Testing

In this LNP Archive photo, Conestoga Valley students take benchmark tests for the Keystone Exams.

Lancaster County is no exception to statewide struggles in math, the latest standardized test scores released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education show.

The test results — which are part of the Future Ready PA Index, the state’s new school accountability tool — show Lancaster County elementary and middle school students who took the PSSA did worse, on average, than the previous year.

Only 46 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math this year, down from 49 percent in 2017.

Science performance also fell, from 73 percent scoring advanced or proficient last year to 70 percent this year. The trend was reversed for English, with the portion of local students scoring advanced or proficient rising slightly, from 65 percent to 66 percent.

At the high school level, students who took the Keystone Exams performed slightly worse in literature this year, while algebra and biology scores remained relatively steady.

In literature, the portion of students scoring advanced or proficient fell from 78 percent in 2017 to 75 percent this year. The figure was 74 percent for algebra and 70 percent for biology, both similar to last year.

Despite the lagging scores in some subjects, Lancaster County still outpaced the state as a whole.

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State-level data released in October showed, for example, that 42 percent of Pennsylvania students taking the PSSA and 65 percent taking the Keystones scored advanced or proficient in math and algebra, respectively. That’s compared to Lancaster County’s rates of 46 percent and 74 percent.

Tom Strickler, superintendent of the 1,300 student Columbia Borough School District, said the results made him “cautiously optimistic.”

Columbia high school students improved in all three Keystone subjects — algebra, biology and literature.

Also showing improvement was Pequea Valley School District. High school students there improved on all three Keystone subjects, and PSSA scores in English language arts were up.

District Superintendent Erik Orndorff attributed Pequea Valley’s success to improvements in mass customized learning — which focuses more on each student’s individual needs — and buy-in from the school community.

“We don’t point fingers at (Pequea Valley),” Ordnorff said. “We work together as a family and that is the key to any team success.”

Test scores at Manheim Central, on the other hand, dipped in all areas of the Keystones and PSSA.

Manheim Central Superintendent Peter J. Aiken said test scores do not “drive what we do.”

“I want our kids to be wildly excited,” Aiken said. “I have yet to meet a student who is wildly excited about taking a standardized test.”

That’s a sentiment with which the state Legislature seems to agree.

It passed a bill that was then signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in October, permanently eliminating a requirement that students demonstrate proficiency on the Keystone Exams before they graduate from high school.