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Pennsylvania School Reports Student Growth in Mathematics Despite National Trends

In each grade, pre-K–4, students’ math scores are increasing year-over-year at North Star Central Elementary School

Sourcewell, a trusted advisor to education leaders, announces that North Star Central Elementary School in Boswell, Pennsylvania—home to more than 350 pre-K–4 students—is seeing significant growth in students’ math scores, despite national trends.

“At North Star, we are focused on improving the math skills of all of our students, not just those who need additional support and intervention,” said Renee Lepley, Principal at North Star Central Elementary School. “Thanks to the teamwork of our teachers and staff, we are building not just our students’ confidence in the classroom, but ensuring a strong foundation for success.”

At the end of 2022, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released results on students’ reading and math performance nationwide. On average, fourth-grade students’ math scores decreased by five points, and eighth-grade students’ math scores decreased by eight points. Both averages marked the largest score declines since the initial assessments in 1990—more than 30 years ago.

Despite this, students at North Star are growing and improving, and leaders at the school note significant growth across all grades in math. In each grade, pre-K–4, students’ Acadience Math Composite Percent Proficient scores increased. Screening measures from the 2021–2022 school year revealed significant increases in math readiness from fall to winter in all grade levels.

  • First-grade students’ scores jumped from 52 percent in the 2016–2017 school year to 98 percent in the 2022–2023 school year—a 46 percent increase.
  • Fourth-grade students’ scores improved from 42 percent in the 2016–2017 school year to 90 percent in the 2022–2023 school year.

In addition, third- and fourth-grade students showed strong upward gains on the percent of students scoring in the “Proficient” range on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) assessment for math, despite just 16.2 percent of students across the state scoring “Proficient” or better in math on the spring 2022 assessment.

  • The percentage of third-grade students scoring “Proficient” on the PSSA assessment increased from 67 percent in the 2016–2017 school year to 86 percent in the 2021–2022 school year.
  • The percentage of fourth-grade students scoring “Proficient” on the PSSA assessment also increased, increasing from 51 percent in the 2016–2017 school year to 61 percent in the 2021–2022 school year.

To help create a culture of math achievement at North Star, leaders implemented SpringMath, a K–8 math intervention solution, to improve all their students’ math skills school-wide rather than just working with those who needed intervention. Today, SpringMath is North Star’s go-to solution for increasing math fluency and screening students for specific learning disabilities. The district uses data from SpringMath to identify learning gaps and create road maps to close them, such as facilitating Tier 1, 2 and 3 interventions.

To read more about North Star’s success, please visit https://www.springmath.org/success/SpringMath-helps-every-student-achieve-mastery.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

Current issue of Equity & Access:


Equity & Access - Issue 28

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