In 2006 the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tested math and reading skills in grades 3-8 and 11 and writing skills in grades 5, 8 and 11. Participation by public schools and charter schools was mandatory if the school offers the grade levels subjected to testing. Some nonpublic schools also administered the test, and the state reported those scores.
The math and reading tests whose results are published here were administered in the spring of 2006; and results were released in September.
More test results can be viewed at the Pennsylvania Department of Education Web site. On the left side of the screen, click on Assessment, then on PSSA Results. That site includes results for writing tests as well as reading and math tests.
In addition, to satisfy federal requirements, the state also compiles annual performance reports on the districts and schools. That information can be accessed at www.paayp.com.
Pennsylvania reports PSSA results for all students and allows few students to be exempted from taking the test. The state also sorts test results to show performance for the following subgroups: race, ethnicity, sex, economically disadvantaged, special education, migrant students, and students with limited English proficiency.
For purposes of calculating whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under federal guidelines, the state has set its baseline for proficient and above at 45 percent for mathematics and 54 percent for reading.
The percentage of students taking the test in that grade who were economically disadvantaged.
All school/similar school rankings
The Inquirer has identified how the schools performed in two ways: compared with all other test-taking schools in the state, and compared with all schools with similar poverty levels.
In the analysis of scores for similar schools, all the test-taking schools in Pennsylvania were divided into five equal groups based on the percentage of low-income students in 2005-06. Using combined PSSA percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced proficient, The Inquirer then calculated how well a school performed compared with schools with similar levels of poverty.
The state sets student performance levels, designated as advanced, proficient, basic and below basic. The state described the levels as "criteria-based measures that represent how well a student is achieving" in the academic area being tested.
The calculation showing whether a greater or lesser percentage of students tested as proficient or advanced in 2006 compared with 2005 was achieved using arithmetic.
Performance levels were not released if fewer than 10 students were tested in the grade.
1st quintile (top 20% of schools)
2d quintile (top middle 20%)
3d quintile (middle 20%)
4th quintile (bottom middle 20%)
5th quintile (bottom 20%)
NA: Not available
All numbers were rounded.