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Philadelphia’s Students Make Academic Gains

Posted on September 27, 2017
Categories: District News, Good News, Press Releases

Philadelphia – Results from the 2016-2017 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone exams, released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, show steady—and in some areas significant—gains in student academic performance across the School District of Philadelphia. These student achievements are another indication of the District’s progress and positive momentum in the new school year.

“The hard work and dedication of our teachers and principals is paying off. From elementary through high school, more of our students are showing academic growth. Our focus on early literacy is working, with more students reading on grade level. The results are clear, we are making progress as a School District, and our strategies and initiatives are building a strong foundation for academic success,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.

The PSSA/Keystone data present positive news about Philadelphia’s public school students, with perhaps none more significant than the PSSA results in reading skills. Students at every grade level from 3rd through 7th showed improvements in reading (ELA). Results show that more District students are reading at proficient/advanced rates, more students are reading at the highest level, and fewer students are reading at the lowest level. Among third-graders, the number of students scoring at ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ levels increased by five full percentage points.

Students at every grade level from 3rd through 7th showed improvements in reading (ELA), with 3rd grade showing the largest gains.

3rd grade proficient/advanced rates increased 5 %-pts, from 30% to 35%
4th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 3 %-pts, from 28% to 31%
5th grade proficient/advanced remained steady at 31%; however, the percentage of students scoring advanced increased 2 %-pts, from 4% to 6% and the percentage of students below basic decreased 6 %-pts
6th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 35% to 36%
7th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 34% to 35%
Across 3rd-8th grade, proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 32% to 33%

“We’re seeing strong gains in literacy because we’re putting the right books in the hands of our students and they’re getting the individualized attention and expert instruction needed to succeed,” said Dr. Hite. “As an educator, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a student experience that moment of learning: from figuring out how to hold a book to connecting a story to their own life. These kinds of moments are happening with thousands of our students every day in classrooms across the District.”

Hite noted that District efforts around early literacy are not limited to one specific initiative, but a comprehensive approach around a series of connected, integrated initiatives outlined in the District’s Action Plan 3.0, including:

  • Improved teacher training and instructional support focused on early literacy. By the end of this school year, all K-3rd grade teachers will have received literacy training and coaching.
  • Reliable assessments and individualized instruction. All K-3rd grade teachers will have received training on using research-based reading assessments and benchmark data.
  • More educators in the classroom helping children learn how to read. All K-3rd grade teachers have the support of an onsite early literacy coach.
  • The right books in the hands of young readers. Every K-3rd grade classroom is equipped with multi-leveled libraries to ensure students have the right books to become strong readers and succeed.
  • Emphasis on literacy through our 120-minute literacy block.
  • Remodeled K-2nd grade classrooms in eight schools with the lowest literacy rates to support the learning and reading-skill development of our youngest learners.
  • Working on improving student attendance.
  • Improved school climates and welcoming environments so children can focus on learning.
  • Ongoing collaboration with strategic partners, including Read by 4th, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, with financial support from the philanthropic community, such as the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.

The District also saw gains in the state’s Keystone assessment. “More Philadelphia high school students are on the path to successfully completing high school with the skills needed to enter college or the workforce. We continue to see improved academic growth toward the District’s Anchor Goal 1:100% of students graduating ready for a college or a career,” said Hite.

Students in all grades who took the Keystone Algebra I, Biology, and Literature tests this year did much better than students who took the tests the year before.

Algebra I proficient/advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 19% to 21%
Biology proficient/advanced rates increased 6 %-pts, from 23% to 29%
Literature proficient/advanced rates increased 5 %-pts, from 38% to 43%

More students are performing at the very highest level (Advanced) in Biology and Literature

Biology advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 7% to 9%
Literature advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 2% to 4%

Fewer students are performing at the very lowest level (Below Basic) in Algebra and Biology

Algebra below basic rates decreased 2 %-pts, from 38% to 36%
Biology below basic rates decreased 8 %-pts, from 48% to 40%

PSSA

Our focus on literacy is paying off.  More students are learning to read, more students are reading to learn, and more students have a stronger foundation for future success. The District is continuing to make progress towards Anchor Goal 2 of 100% of 8 year olds reading on grade level.

Students at every grade level from 3rd to 7th showed improvements in reading (ELA), with 3rd grade showing the largest gains.

