Bellefont did as well as SCADS on PSSA 2008 Math

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May 16, 2009, 12:37:40 AM5/16/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
Dear All,

I keep hearing the SCADS is happy with the current math program
because we scored well above PA State average on PSSA. Even the CDT
front page story on 5/4/09 said:
"State College students outperform their statewide peers in math at
all grade levels on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment
On the 2007-08 PSSAs, 86.6 percent of State College third-graders
scored at grade level, compared with 80.5 percent of third-graders
statewide. In fifth grade, 81.1 percent of State College students
scored at grade level compared with the state average of 73.2

Well, I did a quick search and found out that Bellefonte Area School
District actually scored HIGHER than SCASD on that same test for the
same group. They got 88%!

This is despite the fact that SCASD has a better student/teacher ratio
(13 while the ratio is 14 in Bellefonte; spends more ($11203 per
student while Bellfonte spends $9,327, which is below state average
$9,675); and has far fewer students who are eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch program (13%, Bellfonte has 28%, State 30%).

I am uploading the doc file to the file session in a while. You will
notice the gaps between the two district on reading and writing --
SCASD is doing better in those areas. On Math, Bellefonte scored
better than SCASD in Grades 3, 5 and 6, their disadvantage only starts
to show after Grade 7, with the biggest difference shown in Grade 11
(SCASD 78%, Bellefonte 62% and State 56%).

Most parents here are not be content with PSSA standards, but even by
these standards, math education in SCASD is NOT doing well.

Does anyone know what math curriculum the Bellefonte district uses?

Demographically, I am sure a bigger percentage of the population in
State College has higher degrees. The census has the data, but it is
not as easy to put together, since it goes by townships.

I always wonder if one takes the PSSA scores of students in SCASD and
control for household income and parents involvement (tutoring certain
hours a week, etc.), what the results would look like. I am not a
statistician. Are there any experts out there? Would this be a
reasonable project to do for a social science grad student?



Steve Piazza

May 16, 2009, 6:58:18 AM5/16/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
This is an excellent analysis. It is especially telling that
SCASD's scores are higher in reading and and in math at the higher
grades, but not in math at the lower grades where SCASD students have
been seeing Investigations recently. One has to wonder what will
happen to SCASD's advantage in the high school 10 years from now.

I hope that you will consider sending this to the SCASD Board of
Directors - the address is



May 16, 2009, 11:38:33 AM5/16/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
This is the curriculum for a 5th grade classroom in Bellefonte
Elementary. Does the math part look like a "traditional" one?

Nikki P.

May 16, 2009, 2:27:17 PM5/16/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
My friend, a Bellefonte kindergarten teacher said that this year they
are beginning to phase in "Everyday Math" in K and 1st. Next year it
will be expanded to more grades. The other grades are using something
called "Math Central". I don't know if it is traditional or

Barb Schaefer

May 16, 2009, 10:17:53 PM5/16/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
I found Math Central (Houghton Mifflin) but haven't had time to look
up more about it (other than to see that it links to sites that
practice math flashcards with kids - which to me is a good sign that
more traditional approaches are used).

If they're starting to implement Everyday Math that's really too bad.
It is also a constructivist/reform curriculum; absolutely panned in
the Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth video:
The 4th and 5th grade books have world and US atlas information in
them. As MJ McDermott notes in that video "Where's the math?". We can
likely predict that their scores will start to fall as well, and their
parents will have their own challenge to get a better curriculum back
in a couple years.


Long-Qing Chen

May 16, 2009, 10:32:59 PM5/16/09
I have almost all the Math Central math books. Pretty bad. These books
were recommended by the Radio Park Principal about two years ago when I
complained about the Investigations Math and asked her how my younger
kid in Radio Park could learn how to do the "Explain" part of the
investigations math. Therefore, they are pretty much the unofficial
textbooks for the Investigations Math (not 100% sure about this claim
although). I thought I rescued my kid from the sufferings by the
Investigations Math when I moved him to 7th grade math although he is a
fifth grader, but he fell into Connected Math. However, at least the
teacher at Park Forest Middle provides some supplemental math excises
beyond the Connected Math textbooks. I also remember when I asked the
middle school teacher during a teacher-parent conference about who
decides what textbook to use, I was told that the math department in the
middle school decided the textbooks and I was also told they were going
to switch from the connected math textbooks to traditional textbooks
starting next year (Again I am not sure if this is still true).

Long-Qing Chen
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Penn State University
102 Steidle Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-8101


May 17, 2009, 1:52:19 AM5/17/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
Hi Everyone,

I sent a letter to the board directors and uploaded it to the file

I put together 2008 scores from all 5 districts in Centre County.
-at least one other district outperformed SCASD on Math in each grade
from grade 3 to 7.
-SCASD math only showed clear advantage in high school.
-SCASD leads on Reading in every grade.
-either there's something wrong with SCASD, or PSSA is too easy to be
a meaningful measure.
-in any case, reassessment needed.

There is a subgroup of student called "Economically disadvantaged
students" (defined by the PA Dep of Ed). I put scores of this group
from the 5 districts together. SCASD scores do not look good. I am not
sure what that means.

It is late, I hope the letter actually makes sense ;)


Osana Tishkova

May 17, 2009, 10:31:38 PM5/17/09

There is a subgroup of student called "Economically disadvantaged
students" (defined by the PA Dep of Ed). I put scores of this group
from the 5 districts together. SCASD scores do not look good. I am not
sure what that means.

I believe you mentioned  that one of the math professors predicted that.  Lack of curriculum content in the current math program would hit first kids from the low income families. In other families parent supplement the program as much as they could.

It would be interesting to see how those scores were in 2001.


Sergei Tabachnikov

May 18, 2009, 7:39:23 AM5/18/09
Yes, this is precisely what George Andrews mentioned. Here is a link
to a relevant article:


Steve Piazza

May 18, 2009, 10:19:38 AM5/18/09
to Parents for Quality Math Education
That is an excellent article! Every parent in SCASD should read
this perspective of a Teach For America teacher tasked with
implementing constructivist math in a NYC public school.

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