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April 25, 2016

According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association: 

Governor Tom Wolf has allowed House Bill 1589, the Fiscal Code bill, to become law after his time to act expired on Sunday, April 24. The legislation will implement the Basic Education Funding Commission's recommended funding formula for 2015-16 and provide reimbursement to districts for school construction projects under the PlanCon process.
 
House Bill 1589 requires the Commonwealth Financing Authority to establish a program to issue up to $2.5 billion in appropriation-backed bonds for the purpose of providing reimbursements to school districts for approved construction costs (PlanCon).  House Bill 1589 also establishes a Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations related to the PlanCon program.

The legislation provides implementing language for specific line items as to how funds appropriated in the General Appropriation Act of 2015 are distributed. For the Department of Education, the new law:

·  Establishes a formula for the allocation of basic education funding

·  Provides for reconciliation of payments for FY 2015-16 that may be necessary to ensure that the amounts paid to school districts match the formulas provided.

·  Provides a distribution formula and requirements for the Ready to Learn Block Grant.

·  Establishes the formulas for special education funding for school districts and intermediate units.

·  Sets aside 1% of the appropriation for special education for exceptional children for payment to school districts and charter schools with extraordinary expenses incurred in providing a special education program or service.  

·  Allocates a portion of funds set aside for extraordinary special education expenses to approved private schools.

·  Maintains the Commonwealth's elimination of payments for Social Security and required contributions for public school employees' retirement to charter and cyber charter schools.

·  If funding for basic education and Ready to Learn Block Grants are distributed according to this section, the department may utilize up to $4.5 million in unencumbered funds to pay for technical assistance to Financial Watch and Financial Recovery School Districts.

·  Requires schools to report certain data to the department to receive reimbursement of costs associated with payments for school employee social security.

·  Continues the Alternative Education Program Account, which continues to be funded by fees on alternative education programs. The account will be used by the department to defray the costs of administration and oversight activities.

·  Provides for distribution of equipment grants for career and technical centers and school districts with approved vocational programs.

·  Provides for distribution of funds from mobile science and mathematics education programs.

 

Thanks to all of you who sent letters to your elected state officials in advocacy of public education, especially on behalf of the United School District.  
 
 
 United School District
    The United School District is a school district located in Indiana County at 10780 Route 56 Highway East, Armagh, PA  15920.  The district serves the borough of Armagh and the townships of Brush Valley, Buffington, East Wheatfield, and West Wheatfield. 
 
    The district has two schools -- United Elementary School, serving students in Grades Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 6, and United Junior/Senior High School, serving students in Grades 7 through 12. 
The recent elementary and high school renovation projects enhance the District’s ability to provide expected learning opportunities in a safe, secure, efficient, and effective environment.   
The District has an enrollment of approximately 1,100 students in grades PreK through 12.  

    We are proud of all of the many graduates of the United School District, and we invite you back to our many events.  We are excited for the opportunity to welcome you back.  We extend that welcome to any interested family, friends, and community members within and outside of the District so that we can share the many wonderful accomplishments of our students with you.  Once you join us, we know that you will enjoy being a part of us. And remember -- Once a Lion, Always a Lion!
 
 
Congratulations to All Who Have Helped With Our Students' Success! 

SPP      United Earns High Marks on School Performance Profiles 

By David Hurst
dhurst@tribdem.com 

Two of the region’s high schools earned elite marks on the latest School Performance Profiles, scores that ranked them in the top 50 statewide. 

Richland School District appeared to have posted the 27th best score in the state with a score of 92.9, while United earned a 90.1 at a time nearly 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s public high schools earned failing grades below 70 points.

For Richland, its 2013-14 high school performance score was a nearly 10-point improvement from the year before, a climb that even exceeded the growth goal the state set  for the years ahead, Richland School District Superintendent Arnold Nadonley said.

Nadonley said the 92.9 point score is an achievement that Richland’s faculty and staff, students, school board and parents can all share.

“I think it even goes back to our residents – the taxpayers – because it tells them they are getting a good return on their investment,” Nadonley said.

United schools Superintendent Barbara Parkins had a similar reaction.

“We’re pleased with our results,” she said. “But we know we can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep working.”

United’s 90.1-point score at the high school level was a more than 12-point improvement from the year before.

The state launched the School Performance Profile in 2012-13, replacing the Adequate Yearly Progress model. It was also crafted to address new federal education guidelines tied to No Child Left Behind requirements.

The test rates schools on a 0-100 point scoring system based on a formula that includes standardized test scores, yearly academic progress, graduation and attendance rates.

Pennsylvania is currently revamping standardized tests to reflect new Common Core guidelines and other new standards. 

