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'Back to Basics': B-W Superintendent Lays Out Plan for Academic Success

Board member Kevin Fischer wants more than adequate progress.

Dr. Randal A. Lutz knows that it's not an easy job—for him or for anyone who works under him in the .

But that doesn't change their duties, and Lutz, in his first year as Baldwin-Whitehall's superintendent, says that he's ready to work even harder.

During a B-W School Board meeting on Sept. 5, district administration reported that . The board responded by charging Lutz with the task of leading the district to drastically improved scores on students' standardized tests—sooner rather than later.

"There was a lot about it (the AYP report) that was very difficult to see," Lutz said a week later during Wednesday night's board meeting. "It was very difficult to hear ... The sweat was rolling down my back, and I know that it was rolling down a lot of other people's backs, too."

In accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) determines AYP performance based on students' scores each year in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams (PSSAs). According to the PDE website, NCLB requires that all students reach at least a proficient level in the subjects of reading/language arts and mathematics by 2014. School districts and schools must show adequate yearly progress on several measurable indicators, including attendance or graduation rate, academic performance and test participation.

Baldwin-Whitehall is not on track. Specifically, hit 17 out of its 19 AYP targets this past school year, while hit 12 out of its 15. All targets must be hit.

Lutz said on Wednesday that he believes that full AYP is possible in Baldwin-Whitehall with a "back-to-basics" educational-practices approach.

"What is it that we're here for?" Lutz asked rhetorically. "What are the most important things? And how do we maintain the focus on those items?

"We've (educators) been pulled in many different directions, oftentimes. Even for my (past) role as assistant superintendent, (I've) been involved in many things that did not impact curriculum, instruction and diversity."

Lutz said that that split attention will be a thing of the past.

He also talked about "implementation of accountability measures" in the district, and although his handout to board members on Wednesday could not be seen by the audience, Lutz said that "administrative counsel meetings, leadership excellence forums (and) monthly principal reports" have been implemented to stress that educators are being held responsible for their work.

"We have the resources in place," Lutz said. "It's a matter of using them with fidelity and using them in a consistent manner across all classrooms, across all grade levels."

He also pointed out that educators are having success in some parts of the district. For example, the B-W schools that made AYP this past school year were (13 out of 13 targets) and (29 out of 29). ( students are not tested for AYP.)

"There are people that are doing great things," Lutz said, mentioning that educators could be copying some best practices. "How do we build a structure to ... ensure that that knowledge is shared?

"How can some teachers move some kids forward, and in other situations, it doesn't happen? And that's the essence of what we need to dig deeper in."

Lutz acknowledged that, because of its standardized scores, Whitehall Elementary has fallen to the PDE's "School Improvement II" level, meaning that the B-W School District must now offer supplemental education services to offset poor AYP there.

But Lutz is taking things a step further, saying on Wednesday that each B-W school will receive the same services as Whitehall.

"Whitehall's required to do it this year," he said. "All schools will do it, regardless of their status.

"What it forces you to do is have those deep conversations about, really, the sacred things in the building: curriculum, instruction and how kids learn—looking at assurances, looking at assumptions.

"It really forces a school-level team ... to have those very, very difficult conversations about where they're really not meeting success and how to break down the processes to move forward."

School board President John B. Schmotzer instructed Lutz to share his educational-practices plan with the parents of students in schools that need improvement.

Board member Larry Pantuso took that a step further and requested Lutz to share the plan with the entire B-W community, at least on the district website.

"AYP affects everybody," Pantuso said, "whether you have a child in school or not. If you have a school district that has AYP issues for a couple years in a row, you're definitely gonna see your real estate transfer taxes affected. People don't tend to rush to buy a home in a school district that has AYP issues, so I think it's important that every citizen get this."

Board member Kevin J. Fischer said that, in addition to making AYP across the district, he would like to see at least one of B-W's schools earn a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

"We still need that marquee school, that marquee achievement," Fischer said.

"I know we need to crawl before we can walk. We need to achieve this (AYP) first. We need to do so consistently. I can't harp that enough. But we also need to put a mark on this district that makes it stand out as opposed to just being in the middle of the road as just an adequate achiever."

Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch throughout Thursday for more from Wednesday's board meeting.

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NE12Ukid September 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM
It is very difficult to reach the goals each year when they keep raising the bar, but I wish the teachers and administrators the best in implementing their new plans. My suggestion would be to focus on more actual time on task, instructional time, and not so many teacher meetings and extra projects. Use diagnoticians and then you don't need as many "remedial specialists". NEVER have a meeting just because "it's Tuesday". Most importantly, parents must be behind their children, realize the importance of good nutrition, family meals, consistent bed times, limits on time using electronics. Provide a clean quiet place for homework, and actually look to see if the homework is done and packed ready to return to school the next day. These are the things that really help raise achievement.
NE12Ukid September 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Adding, one problem is that PSSA is and always has been given too early in the school year. Once the test is done, kids (and adults) slack off in the schools. One can hardly blame them with all the pressure and stress attached, but that's a lot of instructional time wasted each year. And starting all over in Aug/Sept. So a test is set up to measure a year's growth, and students aren't getting a full year of instruction between tests. There are just too many tests, test companies are getting rich and everyone else suffers. More tests don't make smarter students. The number of days lost to required and optional testing would be better spent providing instruction. But BW can't change the federal and state mandates overnight, so good luck doing the best you can with what you have.
Paula Lim September 14, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Poor AYP scores coupled with the threat of a gas well in the center of Whitehall (and just about anywhere else that our governor and his pro-gas administration deems acceptable....which is anywhere except their back yards), we seem to have the perfect storm for decreased property values, streets lined with homes for sale, an eroding tax base, and an increase of crime. When one has a choice of buying in B-W, Mt. Lebo or Bethel with situation, I can"t see B-W being the winner here. Every time I read the crime section here on the Patch, I shudder. It brings back the words a passer-by mentioned last year during Community Day. His belief was that perhaps the gas drilling in Whitehall wasn't our only problem, but maybe we ought to think about the crime problem creeping down Brownsville Rd. from the city. I don't know what has changed in our school district. My child received a fantastic education....we found her teachers to be top-notch. Since then,many of these educators have either retired or fled the district claiming "no support from the board". So, instead of finger pointing, find a solution!
cc September 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
how is taking PSSA testing in April to early in the school year. They have been taking PSSA test in March-April since they have started testing? Once again you don't actually know when test are given. Only ones that take a PSSA test in October are the ones that need retested. Here is the School Calender web address go look and see when PSSA testing is http://baldwin.pa.schoolwebpages.com/education/page/download.php?fileinfo=MjAxMi0xM19CV19DYWxlbmRhci1GZHJhZnQ3LnBkZjo6Oi93d3c3L3NjaG9vbHMvcGEvYmFsZHdpbi9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzE2NV9maWxlXzE1MTZfbW9kXzEzNDY5NTg2MTUucGRm&sectiondetailid=837 Do you even have children in the school district?????
Robert Edward Healy, III September 14, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Folks, as a general rule, please do not post claims on here without evidence.
cc September 14, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Paula -Baldwin/Whitehall isn't the only place they want Gas Wells, it is all over Allegheny County. The people that make leases with these companies get paid money for the lease. You don't think Whitehall Country Club would let them dig on their property for free. Baldwin Whitehall isn't the only place their is crime in, it is all over as you read in many of papers, hear on the news every night. Paula you are right about the education having my oldest graduate in 2001 and my youngest is in 11th grade at the high school. Things have gone down hill since 2001. Back in the day a home in Baldwin/Whitehall wouldn't be up for sale for more than a week or two. Now some of them sit up for sale for more than a year, and hope they don't plan on wasting any more money making video's to showcase Baldwin/Whitehall School District. Until we get a new school board and administration, I don't see much improvements in our school district.
NE12Ukid September 14, 2012 at 10:16 PM
