PDE identifies FMS as Additional Targeted Support and Improvement School


Mason Geibel

Ms. Koutsourais’ eighth grade students take a math test during class on Jan. 24.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a Federal Act that provides guidelines for the education of students throughout the United States.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), ESSA requires each state to develop a plan to identify schools in need of support and improvement. This year, Freedom Middle School was designated as a school needing support and improvement. Specifically, we have been named as an “Additional Targeted Support and Improvement School” (ATSI). That is a scary looking title, so what does it really mean?

According to Mr. Ryan Smith, Freedom Middle School Principal, this means that a very specific group of students are not meeting the achievement rate and growth rate as defined by the state. This is determined by standardized testing scores, specifically the PSSA scores. This means that some of our students are not performing well on the tests, and are in need of extra help.

“We have to create an improvement plan that, combined with parent input, teacher input, and administrative input, will determine how we can improve upon that specific groups’ academic scores and growth.” said Mrs. Misty Slavic, Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Special Education, said when asked what this designation means for the school.

This plan will be made to address those specific students who need it, but it will likely benefit all the students at Freedom Area Middle School.

“We are saying that if we have gaps in our program, we want to find out where those gaps are, define them and make them better,” Smith stated. As the school makes a plan to help the students who need improvement, they will see where we are falling short overall and be able to improve that too and this will be a benefit to every student in the Middle School.

We know what the school has to do, but what can we as the students do to improve our PSSA scores?

“I think the students just need to continue to work hard, and pay attention in class…come to school on time, prepare for testing, and make sure you are taking the test seriously.” Slavic said. When asked if they thought our test scores were an accurate depiction of the students at Freedom Area Middle School, Smith and Slavic both quickly responded, “NO.”

 The school district has two years to make improvements and if they are not successful, then the state will have to step in and guide the district through the process. Smith says he is pretty confident that as a team, the administration will be able to get through the improvement process locally, without intervention from the state. The school’s formal plan to address the achievement and growth of the students’ score is due to the state by June 30, 2019, and will begin implementation at the start of the 2020 school year.