April 25, 2016
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.
The District has an enrollment of approximately 1,100 students in grades PreK through 12.
United Earns High Marks on School Performance Profiles
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.
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
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
Rockwood Area 78.8
Salisbury-Elk Lick: 62
Shade-Central City 61.1
Somerset Area 70.8
Turkeyfoot Valley Area 71.5
Westmont Hilltop 70.3
Windber Area 75.9
High School awarded SupportMusic Merit Award from NAMM
In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile (SPP). This public site (http://www.paschoolperformance.org) provides an academic performance score for public schools in the state. Click above to read more.
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