3rd grade proficient/advanced rates increased 5 %-pts, from 30% to 35%
4th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 3 %-pts, from 28% to 31%
5th grade proficient/advanced remained steady at 31%:  But the percentage of students scoring advanced increased 2 %-pts, from 4% to 6% and the percentage of students below basic decreased 6 %-pts
6th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 35% to 36%
7th grade proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 34% to 35%
Across 3rd-8th grade, proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 32% to 33%

Fewer students are reading at the lowest level (Below Basic). Over 1,500 fewer 3rd-7th graders scored below basic
Across 3rd-8th grade, below basic rates decreased 2 %-pts, from 28% to 26%
3rd grade below basic rates decreased 3 %-pts, from 35% to 32%
4th grade below basic rates decreased 1 %-pt, from 31% to 30%
5th grade below basic rates decreased 6 %-pts, from 35% to 29%
6th grade below basic rates decreased 5 %-pts, from 24% to 19%
7th grade below basic rates decreased 3 %-pts, from 16% to 13%

More students are reading at the very highest level (Advanced). 900 more 3rd-7th graders scored Advanced
3rd grade advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 4% to 6%
4th grade advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 7% to 9%
5th grade advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 4% to 6%
6th grade advanced rates remained steady at 9%
7th grade advanced rates increased 3 %-pts, from 7% to 10%

Students who become strong readers in early years develop a strong foundation to be more successful in school, in college, and in their careers. More of our students are now more confident about figuring out new words on their own, understanding longer sentences, and connecting with what they are reading.

Individualized reading attention is working. Some of our students performing below proficiency (grade level) have made more than a year’s worth of gains in reading.

Other notable improvements:

Reading (ELA)

Gains were across many different student groups. Among 3rd graders, there were notable increases in the percent of students scoring at proficient/advanced levels within the following: African-American and Hispanic (+4 %-pts each); males (+6 %-pts); African-American males (+5 %-pts); Hispanic males (+6 %-pts); and students with IEPs (+5 %-pts).

Math

Moderate increases in the percent of students scoring proficient/advanced on the PSSA math assessment:

Across 3rd-8th grades, proficient/advanced rates increased 1 %-pt, from 18% to 19%.
7th grade students had the greatest increase: proficient/advanced rates increased 2 %-pts.
More students are performing at the very highest level (Advanced). Almost 450 more students scored Advanced.
Advanced rates increased 1 %-pt each in grades 3, 5, 7, and 8.
Fewer 4th and 5th grade students performing at the lowest level (Below Basic). Almost 500 fewer 4th and 5th graders scored Below Basic
4th grade below basic rates decreased 2 %-pts, from 59% to 57%
5th grade below basic rates decreased 4 %-pts, from 58% to 54%
Proficient/advanced rates increased by 4 %-pts for students with IEPs

Science

Fewer 4th grade students performing at the lowest level (Below Basic). Over 1,700 fewer 4th grade students scored Below Basic
4th grade below basic rates decreased 16 %-pts, from 36% to 20%

Keystone

More Philadelphia high school students are on the path to successfully completing high school with the skills needed to enter college or the workforce.  We continue to see improved academic growth toward the District’s Anchor Goal 1:100% of students graduating ready for a college or a career.

Students in all grades who took the Keystone Algebra I, Biology, and Literature tests this year did much better than students who took the tests the year before.
Algebra I proficient/advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 19% to 21%
Biology proficient/advanced rates increased 6 %-pts, from 23% to 29%
Literature proficient/advanced rates increased 5 %-pts, from 38% to 43%

More students are performing at the very highest level (Advanced) in Biology and Literature
Biology advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 7% to 9%
Literature advanced rates increased 2 %-pts, from 2% to 4%

Fewer students are performing at the very lowest level (Below Basic) in Algebra and Biology
Algebra below basic rates decreased 2 %-pts, from 38% to 36%
Biology below basic rates decreased 8 %-pts, from 48% to 40%

Moving Forward: We will continue implementing focus efforts around the anchor goals of the District’s Action Plan.

Anchor Goal 1: 100% of Students will graduate ready for college or a career

9th grade academies focused on career and college readiness to ensure students are attending school and engaged so they are ready to move onto the 10th grade
PSAT-SAT for every high school student
Opening two new high schools: Vaux Big Picture High School and Parkway Center City Middle College
Increased AP opportunities for students
Professional development for principals focused on instructional leadership and data driven planning to drive school wide academic improvements
Working to improve student attendance

Anchor Goal 2: 100% of 8 year olds will read on grade level

We’re seeing strong gains because children are getting the individualized attention and instruction they need to succeed. This effort is not limited to one specific initiative, but is a comprehensive approach around a series of connected, integrated initiatives outlined in the District’s Action Plan 3.0, including:

  • Improved teacher training and instructional support focused on early literacy. By the end of this school year, all K-3rd grade teachers will have received literacy training and coaching.
  • Reliable assessments and individualized instruction. All K-3rd grade teachers will have received training on using research-based reading assessments and benchmark data.
  • More educators in the classroom helping children learn how to read. All K-3rd grade teachers have the support of an onsite early literacy coach.
  • The right books in the hands of young readers. Every K-3rd grade classroom is equipped with multi-leveled libraries to ensure students have the right books to become strong readers and succeed.
  • Emphasis on literacy through our 120-minute literacy block.
  • Remodeled K-2nd grade classrooms in eight schools with the lowest literacy rates to support the learning and reading-skill development of our youngest learners.
  • Working on improving student attendance.
  • Improved school climates and welcoming environments so children can focus on learning.
  • Ongoing collaboration with strategic partners, including Read by 4th, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, with financial support from the philanthropic community, such as the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.

Last modified: September 27, 2017