Dismal achievement numbers are a wake-up call

Exeter superintendent Dr. Kimberly Minor presented achievement data at the September 7th school board meeting that would make most people feel dejected.

In her report, she outlined the reading and math proficiency numbers along with the pass rates for the 2021 PSSA from grades 3 to 8.

Minor had outlined three academic goals earlier this year for the district’s 2021-24 draft comprehensive plan. Those goals called for 100% of students being proficient in literacy by the end of grade 3, 100% of students being proficient in mathematics by the end of grade 7, and 100% of students graduating on time.

The proficiency data for reading and math she provided are from the 2018-19 school year to avoid skewing data from pandemic-related factors:

Percentage not reading proficient by grade 3 (2018-19)
47% Jacksonwald (Title I school)
42% Lorane (Title I school)
31% Owatin

Grade 8 math proficiency (2018-19)
66% students not proficient in math

Minor also showed the district ranking reported by U.S. News & World Report.

The latest report shows Exeter in the bottom half of both state and national rankings. Exeter is ranked 11,725 out of 17,857 schools nationally and 466 out of 678 schools ranked in Pennsylvania.

Minor then presented the pass rate percentages (shown in the below chart) from the 2021 PSSA results, although it was noted that the pandemic may play some part in the data.

2021 PSSA pass rate

She described the problem as a systems issue and not related to any specific teacher, grade, or school building; ultimately stating the problems we’re seeing are due to poor leadership.

Minor said things are changing fast in the district and some people may feel uncomfortable, but ultimately she believes it needs to happen. “We really have to move with urgency,” she said at the meeting.

Along with changes, a progress monitoring plan will be put in place that provides monthly presentations of data to the board during the committee of the whole meetings.

This problem didn’t happen overnight, but working together now to make the needed adjustments will ultimately improve the district’s academic achievement.

Jason Mell is running for a 4-year term on the Exeter Township School Board. He is a Planning Commissioner for Exeter Township and the former owner of The Exeter Informant. To read more about Jason, visit jasonmell.com.