ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - The state says several schools in our area are underperforming. But they're making it easier to switch schools.
The Gattrells live right across the street from Wright Elementary School in Altoona and both of their children go there. The state says their school isn't doing as good of a job as it should.
There are 414 schools on the list of underperforming schools. That means they scored in the bottom 15 percent in reading and math on the PSSA's. But the Gattrells neighbor Robert Furio thinks those tests are the problems. He says teachers are teaching to the test and it backfires because the kids don't get a good basic education.
Families can now get a scholarship to send their children to a school in another district.
There are some income requirements. The household annual income has to be no greater than 60 thousand dollars, plus 12 thousand dollars for each dependent. Qualifying families can get 85 hundred dollars to send their child to a school in another district or 15 thousand for a special education student. No child left behind already lets them move to another school within the district. The Gattrells and Furio both would consider leaving.
A student at another underperforming school in Johnstown had another idea. Theodore Tinsley said if kids at Greater Johnstown Middle School would try harder, they could do just as well as any other school.
Many families in both neighborhoods want to keep their kids close to home. They all lived close to their schools and like the safety of that. But Robert Furio is thinking about it and he's thinking about his nephews. He says he wants to make sure they are prepared for life.
The schools have to notify parents they're on the list and post in on their website. There are seven schools in our area on the list. Wasson Avenue Elementary School, Osceola Mills Elementary School, and West Branch Area Elementary School in Clearfield County are on the list. West Side Elementary School and the Greater Johnstown Middle School in Cambria County are on the list. And Wright Elementary School in Blair and Turkeyfoot Valley Elementary School in Somerset County were the remaining two schools on the list.
Harrisburg - The Pennsylvania Department of Education today published the list of low-achieving schools in which students, who live within the schools' boundaries, may be eligible to apply for a scholarship through the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.
Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program to give low- and moderate-income students in low-achieving schools the option to obtain a scholarship to attend a participating public or nonpublic school.
The list of schools contains the lowest-achieving 15 percent of elementary schools and lowest-achieving 15 percent of secondary schools, based on combined math and reading Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores from the 2010-11 school year.
Career and technology centers, as well as brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, are not on the list, since parents already have the choice to send their children to these educational entities.
The list of low-achieving schools contains 414 school buildings in 74 school districts across Pennsylvania. The scholarship program has the potential to impact more than 242,000 students.
Students who live within the attendance boundaries of one of these schools are eligible if their household's annual income is no greater than $60,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent member of the household.
For the 2012-13 school year, the maximum scholarship award available to non-special education students is $8,500 and the maximum for a special education student is $15,000.
Pennsylvania businesses that donate to opportunity scholarship organizations are eligible for a tax credit through the program. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development administers the tax credit program and must approve opportunity scholarship organizations based on their ability to enhance the educational opportunities for students in low-achieving schools.
The Department of Education is required by law to notify school districts that have schools identified as low-achieving by Aug. 1, 2012. In 2013 and each subsequent year, school notification will be made by Feb. 1.
Within 15 days of notification by the department, school districts are required to notify parents and post on its website, a description of the opportunity scholarship tax credit program, as well as instructions on how families may apply.
For more information about the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, visit the Department of Community and Economic Development's website at www.newpa.com.
To view the list of low-achieving schools, visit the Department of Education's website at www.education.state.pa.us and click on the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program icon.
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