Monday, July 2, 2012

10 years and $2 billion into NCLB, PSSA scores drop for all races even as LMSD's nagging achievement gap remains wide open

A little known but highly felt by students fact about the Lower Merion School District (LMSD) is that its students are subject to more than 50 standardized, benchmark, or diagnostic tests by the time they graduate; not just the federally mandated PSSA alone.  These assessments are to inform instructional practice and curriculum development while driving all students along a pathway to reading and mathematics proficiency by 2014.  Even with a relatively small student population of 7,300+ and revenue totaling over $2 billion since the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, 100% mathematics and reading proficiency is a mandate still to be met and PSSA gains are on the decline across the school district.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, also known as PSSA, measures a students’ strengths and weaknesses and reveals how well they have achieved in reading, mathematics, science and writing according to Pennsylvania’s academic standards.  Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures how well a school district performs annually at educating its students to a level of proficiency and above in core content areas. The measures are tied to state academic standards, which can be viewed at

Alarmingly, the PA Dept. of Education’s 2011 Academic Achievement Report indicates decreases in reading and math proficiency at nearly every level and for all students regardless of race, income, or ability, especially on the middle and high school levels. Read the report for yourself and study the data in this newsletter.    (Source:

Should Lower Merion residents settle for less or demand more of school staff or something different? Without fail, LMSD makes AYP goals every year despite its underachievement as a “District” for disaggregated student groups. Its aggregate and disaggregated school-by-school PSSA scores speak to the inadequacies and safety nets allowed by the PA Dept. Compared to most school districts, the District is strong academically on many fronts, but the ones NCLB intends to eradicate.

Money matters for LMSD. Taxpayers provided LMSD with more than two billion education designated dollars over the past decade. Taxpayers rarely complain about annual school tax bills that rise every year without fail, at least not openly (except when it hit double-digits a few years ago).

Academic achievement scores on the down-tick with abundant resources that include $2 billion over a decade, more than $200 million per year, 35% of all eligible public school students attend private schools relieving the district of educating an entire community, parents pay thousands for tutoring and enrichment, the school superintendent and “highly-qualified” teachers are among the highest paid in the nation, the Strategic Plan addresses achievement and wholistic well-being, laptops and iPads abound, millions are paid to purchase new curriculum materials in all core content areas, and on and on.

Marva Collins, the great educator, refused to allow students to leave her class with empty or half-filled minds or for excuses to enter. That’s a standard for high quality education.

Lower Merion & Narberth community members, brave an imperative call to turn right-side what’s wrong with public education.