English language learners at 2 Upper Adams schools qualify for more support; shortages loom

Low English proficiency among English language learners at Upper Adams School District led the Pennsylvania Department of Education to flag two schools for additional support.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act, Pennsylvania must identify subgroups within schools that face academic and student success challenges. Examples of subgroups include race, disability, and the economically disadvantaged.

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Upper Adams intermediate and middle schools qualified for additional support due to the English language proficiency levels within the English language learner population, according to Joseph Albin, UASD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Test scores, such as Keystone Exams and an English proficiency exam, inform the state’s assessment of schools, Albin said.

Schools designated by the state as needing additional support are placed into one of three federally designated categories. Upper Adams Intermediate School qualified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), while the middle school qualified for Additional TSI (A-TSI).

Several factors affect the ability of English language learner students to succeed, Albin said, such as financial needs, language proficiency, and absenteeism. Some English language learners are away from school for long periods at a time.

“Depending on the situation, they go away sometimes weeks, months at a time, then they come back,” Albin said.

To combat these barriers and get UASD students performing at the level the state says they need to be at, administrators developed solutions with the Lincoln Intermediate Unit (LIU) over the past few months. They created strategies to benefit English language learners and the student population as a whole, Albin said.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state enables intermediate units to work with school districts that have TSI and A-TSI designations.

UASD and LIU educators developed action plans to meet new goals for the 2023 to 2024 school year. These were outlined at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Details can be found on the UASD Agenda Manager website.

At the intermediate school, one goal is for each teacher to implement differentiated instruction in small groups of four to seven students per unit, Assistant Principal Jared Mummert said. The second goal is to reduce disciplinary logs by 20%, Mummert said.

As for the middle school’s goals, Principal Shane Brewer said math and English language arts teachers will implement at least one pre- and post-assessment per unit plan. The second goal is to decrease incident reports by 25%, Brewer said.

At the intermediate school, TSI comes with one year of added support, Albin said. A-TSI, at the middle school, falls under a four-year plan.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires that the school board approve TSI and A-TSI plans by Aug. 31, according to Albin. Staff will ask the board to vote to accept these plans next month.

Locker room renovation to extend into first semester

Students participating in fall sports and physical education will need to adapt next school year as locker and team room renovations are completed at Biglerville High School.

The estimated $2.4 million project got underway this week. At Tuesday night’s meeting, sheets of plywood covered the hallway outside the boardroom to protect the floors. 

Superintendent Wesley Doll said the renovations are slated to be complete around holiday break. The school board approved contractors’ bids at a special meeting July 11.

Coaches will coordinate athlete use of Pitzer Gym team rooms during the North Gym area renovation, Principal Beth Graham wrote in an email. As for physical education, Graham said teachers are planning activities that would not require changing facilities.

“Our coaching staff will play a crucial role in coordinating and monitoring the use of these team rooms, ensuring that our student-athletes are well-prepared for practices and games,” Graham wrote in an email. “We are committed to providing a seamless experience for all students, whether they need changing facilities or not.”

Staffing struggle

The school board approved the hiring of seven new teachers, six transfers and two resignations Tuesday, but Doll said they need more staff.

“We are really in desperate need of trying to find people to help our teachers,” he said, specifically instructional assistants.

There are three such positions open at the high school that received no applications as of Tuesday, according to Doll.

The district is also seeking a junior high field hockey coach and cross country coach.

The next school board committee meetings will be Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m., and the next regular meeting is set for Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.

MG Kauffman 1

Mary Grace Kauffman, freelance reporter, worked six years as a full-time reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has covered topics including business, crime, education, government and features. Mary Grace has a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism from Shippensburg University. She resides in Adams County.

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