The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (PennCAN) has released report cards for every public school in the state as well as lists of the state’s top elementary, middle and high schools.
The education reform organization graded schools in five categories: student performance, subgroup performance (minority and economic status), achievement gaps (how student performance compared to subgroup performance), performance gains and high school graduation rates.
Grades, which range from "A" to "F," were calculated using data from the 2011-2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) achievement tests. This is the first year PennCAN has done this report.
“Our report card exposed the profound achievement gaps that persist throughout our commonwealth,” said PennCAN Executive Director Jonathan Cetel. “But at the same time it highlights the schools that are successfully serving all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or economic status.”
Overall, Cetel said the first report showed mixed results.
“There are 10 percent of schools that received an 'F,'” Cetel said. “We can’t sugarcoat that. There are schools with profound achievement gaps. But equally as important (is) the fact that in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, there are schools proving every day that demography does not equal destiny, that low-income students can learn when taught at a great level.”
Strong performing city of Pittsburgh public schools include Montessori Elementary, Greenfield Elementary and the Fulton Academy of Science, which Cetel noted for having the strongest elementary school performance among African Americans across the state.
One area overall that PennCAN feels fell short is high school graduation rates. On average, the state received a “C” for graduation rates, with about 90 percent of Pennsylvania students receiving their high school diploma.
For Pittsburgh-area high schools, the rate is significantly lower, with 68.5 percent of students graduating. The worst performing school in Pittsburgh in this category is Westinghouse High School in Homewood, where only 58.5 percent of students have graduated.
Cetel said the state has room to improve.
“By definition of an average, there are schools and school districts that are well below (the C rating)," he said. "We’re talking in the sub-50 percent range, where less than half of students are graduating. And that’s where the outrage should be, and the hope that as parents see these numbers, that outrage leads to action and to demand better public schools.”