CASD testing numbers look pretty well compared to the rest of the state, but it’s not perfect

February 14 – While the results of the PSSAs in the Chambersburg Area School District might be pretty good when compared to the rest of the state, it still needs some work.

These are the scores in reading, writing and math. 

They have bounced back a little since COVID, but it’s still not there. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM, who attended a Committee of the Whole meeting for CASD last night said, “There’s a lot of issues involved with why that’s the case. It really wasn’t necessarily here’s the answer. Here’s what’s going on. Here’s our test scores. How do we talk about it? A couple of things that were brought up was the fact that there’s an attitude in students, especially as they get into high school, that I don’t need to learn. I don’t need to do well in these classes. There may be various reasons for that. But then they also talked about there’s a bunch of different pathways to a diploma. A question I, myself, brought up and said, well, is it maybe a problem we have too many pathways or a couple of pathways that are maybe so low in standards that the kids know about it? So I’ll get my diploma one way or the other. I don’t have to worry about it. This is sort of a philosophical question, too. Have we lowered standards so much that even when kids get their diploma, can they really do it? Can they really read, do math, do science and what are we hearing from universities about remediation classes? What are we hearing about kids not matriculating after graduation? We talked about how attendance has dropped off and that’s nationwide, but Chambersburg is not immune from it either. Something about COVID just made school optional for some families and we talked about the early years and how families play an important role in that, how there’s some issues maybe out of the hands of the school, but certainly as a community we should be looking at. So it was a lot of good discussion.” 

In addition, the athletic director pointed out that when athletes get a scholarship, they fail when they go to college because they don’t really have the academic ability. 

CASD School Board Member Stephanie Harbaugh said, “When he made that statement about how we are not preparing student athletes because they do the athletic part well but then they are not going to meet the requirements to be able to maintain a scholarship or to be able to maintain their eligibility, I think that that’s very indicative to me of the changing in society over the years since I was in school. I played volleyball in school, but we had to maintain a certain grade point average and it had to be there and we strive to do that. I feel like there has really a long period of time, in my opinion, maybe even decades, just a lowering of standards, because instead of trying to build up students or anyone at this point to actually achieve and have that intrinsic motivation and have that self worth, we’ve kind of said okay, well you’re not doing it, but we need it to look good. So let’s lower it, so you can get where you need to be. I think that that’s one of the things that came out of that. The other thing, we know what the data is now, and we can’t do anything about what’s happened in the past, but we need to utilize that information and say, okay, here’s where we are. Now we need to formulate a plan to where we want to be and how we need to get there. My personal opinion is there’s not a better person for Chambersburg to do that than Chris Bigger (superintendent) because he has opened the doors. He had taken a hard look at the things that maybe haven’t been looked at or swept under the rug and he’s opening it up and saying here’s the problem. Here’s the information. The numbers don’t lie. Now, how do we move forward to get above the 55% proficiency? How do we do that? It’s not just the school district. There’s a community aspect. There’s a family aspect. We have to understand and I hope that people give him the grace and the school board the grace and the district a grace. This has been going on for a lot longer than any of us have been there and we’re not going to be able to turn the switch on and then automatically be high marks everywhere. But I truly believe that if people buy into what it is that Chris is trying to do and the plan that he’s going to try to implement and the suggestions that he has, that we’re going to see a shift and a turn towards getting those numbers where we want them to be.”

In addition to the forum with the superintendent, there were presentations at the Committee of the Whole meeting. 

Harbaugh said, “We had the academic scheduling and the graduation requirements. They were kind of going over that with us just letting us know what that is. We had enrollment history projections. Crabtree and Rohrbaugh came in and they are doing this feasibility study for how we’re going to move forward with the buildings and with education and different things like that. So last night, they were talking to us about enrollment, what we’ve seen in the past, what we’re looking at, and it seems like for Chambersburg Area School District that we’re staying relatively steady with a small decline. It’s nothing super high, it’s nothing super low. It looks like if anything, I believe decline in enrollment is happening across the board just because I think people aren’t having as many children and then different things that are going on. One interesting comment that he made was that a lot of people are moving into Pennsylvania, south central Pennsylvania between Chambersburg and Carlisle. So as that happens, some of those projections might change depending on what comes in economically. So we just need to be prepared for that.”

The next topic will concern utilizing the current buildings properly to benefit the education. 

Harbaugh said, “What Chris is doing in implementing is really getting as much information as possible to make an informed decision for the whole district and the betterment of all the district and what we feel is going to benefit all of the students. So instead of let’s put out this fire, let’s put out this fire, let’s put out this fire, he is in the helicopter above it looking at the whole fire and saying how can we do this in a way that’s going to benefit us, so we don’t just keep spending money or doing this or doing that in little pieces and band-aiding it. But let’s look at the big picture and be honest about it, what we can and what we can’t do and then we’re going to have honest and open discussions and I think that’s something that has been missing previously in this district.”

There have also been weekly updates on the Chambersburg School District Facebook page. 

Harbaugh said, “He just gets on there and says a little positive thing that’s going on and he’s been very visible and people really seem to like that. I think that it’s going to take time to rebuild relationships between the community and the district, between some of the staff and administration and the school board because there was a lot happening there before Chris came on. There was a lot happening there before some of the new board members came on. But we are all earnestly moving forward in good faith that we are focused on giving the children in the Chambersburg Area School District the best education possible and while that may look different in what that entails to some people because of priorities, it might be a little different and we’re not always going to agree. But we’re going to be respectful and we’re going to truly be evaluating things not on a piece by piece basis, but collectively so we can move forward and have sustainable differences.”

Jansen added, “There were some reports that they said used to only be available to the board and administration. Now they’re publicly available, like the attendance reports and that would be I think important. Inform yourself as a parent or taxpayer, get these things. People have to come to these town halls. So you said you wanted more communication, so the next meeting is going to be on March 12. I’d like to see at least double the number of people there and more different faces. That’d be great.