Pittsburgh Public Schools released the results of state tests showing scores down in math and reading in all grades from 3-8 but stronger than the expected results on the new end-of-course Keystone Exams taken in Algebra 1, literature and biology.
Pittsburgh announced its districtwide test results for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and the Keystones as the state released the new School Performance Profiles Friday.
"The PSSAs are down and down a lot. The Keystones are shockingly high," Superintendent Linda Lane said.
She said some educators in the schools were in tears over the results that came at the end of a year of budget cuts, including school closings, reassignments of students and teachers, reductions in the number of teachers, and increased class sizes.
Ms. Lane said the test scores matter, but they are not the only thing. She said district research of its graduates shows that the most important predictors of post-secondary education success are grade point average and attendance, not state test scores.
District officials raised several possibilities for the decline in PSSA scores, including the impact of budget cuts.
Also noted was the state's elimination of the PSSA-M exam, a modified test for special education students who now take the regular PSSA.
Other reasons included the transition to the new Common Core academic standards in grade 5 while the PSSA is still based on the old standards as well as test fatigue from sample Common Core questions that didn't count but were sprinkled throughout the PSSA.
Overall on the PSSA in grades 3-8, the percent scoring proficient or advanced in 2012-13 was:
• Reading, 51.1 percent, down from 57.4 percent the prior year.
• Math, 57.7 percent, down from 62.2 percent the prior year.
The decline also was noticeable among African-American students:
• Reading, 39.6 percent, down from 46.6 percent.
• Math, 46.2 percent, down from 51.5 percent.
On the Keystone Exams, 11th-graders did better in Algebra 1 and literature than they did on the 11th-grade PSSAs, which were not given in the 2012-13 school year.
In Algebra 1, 51.1 percent of juniors were proficient or advanced, compared to 43.5 percent on the math PSSA in 2011-12.
In literature, 63.5 percent of juniors were proficient or advanced, compared to 56.7 percent on the reading PSSA in 2011-12.
In a phone news conference, acting state Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq said the Keystone Exams are "much more difficult" and "much more rigorous" than the 11th-grade PSSA was. She said Keystone scores in general statewide will be lower.
The district also saw high school graduation rates increase at most high schools, with the largest increase at Pittsburgh Carrick, from 61.9 percent in 2011 to 69.2 percent in 2012, an increase of 7.3 percent.
As is true for about 600 schools statewide, the School Performance Profiles for more than half of the district's schools -- all K-8, 6-8, 6-12 and 9-12 schools -- are missing the new academic score, which is a single number on a range of 0 to 100, plus up to 7 points extra credit.
Of those that have academic scores, the highest is 82.6 at Pittsburgh Liberty K-5. State officials expect to release the remaining scores in December.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.