Class of 2013 hits the Wall with the PSSA

By Dayonte Dixon –

Administrators at Penn Manor High School said this is the year there will be graduation and other consequences for students not scoring proficient on the PSSA.

But the consequences are not completely clear cut and some students said they were aware of new consequences while others were clueless.

“I’m going to have to take online courses or something in the school to prove that I know the material,” predicted junior Natosha Polaski if she is not proficient this year.

“I don’t graduate,” said Lindsay Hutchinson.

“Wait, is that what happens?” said junior Becky Miller, responding to Hutchinson’s comment.  “I didn’t know that’s what happens.”

Administrators promised that this would be the year that class members would suffer consequences if they didn’t take the test seriously.

They are talking the talk, but are they walking the walk?

Administration members said earlier in the year they would mail home letters to parents of students letting them know the consequences of not passing this year’s PSSA test, but it seems many of the consequences, including the letters, have fallen through the cracks.

Principal Phil Gale

“There were no letters sent home,” said principal Phil Gale. “Just requirements they have to fulfill.”

Gale outlined the most recently added consequences that will befall students not scoring proficient on the PSSA, including a three-step program that makes it almost impossible not to graduate.

“If they don’t develop proficiency in math and reading, as defined by state standards, then we will develop a program for them to demonstrate their proficiency,” Gale stated.

The three-step program starts with the PSSA testing. If the student does not score proficient, he or she will have to retake the test at a later date. If the student again fails to score proficient, then the school will design an individual program for that student, that is designed specifically for that student to pass, according to latest administration reports.

“If they don’t develop that proficiency, then there is a possibility they don’t graduate,” Gale said about those who fail the three-step program.

“We need to show a 10 percent increase in each section (reading and math),” Gale said referring to the percentage of students in eleventh grade who need to score proficient on the PSSA this year.

Penn Manor High School PSSA results from previous years.

Grade 11

 69% (2011)
 72% (2010)
 67% (2009)
 72% (2008)
 75% (2007)
The state average for Reading was 69% in 2011.

 47% (2011)
 46% (2010)
 50% (2009)
The state average for Science was 41% in 2011.

 90% (2011)
 89% (2010)
 91% (2009)
 95% (2008)
 95% (2007)
The state average for Writing was 85% in 2011.

 59% (2011)
 60% (2010)
 59% (2009)
 68% (2008)
 67% (2007)
The state average for Math was 60% in 2011.


The school has experimented with many different ways of improving Penn Manor’s overall PSSA scores.

One of the more recent changes Penn Manor has made is that juniors now have remediation periods almost every day in either math or reading.

“We practice problems that will show up on the PSSA,” said junior Erica Williams, referring to what happens during remediation sessions.

Basically there is an extra 45 minutes for one of the classes, depending on what day it is.  And that time is dedicated to remediating students who may not be proficient on the test.

“It was amazing how many seniors made growth,” principal Krista Cox said about the results of benchmark exams after remediation.

Some students are worried about the consequences of the test while others are not.

“I am a little worried about taking the PSSA, but I feel like I am ready,” Williams said.

Some think that there should be more of a negative repercussion for not passing the PSSA testing, that it would make students take it more seriously.

“I think it should effect a student’s course selection,” said senior Jared Banzhof, who has witnessed the recent changes the school has made to improve PSSA scores. “Or it would give the kids more incentive, if they lost their electives.”

“If you take away stuff, then kids become less interested,” said junior Mark Hutchins, referring to privileges and punishments. “But other than remediation, I haven’t really been paying attention to any of the other consequences.”

According to Gale there are no punishments, only requirements to be fulfilled.

But there are possible incentives as well.  Seniors who improved or were proficient or advanced on their PSSAs last year got free parking passes this spring.

As of now, it seems Penn Manor is sticking to their three-step program. Which could prove to be successful in due time.  But only time will tell.