MERCER, LAWRENCE SCHOOLS Districts set sights on better performance

Five Mercer and Lawrence counties schools didn't meet improvement targets.
SHARON, Pa. -- Officials in the four Mercer County public school districts and one Lawrence County school district that didn't quite meet their academic performance targets know where they must concentrate efforts to satisfy the state next year.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education said the number of schools across the state meeting their targeted Adequate Yearly Progress in pupil performances in math and reading improved in 2004 with four out of five schools reaching that mark.
It's all part of the federal No Child Let Behind Act requirements.
In Mercer County, the Farrell Area, Reynolds, Greenville Area and West Middlesex Area school districts were all listed as not meeting all of their targets. In Lawrence County, New Castle Area School District did not meet the federal standards.
In every Mercer County case, it was the performance of special education pupils on the standardized Pennsylvania School System Assessment tests for both reading and math that was lacking, according to the state.
Pupils take the tests in fifth, eighth and 11th grades.
Target goals
The targeted requirements, in addition to academic performance, cover things such as attendance, graduation rates and the performance of specific subgroups such as special education pupils and minorities.
The state report said that Farrell met 18 of its 19 goals and Greenville, Reynolds and West Middlesex each met 15 of 17 goals.
"We're going to do what we have to do [to improve test scores]," said Maddox Stokes, Reynolds' superintendent.
Plans are already being drawn to develop strategies to do that, he said.
Farrell was given a "Warning" notation in the report, which signifies the district's first failure to meet all of its targeted goals.
Greenville, Reynolds and West Middlesex all had an "Improvement I" notation, which means they are in the second year of failing to meet all of their goals.
That ranking came as a surprise to Dr. Patricia Homer, Greenville superintendent.
She knew Greenville failed to meet all of its targets last year in a low socioeconomic subgroup performance in eighth-grade reading.
This year, the failure to meet goals was in the special education subgroup.
Homer said she thought a district had to be deficient for two consecutive years in the same category before getting an Improvement I ranking.
Potential for state action
Schools continually failing to meet their targets face consequences that the state says could go as far as the state's stepping in to run a school district.
New Castle also failed to meet its requirements in math and reading for special education, economically disadvantaged and black pupils in grades five and eight, said schools Superintendent George Gabriel. All of the subgroups in high school met the standards.
This is the district's second year of not meeting the standards, and it has been classified an "Improvement I" school, he said.
Administrators have already started working on an improvement plan, Gabriel said.
They intend to test fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders this fall to determine where they are deficient and then provide after-school tutors, he said. Gabriel noted a $90,000 grant will pay for the work.

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