When I was hired as the Superintendent of the Bethel Park School District in 2016, I came to the District with a firm belief that all students can learn. It is a belief I have held throughout my entire career in education—that every child has the ability to learn, and it is our primary obligation as educators to be able to provide an educational environment where all students can learn—and grow.
To that end, we established “All Learners Grow” as our overarching theme for the 2016-2017 school year and have extended that theme into 2017-2018, while adding “Our Schools Are G.R.E.A.T., which is an acronym for Guided by standards; Rigorous,
Engaging, Assessment to guide instruction; Tailored through flexible grouping.
Once the State released the District’s data for the 2017 PSSA and Keystone Exams, our administration building educational leadership team—Assistant to the Superintendent Janet O’Rourke, Coordinator of
Curriculum Elizabeth Wells and
Director of Special Education Lori
Sutton sat down with me to review how our students have grown over the past
year, and the team presented our findings to the School Board at its October
Our review allowed us to reflect on the past school year to see what went well, as well as what we can improve upon. Did we make strides toward our “All Learners Grow” theme? Did our test scores increase? Did we create a least restrictive environment for all of our students?
A comparison of the District’s PSSA and Keystone scores from 2016 and 2017 show that the District continues to consistently perform at higher levels than the state averages on both of these assessments. On the PSSAs, Bethel Park scores in the Advanced or Proficient levels of the English Language Arts, Math and Science PSSAs exceeded the State’s average by 21, 19 and 19 percentage points respectively.
As a District, the
number of third and fourth grade students who scored at the Advanced or
Proficient level on the English Language Arts and Math PSSAs increased from our
2016 numbers, and we are proud of what our teachers have accomplished with our
students to continue this increase in achievement.
You can see the
complete report to the School Board on our website at: http://www.bpsd.org/Downloads/Board%20Presentation%2010-24-17.pdf.
One of the ways the District
continues to address student growth is with the implementation of Hawk Time,
which provides 40 minutes each day of extra practice for all elementary
students in the areas of math or English language arts skills.
Hawk Time is not
a repeat of original instruction; instead it is an opportunity for classroom
and instructional support teachers as well as the reading specialists to
re-group students by grade level to provide enrichment through personalized
instruction, using best practices and corrective instruction to respond to the
data generated by ongoing assessments.
We believe Hawk
Time is one of the reasons our test scores have improved, but it is our mission
to make the necessary adjustments to continue this upward trend in all areas.
We hope to accomplish this by expanding opportunities and using current
instructional data to differentiate instruction and delivery of lessons.
The District views these standardized test scores as only one snapshot in the larger overall picture of how we assess achievement and develop well-rounded students. In addition to standardized test scores, we also rely on evaluative tools such as classroom assessments and hands-on activities, such as the innovative projects our students recently presented at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s STEAM Showcase, which you can read about this in this issue of Chronicles.
In our review of
student achievement, we also looked at continuing to provide a Least
Restrictive Environment, or LRE, for our Special Education students. While we
have not reached the State-determined target for having special education
students in the general classroom setting 80 percent or more of the time, we
are closing the gap. These decisions are determined on a case-by-case basis by
the individualized education program (IEP) team for each student.
committed to our goal of All Learners Grow, and while we recognize that there
is still work to be done, we also want to take time to celebrate the many accomplishments
of our students, both in and out of the classroom.
students constantly amaze me with their innovation and creativity, and you can
read about many of their accomplishments in this newsletter. We are proud of
their efforts as well as the ensuing results, as they develop the 21st
century learning skills that they will need to be successful adults and
contributing members of society.
It is our job as
educators to continue to provide them with the tools, resources, instruction
and encouragement to allow them to develop into critical thinkers and
innovators who will be able to compete in the global marketplace, and it is our
pledge to our parents and community that we will continue to provide a quality
educational program that will enable these things to occur.
At this time, I
would also like to extend an invitation to the community to attend at least one
of the many holiday music concerts that will be performed in December by our
extremely talented students. I look forward to attending these great evenings
of music, and I hope you will also be able to find time in your busy holiday
schedules to join me at these performances.
I wish all of you
a peaceful holiday season with family and friends. It remains an honor to serve
you and your children.
This message also appears in the December 2017 Bethel Park Chronicles.