Report: Philly schools miss the mark on performance and progress

Fifteen percent of district schools have met most or all performance targets or improved on at least half of them

By: - May 8, 2023 8:54 am

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By Chanel Hill

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 34% of third- to eighth-grade students in the School District of Philadelphia met reading standards in 2021-2022, a 2% decrease from the 2018-2019 school year, according to a new report.

Seventeen percent of district students met math standards, a 5% decrease from the 2018-2019 school year and 37% of fourth- to eighth-grade students met standards in science, a three percent drop from the 2018-2019 school year.

“The data shows in many of the areas that we are missing the target,” said Tonya Wolford, chief of evaluation, research and accountability for the School District of Philadelphia.

“We’re closer to our goals in reading/English language arts and college and career, but we’re further away from our goals in math,” she said. “However, the goals were set before the pandemic and they haven’t been adjusted since the pandemic.

The School District of Philadelphia released its 2021-2022 School Progress Report on Education and Equity (SPREE) on Friday. The district’s annual accountability document summarizes school performance and progress.

The district has a goal to improve the percentage of third-to-eighth grade students who meet state benchmarks in English from 36% to 65% and in math from 22% to 52% by 2026.

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“We missed two years of data and kept increasing our goals. I do believe there needs to be some adjustments to our trajectory moving forward,” Wolford added.

Fifteen percent of district schools have met most or all performance targets or improved on at least half of them (Level 1) and 12% of charter schools have met Level 1 targets, according to the report.

Twelve percent of district schools have met some performance targets or improved on at least half of them (Level 3) and 24% of charter schools have met Level 3 targets.

Nearly 73% of district schools have not met performance targets or improved on at least half of them (Level 5) and 64% of charter schools have not met its performance target or improved on half of them.

“The report does outline an interesting comparison of district and charter schools because the district is under a more direct board governance,” Wolford said.

“The report also gives us a baseline to compare our progress on the goals and guardrails to a separate group of schools, which is something that we need to keep our eye on,” she said.

Thirty-two percent of district 11th-grade students met proficiency in all the keystones (algebra, literature and biology). The district has a goal to improve the percentage of 11th-grade students who meet their high school assessments from 26% in 2019 to 52% in 2026.

In terms of student attendance, 59% of district students attend 90% of instructional days, compared to 73% of students in 2018-2019.

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“For students reaching proficiency in algebra, literature and biology, the target was 31.7% and our average was 23% in the district and in charters, it was 26.8%,” Wolford said.

“We had 29% of district schools meeting it and 30% of charter schools meeting it,” she said. “Lastly is our attendance goal. The target is just 82% of students attending 90% or more.

“We had the average for our schools was 57% and 2021-2022 and for charters, it was 63.6%. We only had across both sectors 11% of schools meeting that actual 82% target. And 2021-2022 was a challenging first year back for testing, but particularly for attendance,” Wolford added.

Formerly known as the district school progress report, SPREE is a yearly report that highlights the district’s progress and shows each school’s growth in proficiency on state assessments, graduation rates, school climate, culture and opportunity.

The report is aligned with the Board of Education’s goals and guardrails, a five-year plan to raise student achievement in Philadelphia public schools.

SPREE is released every year and provides a summary of how each school is performing and improving on the goals and guardrails in the areas of reading, math and science, college and career readiness and climate, culture and opportunity.

Results from the report reflect the first year the district has had comprehensive state assessment data, including Keystones and PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the report this year did not include any year-over-year comparisons, the district plans to include year-over-year comparisons and the full range of score levels on the SPREE starting with the reports for the 2022-2023 school year.

Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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