With annual progress targets on state math and reading tests climbing higher toward a 2014 requirement to have 100 percent of students scoring proficient, more districts around York County fell short of the goals on the 2011-12 tests.

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At ydr.com/datacenter is a link to an automatically updating map that allows you to click on the school of your choice and see its scores.

The scores can also be found at the department's website, www.education.state.pa.us.

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The state education department released the results of the 2011-12 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, on Friday morning. Some local school officials said the results are starting to reflect the increasingly high targets set by the federal No Child Left Behind law, and they raise questions about whether the goals are realistic.

"When you see some really good school districts that don't 'hit the mark' you have to have some flags coming up in your head," said Thomas Hensley, superintendent of the Southern York County School District.

The PSSA tests are used to meet the requirements of the law that says 100 percent of students must score proficient or better in reading and math by 2014.

Each year, districts and schools are required to show they are making "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, toward that goal. For 2011-12, the PSSA targets were 81 percent proficient or better in reading and 78 percent in math.

Eight districts in York County made AYP and eight did not. That's more than in recent years, when typically only one or two districts didn't make the mark.

Every district in the county had at least one school that fell short. High schools in particular seemed to struggle, with all but two - Eastern York High School and Kennard Dale High School - missing the mark.

"Does that tell you something about the standards?" Hensley asked, saying districts with "fine reputations" have now missed AYP.

He pointed out that the bar rose 11 percentage points in math and 9 percentage points in reading from the previous year. There will be double-digit increases for 2012-13, too.

AYP is getting more out of reach, he said, because the targets are getting so high that districts can't move that many students up at one time. Southern made AYP as a district, but had three schools miss because various subgroups didn't meet the targets.

Hensley said Southern looks for continued growth and emphasized that other measures are important, too - SATs, advanced placement results, and the rate of kids going to college, for example.

"Our job is not about a single test," he said. "We want to look at continuous improvement."

South Eastern School District Supt. Rona Kaufmann said she was "delighted" with the district's overall results. The district made AYP, with Kennard Dale High School meeting targets after missing them last year. But South Eastern Middle School-East had one subgroup, special education, miss the reading goal.

"We know it's ... a work in progress," she said.

As the targets increase, she said, it will be more important to aim for a year's worth of growth with each student. Schools can make AYP through the "growth model," for example, which uses other data collected by the state to measure if they are on the right track.

"That's where the data informs interventions," she said.

In York City, two schools, McKinley and Devers Elementary, made AYP. It was the second year in a row McKinley made it, so the school exited "school improvement" status.

Supt. Deborah Wortham said that shows her that what the district put in place works and it can be replicated at both the elementary and high school levels.

William Penn Senior High School did not make AYP, with about 33 scoring proficient or better in reading and 32 percent doing so in math - though that was enough to make AYP in math by alternate measures.

Wortham said the high school results showed math faring better than reading. Schools are closed two days next week for district-wide professional development in reading, among other work in that subject, she said.

The results show gains in some areas, and digging in shows some schools missed AYP measures by just a few students, Wortham said.

"We have really been analyzing data and really addressing those issues," she said.

Dallastown Area School District didn't make AYP for the first time, with the middle school slipping into warning status because the special education group didn't meet targets in math. The high school didn't make AYP, slipping to "school improvement" status, with students overall and some subgroups missing the mark.

Supt. Ronald Dyer said that district-wide, students met proficiency benchmarks in reading and math, but the subgroups were challenging.

"We continue to work on ways in which we can reach and improve students achievement in subgroups as well as general population," he said.

The district has strong staff development in place, he said, and teachers will be working with data.

Dyer said he's proud of teachers and students. As districts move toward 100 percent proficiency, and have to administer an entirely new test - the Keystone exam - at the high school level, he said, "we have some real challenges."


What is AYP?

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that 100 percent of students score proficient or better on standardized tests in math and reading by 2014.

Schools and districts must show adequate yearly progress, or AYP, toward that each year. For 2011-12, the goals on the Pennsylvania tests were 81 percent proficient or better in reading and 78 percent in math.

Schools can also meet the requirements through other methods, such as showing growth or reducing the percentage of students scoring below proficient.

Schools that do not make AYP for one year are labeled in "warning" status and have another year to get back on track. Those that do not make AYP more than one year in a row face escalating consequences, such as having to develop an improvement plan, offering free tutoring for students, and receiving technical assistance from the state.


Why it matters

Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, schools and districts are to have 100 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced on the PSSA by 2014. If schools or districts aren't meeting the benchmarks along the way, they must take steps to improve their performance.

Those steps range from having to create an improvement plan to being subject to major changes such as "reconstitution, privatizing and chartering," according to the education department.

Here is a chart that shows you what happens when PSSA progress guidelines aren't met.