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennsylvania_system_of_school_assessment_%28pssa%29/8757 Test dates 2013: PSSA Writing Field Test February 4-13, 2013 3 - 5 PSSA Writing March 11 – 15, 2013 5, 8 Writing Make-Ups and Return March 18 – 22, 2013 As Needed PSSA Math and Reading April 8 – 19, 2013 3 - 8 PSSA Science April 22 – 26, 2013 4, 8 Math, Reading and Science Make-Ups and Return April 29 – May 3, 2013 As Needed PASA Math and Reading February 18 - March 29, 2013 3 - 8, 11 PASA Science May 6 - 31, 2013 4, 8, 11 ACCESS for ELLs January 28 - March 8, 2013 K – 12 NAEP January 28 - March 8, 2013 4, 8, 12
NE12Ukid September 14, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Robert Edward Healy, III 11:46 am on Friday, September 14, 2012 Folks, as a general rule, please do not post claims on here without evidence. ```````````````````````` Right!
cc September 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Yes NE12UKid as Bob says "Folks, as a general rule, please do not post claims on here without evidence." You said that "Adding, one problem is that PSSA is and always has been given too early in the school year." Since they give close to the end of the school year it isn't to close to the beginning of the school year. Students get a full school year of instructions. Remember they only go to school 184 days a year. United States is behind other countries in Educating Children. They go to school year as to our students going 180-185 days per year.
cc September 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Why does other School Board invite the teachers to come to School Board Meeting and ask they to answer "How can we make teaching better in the School District? My nephew teaches World History at Peters High School and he was invited to come to their next meeting and give a 5 minute presentation on ways he thinks teaching could be improved. They also ask different students each month to come in and answer the same question. Student Representatives are voted in by the Students and not picked because they are family members. Why doesn't our School Board do this? Seems that schools that are top notch still want to improve on their students education
NE12Ukid September 16, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Your last sentence makes no sense in English, but just shut up about your "evidence". First of all, if you could read, you would recognize the post as a statement of opinion. Secondly if you could read before shooting off another zillion posts everywhere, you would see that the dates of all the tests are linked below for anyone who would like to see them. If you think all tests are given in April, you are again WRONG. If you think that meaningful instruction continues with the same strength post test dates, then you are clueless there too. But you are still, LIKE I AM, entitled to put your OPINIONs on here, which you do for every news item in the Patch.
NE12Ukid September 16, 2012 at 07:58 PM
cc wrote: United States is behind other countries in Educating Children. They go to school year as to our students going 180-185 days per year. If you are TRYING to say that our children get less time in school than other countries, consider some evidence to dispell another MYTH: In India, grades 1-5 have 800 instructional hours per year,220 days/1,000 instructional hours grades 6-8 (World Data on Education). Chinese students (gr 1-5)nearly 900 hours of instruction per year, which is similar to or less than many U.S. states, including Florida, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts, and IDENTICAL to PA. India’s 800 hours at elementary school level is less than required at elementary level in CA (840 hours), FL (900 hours in grades 4-6), NY(900 hours), TX (1,260 hours1), and MA(900 hours). NO US state requires as few hours as Finland, though Finland scores near top of nearly all international assessment. VT – a high-performing state-- requires the fewest hours (700 hours) for elementary students (grades 1-2) than any other state, and it still requires more than Finland. VT’s requirement is more than 612 hours Korea requires of its early elementary students. MINIMUM required hours in PA are: grades 1—6 900 hours for the school term grades 7—12 990 hours for the school term. more...
NE12Ukid September 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
At the middle school level, total hours of instruction range from 777 hours in Finland (a top performer) to 1001 in Italy (an average performer). Three of our 5 large states, New York (990 hours), Texas (1,260 hours), and Massachusetts (990 hours) would rank near the top of all industrialized nations in number of hours required. Again, PA requires 990 MINIMUM, some school provide more. Nearly half (22) the states require more instructional hours than Korea. Moreover, the vast majority of states (42) require more hours of instruction than the OECD average of 902 hours. Again, there’s no evidence that students in other countries are required to receive more instruction than students in the United States. U.S. does not require schools to provide less instructional time than other countries. Basing policy decisions on this false perception alone could be costly and provide no clear benefits. Additional source: Center for Public Education. Dang, another MYTH busted!
NE12Ukid September 16, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Adding, one additional source used: http://www.pacode.com
