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Pilot program involving select schools and intermediate units

08/13/2018 Lewistown Setinel By ERIN THOMPSON - Education/religion editor, ethompson@lewistownsentinel.com

Yarger speaks on taking part in program - Juniata one of three Pa. districts selected to pilot program this school year

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata County School District Superintendent Keith Yarger was one of three school superintendents in Pennsylvania to participate in a press conference in Harrisburg, Wednesday morning, that discussed the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the previous No Child Left Behind Act in 2015.

Juniata County, along with Pittsburgh Public School and Allentown School District, were selected to participate in a pilot program that, after this year, will allocate extra funds to lower performing schools, said Yarger.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, along with the superintendents, discussed their early participation in Pennsylvania’s comprehensive System for District and School Improvement.

The (program) is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to help schools and improve education across the commonwealth.

“Our new school improvement system is built upon an evidence-based framework to support schools and increase focus on key practices associated with sustained improvement in teaching and learning,”said Rivera. “By engaging with stakeholders, evaluating promising practices from other states, and examining PDE’s own earlier school improvement initiatives, we are setting conditions that empower educators and communities and ensure strong accountability for results.”

As part of the pilot, the three participating schools received a grant to be spent in areas such as academic projects, professional development and community outreach.

Yarger said the state selected one rural school, one urban school and one suburban school to participate in the program. He added that Juniata County was selected for the program because of its number of students, the geographic area and the number of district administrators.

Juniata County, as well as Pittsburgh Public School and Allentown School District superintendents, along with the three school districts piloted the program in 19 schools in the 2017-18 school year. According to a press release, 11 schools participated in Pittsburgh, seven in Allentown and one in Juniata County — Mountain View Elementary.

Each of the participating school districts assembled diverse teams of educators to help PDE field-test school improvement tools and identify opportunities to align school and district-level planning with the state’s emerging school improvement framework.

Yarger said Juniata County School District received roughly $125,000 from the grant, which it used to purchase tools to bring up math scores.

The superintendent said he believes the district has already seen a rise in scores as a result of programs purchased with the grant funds, but was unable to say to what extent. Funds were also spent on professional development, he said.

“It was nice to be a part of this pilot program because we may never be able to receive this grant money again,” Yarger said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center provided support through a formative evaluation of pilot site experiences, which found that “empowering a variety of stakeholders in the school community to have a voice in the school improvement process fostered collaboration and shared responsibility, and resulted in priorities and action plans that districts were invested in. Principals and other building leaders offered specific strategies used to refine and enhance the tools and processes and will help increase the impact of this work for schools across the state.”

The program will be expanded this fall and will be led by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3, in collaboration with Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13, Berks County IU 14 and Chester County IU 24. The program will include schools that are classified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement, or Title I schools that fall in the bottom five percent of performance statewide, as outlined in the state’s approved Every Student Succeeds Act Plan.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, visit the Department of Education’s website at www.education.pa.gov or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

Written by: ERIN THOMPSON, Education/religion editor, ethompson@lewistownsentinel.com

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