The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 24, 2013

Readers' Forum 4-24 | Raw scores don’t give justice to GJSD

— I read the misleading school rankings done by the Pittsburgh Business Times (April 17). Raw scores are not indicative of a school system’s academic performance, because they list results in only two subject areas; moreover, the raw scores list doesn’t tell the story of true progress.

The listings are nowhere near accurate indications of how well schools perform.

They list the cumulative raw PSSA scores for Grades 3-8 and 11. The raw scores rankings neither show demonstrated progress of a school system, nor the value professionals add to their students’ education.

The Pittsburgh list ranks Greater Johnstown School District near the bottom, and one might interpret the raw score as a poor performer. To the contrary, a high percentage of Johnstown’s students come to kindergarten years behind due to factors mostly related to socio-economic status. This correlates to more than 30 million fewer words heard at home by age 3 than their middle- and high-income counterparts.

After three years of high-quality programs, East Side school ranks 1237/1536 in elementary schools in the state (20 percentile, up from the first percentile of economic standing). When graduating, Greater Johnstown students rank 348/677 in high schools (number proficient on the exams), which is the 49 percentile.

This is the reason Standard and Poor’s listed GJSD as one of 45 “out performing districts” in Pennsylvania, and why U.S. News & World Report calls JHS one of America’s top high schools. Both of those reporting systems are more sophisticated statistical models than simple raw rankings. You want value added? Come to GJSD; you’ll be surprised.

Raymond A. Arcurio

Greater Johnstown School District federal programs coordinator

Alternatives to raising state’s gasoline tax

Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing a 25-cent increase in the gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

The infrastructure did not deteriorate over night, but rather long term due to lack of allocating maintenance money by past and present governments.

Several years ago, the townships’ and boroughs’ portion of liquid-fuels money was severely reduced. At this time, the legislators voted to include the proven-corrupt turnpike commission with 19 percent of this money, thus causing many local roads and bridges to go without the necessary repairs.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars available other than by increasing the gas tax on Pennsylvania drivers.

Two funds that have appeared to be untouchable in the past and in the present  come to mind:

First, the legislative budget (I call it the legislators’ cookie jar), with more than $200 million allotted yearly, and second is the judicial budget. We have too many judges, assistant attorneys and public defenders for a state that has lost and is losing large numbers of its population.

The following quotation says it all:

“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” Cicero, 55 B.C.

Joseph Sherwood

Twin Rocks

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