The 2015 Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSAs) our students took last school year were brand new assessments, aligned for the first time to the new, more rigorous PA Core Standards the State Board of Education adopted in 2013. As anticipated, performance level scores for our students and students across the state dropped significantly. In contrast to the new PSSAs, our students performed well on the Spring 2015 Keystones and exceeded the state proficiency averages in both math and literature for first time testers, re-testers and all testers in the District.
The new PSSA scores will now be considered the new baseline the state will use to measure student progress for future assessments. The new PSSA scores are not comparable to previous PSSA scores, because the new assessments are aligned to different standards than the previous assessments.
What this means for our students is the new PSSAs may seem much harder than previous assessments, because some material is being taught in lower grades than in the past. Also, the new PSSAs include more problem solving, writing and critical thinking skills to better prepare our students for college or the work force when they graduate. For parents, please know the PSSAs are just one point-in-time measurement of student achievement. Other measurements, such as how students perform in their classes on a day-to-day basis, are also important.
Through the hard work of our teachers, directors of instruction and administrators, much of our curriculum has already been revised and aligned to the new state standards for PSSA. Our curriculum is under constant revision, as we use a five-year cycle to ensure our curriculum stays current and continually meets the needs of our students. Within that five-year cycle, we also have the flexibility to revise curriculum for a specific academic area if the need exists. Also, we have been and will continue to offer our teachers and administrators the necessary professional development opportunities to assist with this transition to the new standards. In addition, we will continue to make sure we have the right resources in place to best assist our students.
My challenge to all administrators, teachers and support staff in Pocono Mountain School District again this year is to look at this change as a new opportunity to refocus on the individual needs of each student and help each student gain academically and thrive in our school environment.
My request to all parents is to ask each of you to continue to help us help your children achieve. Please read to your children or have them read to you; ask them about their school day; check their homework; ask them if they need help with a particular subject; and encourage them to meet with their teacher if they are struggling to understand a particular lesson or concept.
Also, I ask parents to please attend functions at our schools for students of all ages. The importance of parent involvement in a child’s success at school is supported by numerous studies. We continue to offer new workshops for parents, but parent attendance is low at so many of these events, even at workshops on such important topics as sexting, computer safety for children, bullying, and other topics critical to the safety and wellbeing of our students. Help us reverse this trend and increase the positive parent involvement so important to demonstrating to children the importance of education and the importance of working as a team and a community to improve our schools. Our students cannot reach their greatest potential without strong, positive partnerships between our schools and our parents.