This year’s PSSA scores, which are already incorporating new “Pa. Core” standards were exempt from this latest Pennsylvania School Performance Score Profile scores.

Many of the state’s public schools saw their scores decline in what state officials have dubbed a Performance Profile transition year.

But a number of schools, including Richland and United, were exceptions locally.

Parkins and Nadonley said steps they took more than a year ago likely made a difference. 

Both schools focused on their areas of greatest weakness, based on 2012-13 results, and looked for ways to improve on them.

Parkins said United school officials took a closer look at ways to better prepare students for biology and science testing heading into last year’s Keystone Exams.

Nadonley said improvement in high school math was a big reason for the school’s high marks this year.

After 2012-13 results showed a lower-than-expected proficiency rate, the district made significant changes to how math is delivered at the junior high level, he said.

It meant changes to both curriculum and sequencing.

The class period for Algebra 1 doubled, becoming an 80 minute-per-day course, Principal Brandon Bailey said.

The district also decided to make the course available only to high school students and others in eighth-grade honors, he said.

 “If we can give our students a better grasp on it, the future courses like geometry and Algebra 2 fall in line,” Bailey said. 

“It makes a difference down the road.”

Richland’s Performance Profile was the highest in the Intermediate Unit 8 region that includes Cambria and Somerset counties.

Penn Cambria earned an 88.1 score for 2014-15, but most of the region’s schools had totals between 60 and 82.

Ferndale Area and Conemaugh Valley’s scores, 81.9 and 79.2, respectively, saw the area’s biggest improvements from the previous year, making approximately 10-point jumps.

Locally, 10 of 26 schools failed to reach the state’s 70 percent benchmark – many of them poor or rural districts.

Salisbury Elk-Lick’s schools score dropped 24 points to 62, putting it alongside nine other schools with “below basic” level grades. Northern Cambria had a 13-point drop to 63.8 points.

Greater Johnstown and Glendale had the region’s lowest scores.

Glendale’s 57.4 score was an eight-point drop from the previous school year. Greater

Johnstown had a 48.2 score, a 6.5-point drop from 2012-13 and a more-than-12-point decline from two years ago.

Attempts to reach Greater Johnstown school officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Both schools have a significantly higher number of economically disadvantaged students than the statewide average. Greater Johnstown’s student population has ranked among the state’s poorest in recent years, and many of the schools statewide with similar poverty percentages also had failing grades. 

Wilkinsburg schools in Allegheny County, for example, had a score of 40.7 for 2013-14.

Schools and others seeking education funding reform have pointed to such results as evidence that such schools with high poverty rates aren’t receiving enough support to meet today’s education demands. 

State officials have been mulling the idea of revamping Pennsylvania’s funding formula to distribute state money to schools differently in the coming years – a move that could give more aid to the region’s poorest schools. 

How they fared

2013-14 Pennsylvania School Performance Scores for area high schools

Notes: 1. A score of 70 or higher has traditionally been viewed as an acceptable/passing grade   

2. Elementary scores were not released this year because of changes in standardized testing

Berlin Brothersvalley 68.7

Blacklick Valley 67.3

Cambria Heights 70.7

Central Cambria 77.5

Chestnut Ridge 61.7

Conemaugh Township Area 69.3

Conemaugh Valley 79.2

Ferndale Area 81.9

Forest Hills 79.1

Glendale 57.4

Greater Johnstown 48.2

Ligonier Valley 76.8

Meyersdale Area 74.3

Northern Cambria 63.8

North Star 79.6

Penn Cambria 88.1

Portage Area 71.6

Richland 92.9

Rockwood Area 78.8

Salisbury-Elk Lick: 62

Shade-Central City 61.1

Shanksville-Stonycreek 68.4

Somerset Area 70.8

Turkeyfoot Valley Area 71.5

United 90.1 

Westmont Hilltop 70.3

Windber Area 75.9

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

Congratulations to our 2016 District Band Members! 
District Band 2016  
United Junior/Senior High School was one of 118 schools, nationwide, that received the 2016 SupportMusic Merit Award from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.  NAMM has recognized United for its commitment to music education.  There were only nine (9) schools in Pennsylvania who achieved this award.  Congratulations to Acey Gongaware and Zach Karcher for their efforts in providing our students with  the opportunity to learn and grow with music.  Mrs. Gongaware and Mr. Karcher were instrumental in providing the data submitted to NAMM for this year’s award. 
 
 Congratulations, Seniors!  
 Congratulations, Seniors!
 
   Quiz Bowl Teams  
 Congratulations to our Quiz Bowl Team Members
 FBLA States 2016         
                       FBLA States  2016                                                                                                                               
 
 9th Place FBLA State Winners
 United's Future Business Leaders of America State Winners
 

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