NE12Ukid September 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Do you have any EVIDENCE that these little presentations have improved teaching and if so, how?
cc September 17, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Country Days in standard school year China 243 Japan 243 Germany 240 South Korea 220 Italy 220 Israel 216 Luxembourg 216 Netherlands 200 Scotland 200 Thailand 200 England 192 Hungary 192 Swaziland 191 Finland 191 New Zealand 191 Nigeria 190 France 185 Spain 185 Sweden 185 United States 180 once again ml cuts and paste different articles together but doesn't past the correct facts in
NE12Ukid September 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM
MY facts are correct. I posted data from cited sources. And I am truly sorry for those who work for you in your business or maintaining one of the many homes you own if you cannot see that it is the HOURS that matter, not how many days on a calendar one shows up. by your way of thinking, if you have two workers and one comes to work M-F for 8 hrs per day (40 HOURS) and another works seven days a week for 4hr per day (28 HOURS), you would claim that the second one put in more time just because she showed up more DAYS! LOL! BTW, number days and required hours for public schools vary in different states in the USA. Finland 191 days---777 hours PA 180 days-- 990 hours minimum required. data from same sources previously cited.
Common Sense September 21, 2012 at 04:08 AM
By the way all of the BW bashers, rumor has it that some certain neighboring AAAA high schools didn't make AYP this year either. Let the educators run the schools and keep the politics and government out of it. Things were fine years ago and anything the government puts their hands on goes to shambles anyways, hence our national debt because of the entitlements we keep handing out. 16 trillion and counting........
NE12Ukid September 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Once again you don't actually know when test are given. YES I DO. Well, have you seen the DATES, sisi?
Dee Macellaro November 14, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Pointing the finger is a waste of time. I think it is a good idea to let the teachers come to the board meetings & place their input on how we can improve things for our children. It certainly wouldn't hurt. After all, they are the ones who spend the most time with our children. Stop bashing each other & lets pull together for the welfare of our kids. If we don't ,their going to suffer when the time comes to get out in the world and become productive members of society.
cc November 14, 2012 at 08:00 PM
ne12ukid once an idiot always an idiot and taking one sentence from one article and putting it together with another sentence from another article doesn't make you a smart person. Sorry most people that are employed by me work 40 hours either in 4 or 5 days not 28 days for 4 hours a day. That is their choice how they want to work their time as long as we have 6 days a week scheduled. Seldom do we work a Sunday either as that is time for Family unless we have to do rush test and I will work that day unless someone else volunteers to come in for a few hours. Treat your employees right and they will volunteer to come in when needed
cc November 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Look at Peters Township scores to the scores of Baldwin School District Big difference in them as they care about Education ours only cares about hiring their relatives and paying Administration big bucks and cut away from our students educations. Then again ne12kid knows everything from cutting and pasting many articles together from 20 different articles to pass along as its own words.
cc November 15, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Yea ne12ukid you got the dates from the link i posted. clueless as usual with your remarks they give test out to early in the year.
cc November 15, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Dee that is what Peters does and has teachers make presentations at the meetings, they also bring in students (not the ones on the board that are related or friends of the board) to talk about academics. They are a Class A school where Baldwin is a Class F school. Back in the days Baldwin was a great school district and was so hard to buy a home in the District. Now everyone wants to move out of here because of the failing schools.
NE12Ukid November 15, 2012 at 06:20 AM
February and March are too early to give "end of year" tests.
NE12Ukid November 15, 2012 at 06:22 AM
I don't care what your actual workers do or don't do while you are posting on here all day and night, cc. If you had a brain you could see that was an example. PA and most of USA still have more student HOURS each school year than many other countries.
cc November 15, 2012 at 09:39 AM
only the clueless ne12ukid, sorry but your the one that post on here every day. you live for the patch to fight with people as someone stole your wheaties..
NE12Ukid November 15, 2012 at 12:24 PM
What are you, third grade?
cc November 15, 2012 at 01:44 PM
no ne12ukid and all your alias, that is your mentality 3rd grade.

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