Pa. Dept. of Education lists lowest rated public schools

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The state Department of Education's list of the lowest-achieving 15 percent of schools holds 406 school buildings across the state, 43 from Allegheny County.

Local schools on the list, which was released Friday, include elementary, middle and high schools in both Sto-Rox and Clairton school districts, the education center for the K-6 Duquesne School District, and 21 buildings in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The list, the second released by the state, is based on combined math and reading scores on the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams. The first list, released in July, was based on 2011 PSSA results.

Students in the enrollment areas of the lowest-performing schools qualify for funding from the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program created last summer to provide low- and moderate-income students the chance to attend either higher-achieving public schools or private schools.

The 406 school buildings on the 2012 list are in 71 districts across the state. The number of schools and districts is lower than the original list released in July, which held 414 public schools in 74 districts.

Other local districts with schools on the 2012 list of lowest-performers include McKeesport Area, Penn Hills, Steel Valley, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills.

Based on a comparison of the 2011 and 2012 lowest-achieving lists released from the state, it appears a handful of schools in Allegheny County made their way off of the original list. They are: East Allegheny High School; Turner Elementary in Wilkinsburg; Edgewood Elementary and Woodland Hills Senior High School in Woodland Hills; and South Brook 6-8 and Sunnyside K-8 in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In addition, eight other schools that were on the original list have been closed and were therefore not on the 2012 list. They include Johnston Elementary in Wilkinsburg and seven Pittsburgh schools.

The comparison also shows schools added to the list. They are: Founders Hall in McKeesport; and Westinghouse 6-12, Concord K-5 and Morrow PreK-5 in Pittsburgh.

The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program was designed to offer families with an income of no greater than $75,000 plus $12,000 for each dependent member of the household, scholarships of up to $8,500 for a regular education student and up to $15,000 for a special education student.

However, it's uncertain at this point how much scholarship money will be available locally. Ronald Bowes, assistant superintendent for policy and development at the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which has been successful raising scholarship funds through an earlier state tax credit program, said last month the diocese had raised just $120,000 so far for opportunity scholarships, though he anticipated the amount would increase.

Statewide up to $50 million in tax credits is allowed annually for the opportunity scholarship program.

The department of education is required by law to notify school districts by Feb. 1 of each year if they have schools that identified as low-achieving. Within 15 days, school districts must notify parents and provide them with information on how to apply for opportunity scholarships.

To view the list of low-achieving schools, visit the Department of Education's website at www.education.state.pa.us and click on the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program icon.

education - region

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1590.


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