep them high.”

Reeder said the individual student growth from the previous year was significant. During the PSSA testing and evaluation of students, Reeder said students seem to be weaker in both math and reading regarding open-ended questions, specifically the questions pertaining to measurements.

To rectify this, faculty is going to start assessments to help them better understand math questions and literary devices in reading. The faculty has also implemented some “problems of the week,” which focus on the measurement aspects of the testing.

“We are working with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit to help improve the open-ended questions for both math and reading,” Reeder said.

Mifflin County Junior High school principal Mike Zinoble said students and teachers have done a great job. He said the students in the junior high are different because the school administers the PSSAs and Keystone testing and the test the student receives is dependent upon the grade. Zinoble said the school increased in math, science, reading and writing on the tests.

“Our writing was the worst,” Zinoble said. “But we did improve from last year.”

The junior high had never been evaluated before, so these numbers are acting more like a baseline, even though he knew this was going to be lower from previous years of testing, Zinoble said. In the Keystone exams, about 114 students were assessed, and out of that group 102 were listed at proficient or above. Zinoble said those who did not score proficient or above were retested and all in that group were then proficient.

“We looked at our weaknesses and I have discussed with the teachers what we can do to improve,” Zinoble said. “During the school year now, we are going to start reviewing materials taught in the fall which are tested during the spring. This happens in algebra and we are taking measures to fix the lower scores here through the reviewing process. However, all of the classes are going to do more of a review process to help with scores.”

Mifflin County High School principal Mark Crosson said while he is happy with the score of 69.7, the school as a whole wants the score to be higher. He said they were also low in areas like science and writing. The board seemed to think that more writing emphasis needs to be taken at a elementary level to help with the assessments.

Board member Beth Laughlin expressed her concerns of how much money the school district will lose if the scores do not grow because of the state grants that are distributed based on scores. Superintendent James Estep said the district is not excusing the problem, but now it can recognize the problem and correct it for the future.

All of the schools in question are trying to align curriculum not only with each other, but also with the curriculum that is used going to now be used to test the schools.

Estep also brought a discussion on the elementary online initiative before the board. This initiative is to help bring the online students back to affiliation with the school district. Estep asked the board to consider adding to the budget a new position to help with the technology department. This was brought before the board because the teacher who handles the recruitment for the online initiative also has to teach what is essentially a full schedule, teach the online students already enrolled and talk with new parents, Estep said. Estep said he is concerned that if some of this work is transferred the other computer teacher, that teacher will have less time to work with the technology department.

“We want to grow, but it is hard when the teacher promoting the program cannot devote enough time to it,” Estep said.

The board decided to have Estep put it in the budget for the next meeting and that his proposal would be put to a vote.

Varner also took a moment to have the board recognize the officers and Board of Trustees of the Yeagertown Fire Company. Varner said the fire company donated new scoreboards for the varsity baseball and softball fields at the high school. The scoreboard for the baseball field was installed in May. Varner said the one for the softball field will be installed in time for the upcoming softball season.

The next meeting for the board will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Mifflin County School District Administration Building at the corner of Eighth Street and Maple Avenue in the Pleasant Acres section of Lewistown.