Do Test Scores Frame the Portrait of the School? Analyzing the Impact of School Context Variables on Secondary School Level Mathematics Proficiency Scores from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2008


Campus Only

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Carol Parke

Committee Member

Jean Higgins

Committee Member

John R. Osheka


PSSA, Secondary School


The purpose of this study was to determine if any of the following four independent variables: 1) socioeconomic status, 2) district instruction expenditures, 3) school size-enrollment, and 4) locale had an impact on the PSSA-math school level proficiency scores over a three year period (2004/05, 2005/06, and 2006/07). The study was also conducted to determine how schools who met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets for math proficiency differed from schools who did not meet AYP in terms of the four variables stated above. The findings of the study indicated that the four independent variables were significantly related to PSSA-math results for the three school years; however, only the relationship between the PSSA-math scores and the school socioeconomic status showed a strong significance. School size-enrollment was also significant, but the magnitude was weak. The predictability of whether a school will or will not meet AYP targets was calculated for the three school years and the results of 86%, 86.6%, and 88.4% for three of the four variables, school socioeconomic status, school size-enrollment, and school locale, were identified as significant. The study also revealed that Group B, schools who did not meet AYP for any of the three school years, on average, had the highest level of poverty, spent the most money to educate the students, and had the highest enrollment of the 11th grade. These findings were unexpected and are considered by the researcher as noteworthy. The final results of the study showed that school socioeconomic status was a barrier and did impact the success of a secondary school meeting AYP targets. The author also identified Group A schools, ones who met AYP math proficiency targets for all three testing years, who had an elevated level of school socioeconomic status, at the 95th, 90th, and 75th percentile, yet overcame this barrier and consistently met or exceeded the AYP target of 45% proficiency on the PSSA-math. The schools identified may be a model of success for others to emulate in this age of accountability for public Pennsylvania schools. This result was one which was not predicted and is an important focus for future research.





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