Students in the Easton Area School District did better than the statewide average on the PSSA tests in the 2011-2012 school year.
But at Easton Area High School, scores continued to be lower than at the other schools in the district, a notion that concerned school board members during a discussion of PSSA results Tuesday night.
"It remains extremely troubling to me. If you look at the trend, it’s a flat line over many, many years," said board member Robert Moskaitis. "What is happening to change that?"
He argued that one of the reasons residents of Riegelsville lobbied to move out of the Easton Area School District was due to PSSA scores.
Moskatis noted that the nearby Wilson Area School District seemed to perform much better on its PSSAs.
"How are they succeeding where we are failing?" he asked.
Last school year, 54 percent of Easton's high school students reached the state's math benchmark, compared with 85 percent in seventh- and eighth-graders, according to results released last month. In reading, 63 percent of high school students met their goal, compared with 79 percent of seventh- and eighth-graders.
(We've included a PDF with a complete rundown of all the district's scores.)
Stephen Furst, the district's director of teaching and learning, said he thinks the high school's switch this year to flexible scheduling will help improve the scores.
Students and teachers are spending more time on material under the new schedule, which went into effect this year.
"This is going to be one of the things to propel us into more success," he said.
Furst also said there's a number of students at the high school who need to work, often pulling an eight-hour shift after school ends. PSSA scores show the high school's poorer students scoring nearly 20 percentage points lower than the student body as a whole in math and reading.
Board member Pat Vulcano said it's harder to keep students interested in school as they get older.
“They’re raring to go," said Vulcano, a former teacher. "Then they hit high school, and it’s like ‘Do I have to go today?'”
His colleague Janet Matthews said it's not just about helping high school kids. She argued the district needs to be concentrating on reading early on.
“Kids who are not reading at grade level by third grade, by fifth grade, they’ve emotionally dropped out," Matthews said. “What’s wrong at the high school starts way, way before the high school.”
And at the root of all of this, said board member William Rider, is money. Every year, students are expected to do better on the PSSAs, to the point that the state expects 100 percent of students reaching the advanced or proficient categories by 2014. Yet the state hasn't increased funding for education, he said.
“We’ve raised the stakes each year," Rider said, "but we haven’t raised dollars and sense each year."