LEWISTOWN - Preliminary results of 2011-12's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests indicate the Mifflin County School District has, in Superintendent James Estep's words, "quite a bit of work ahead."
During Thursday's committee-of-the-whole meeting of the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors, Estep released the test results to board members only but said that several buildings in the district fell "far" and "significantly" below state benchmarks for proficiency in reading and mathematics.
"We have very broad results at this time," Estep pointed out. "We have no formal information on other factors to be determined at this time."
However, he added, "This is a good indicator of where we are. We have quite a bit of work ahead of us to achieve levels we want to have in the long-term with regard to the PSSAs."
According to Estep, the statewide benchmarks for reading is 81 percent proficiency and 78 percent for math.
"We did OK in a couple of areas but we have a long way to go," he said.
Without releasing the specific numbers, schools falling in the "far below" benchmark ratings included Mifflin County High School and Mifflin County Junior High School. Falling "significantly" below were Mifflin County Middle School and Lewistown Intermediate School for grade 5.
But it wasn't all bad news.
"East Derry Elementary, Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate came out pretty well," Estep said. "Union Elementary fell below, but not by very much. Our biggest concerns are with Lewistown Elementary, Lewistown Intermediate, the middle school, junior high school and the high school."
Now that the preliminary results are in, Estep said it will be up to each building's principal to come up with a plan to raise the test scores.
"We need the principals to evaluate and formulate a plan on how to address the deficiencies in their buildings," Estep said. "Secondary principals will present to me formally on the 22nd. Once those plans have been reviewed, we will bring the principals to the September board meeting to share with you what their plans are."
Even though many of the district's schools fell below the state benchmarks, Estep said they aren't the only measuring stick with regard to children receiving a proper education.
"Yes, we should be concerned about benchmarks," he said. "I have more of an interest in prioritizing and being able to demonstrate that each year that a child is showing nine months of growth. That's a success and moving in the right direction. Not everything boils down to a test score, although I'm not suggesting the tests aren't significant."
In other business Thursday, Mark Crosson, principal of Mifflin County High School, was on hand to request a couple changes with regard to cell phone usage and the use of other wireless communication devices at the high school.
With regard to cell phones, Crosson said he was seeking permission to allow students to use cell phones during the five minute period between classes and during lunch.
"Cell phones aren't what they once were," Crosson said, noting that the majority of discipline cases he has seen were very minor and usually involved kids talking with parents for whatever reason.
"I really want to trust them," he said. "If we do that and they violate it, you hammer them. They wouldn't be allowed to text in the restrooms or locker rooms. I'd like to pilot it for a year and have the students sign off on it at the beginning of the year. I believe if we give them the privilege, they will police themselves."
In addition to that change, Crosson also floated the idea of a "Bring Your Own Device for MCHS Policy" which, basically would allow students to use their wireless devices for school work and free up computer space for those student who do not possess a device of their own.
"Last year, 82 percent of students had some kind of wireless device that can connect them to the Internet," Crosson reported. "This would allow them to use their own devices and stretch our equipment. We'd like to pilot it with the faculty for the first week and make sure the Wi-Fi can handle the volume, which we've been assured it can."
The board will formally vote on the requests at the Aug. 23 business meeting.
Other agenda items slated to be voted on by the board next week include:
Recommended approval of a change order for J.C. Orr & Son to furnish and install a new door frame for the Mifflin County Middle School project at a cost of $180.30.
Recommended approval of final 2011-12 budget transfers totaling $2,338,122.
Authorization to provide transportation services for the following private schools for the 2012-13 school year: Belleville Mennonite School, Mifflin County Christian Academy, Beth-El Christian Day School, Sacred Heart School, Valley View Christian School and Coffee Run School.
Approval of the following volunteer coaches: Melissa Kline, swimming; Nancy Craig, swimming; Julie Henry, field hockey; Chelsea Zook, field hockey; Steven Poche, junior high football; and J. Isaac Miller, junior high boys soccer.
A recommendation to hire Alan Miller as junior high boys soccer coach and Daniel Schomaker as first assistant girls soccer coach.