No IB for NA: Program's cost and high student achievement end pursuit

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North Allegheny is no longer investigating the International Baccalaureate program.

Student achievement and test scores in the North Allegheny School District continue to soar higher each year, according to the annual Report of Student Achievement. presented to the school board Jan. 22.

Investigating an IB program was a priority in superintendent Raymond Gualtieri’s “Advancing NASD Forward” presentation in May. But board president Chris Jacobs said Jan. 22 that the costs associated with the program, coupled with budgetary restraints, has put the brakes on the investigation. The district’s estimated 2014-15 budget has a $7 million shortfall.

In making the announcement, Mr. Jacobs noted the district’s “exceptional student achievement” even without an IB program, according to the annual Report of Student Achievement.

“The results are outstanding. We've broken some records once again,” said Arleen Wheat, former assistant superintendent of special education and pupil services, who retired in August but returned to present the report.

Among the highlights:

• The percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient outpaced students — in some cases by nearly 20 percent — in the Pennsylvania State System of Assessment tests in reading, math, science and writing.

• Students in grades 2, 4 and 7 scored higher than expected on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

• Scores outperformed students nationally in the PLAN test for 10th-graders. The PLAN test, which is comprised of multiple-choice tests in English, math, reading and science, is considered a “pre-ACT” test and predicts success on the ACT and SAT exams.

• The “total mean score” on the PSAT for college-bound juniors has risen each year. The mean score in 2012-13 was 166.1 — nearly five points higher than 2008-09 and nearly 13 points higher than the national mean score.

• Last year, 678 high school students took at least one advanced placement class. One student took seven classes. The “mean grade” was 4.28 out of a possible 5 points. A grade of 3 or better is necessary to pass.

• Ninety percent of seniors in 2013 took the SAT and scored an average of 1,716, which was 11 points higher than 2012 and 31 points higher than 2008.

“The SAT scores are absolutely remarkable,” Ms. Wheat said. “I’ve been doing this report for seven or eight years and I never thought I would see these scores.”

When it was noted that North Allegheny is second to Upper St. Clair in top SAT scores, board member Ralph Pagone asked if Upper St. Clair has smaller class sizes. Maureen Grosheider said USC offers an IB program.

Mrs. Grosheider said NA's soaring achievement is the result of a decision made by the school board 13 years ago to focus on student achievement with the goal of being named one of the top 100 school districts in the nation.

“For 13 years, that’s exactly what the focus has been by the administration and the board," she said. "This is to me a culmination of 13 years of effort.”

Libby Blackburn said this is the eighth student achievement report she has heard, both as a board member and, previously, from the audience.

“Every year, I sit there and think, 'Well, we can't get any higher,’" she said. "I’m amazed.This is my favorite report of the year because it shows we are getting the kids ready for life.”

In other action, the board hired a former district administrator as director of human resources.

Laura “Jo” Welter, assistant superintendent of the Hampton School District, will become director of human resources at a prorated salary of $125,000. Ms. Welter was principal of North Allegheny Intermediate High School from 1999 to 2007. She replaces Joy Gaetano, who retired in October.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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