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Report: District falls short in some areas

Overall accountability good, official says

August 21, 2011
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - The Greater Johnstown School District falls short of state standards in certain areas of English and math, as well as graduation rates, but has overall good "accountability," according to the state's 2009-10 "report card" on the district.

District Director of Curriculum, Testing and Personnel Patricia Kilburn gave a 45-minute presentation on state findings to the Board of Education Tuesday night at Johnstown High School.

Kilburn said the state report card measures testing in curriculum areas such as English Language Arts, math and science. The state also compares graduation rates, contrasting the district's rate against a state average.

Article Photos

Patricia Kilburn, director of curriculum, testing and personnel for the Greater Johnstown School District, talks Tuesday at Johnstown High School.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich

"Our overall accountability is in good standing in all areas," Kilburn said.

She said the four levels of accountability range from level one - serious deficiencies, to level four - exceeding standards. She said the state takes a school district and compares it with a average comparable district in the state.

"The Greater Johnstown School District had more children reaching the standards or exceeding the standards," she said.

She said less science students in 2010 scored in level ones and twos, with more students in level three, but not as many in level four.

In the area of ELA Regents for high school, Kilburn said the district fell short and "we've got some work to do."

Kilburn said for secondary English, the district also sees not as many level one and two scores, but more threes and less fours.

Kilburn said the state also compared the district to other Fulton County school districts. She said the Johnstown district scored below the average of all schools in the third-grade ELA area. Still, she said the Johnstown district exceeded the average for fifth-grade ELA and showed improvement for fourth-, fifth- and eighth-grades.

The state is developing even newer and harder standards in many of the testing areas, she said. The Regents program is "scheduled for more changes in the future," she said.

"We have to work, we have to meet these new benchmarks," Kilburn said.

She said the state is trying to get as many students with disabilities as it can to pass Regents exams.

The curriculum director said the Johnstown district has "work to do" in eighth-grade math, and some individualized areas of instruction in certain grades need to be addressed. She said the district also needs to measure its progress and exam performance. From 2006 to the present, she said, ELA scores have improved. She also said the Math Department has been working hard to get grades up.

"Over time, we're seeing an increase," Kilburn said.

Concerning graduation rates, she said, Johnstown's average rate of 76 percent for 2009 and 2010 used to be much higher than the state benchmark of 50 percent. But Kilburn said the benchmark was changed to 80 percent in 2010, and the district now has a 77 percent goal. She said Johnstown High School has about 33 students a year drop out of school, out of an average class of more than 400 students that move together from grades kindergarten to 12.

In order to meet the state's 80 percent graduation benchmark, Kilburn said the district has to find a way to prevent five students per school year from dropping out.

"We have a lot of work to do here, along with other school districts throughout the state," Kilburn said. "We have to work on dropout prevention."

Kilburn said the district has initiatives in place to improve standards. She said teachers are "working hard" on improving how to teach literacy. Also, math instruction is being tailored for students at risk. She said teachers can periodically give presentations to the board.

"The whole playing field of education is totally changing," she said.

Superintendent Robert DeLilli said Kilburn has a good idea of what needs to be addressed in the district's curriculum. But he said the report cards can be "very complex" and the data can change with different school years and classes.

"I wouldn't get too hung up on it," DeLilli said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at



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