The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 14, 2009

Shikellamy ditches easy math courses

SUNBURY — The top administrator of the Shikellamy School District, Superintendent Alan Lonoconus, remains optimistic about the district's schools, in spite of recent word that the high school is under the gun from the state Department of Education.

"We're not trying to hide anything," he said. "The scores aren't that good, and we're not happy with that."

Last week, Shikellamy High School was placed on Corrective Action I status by the state Department of Education because it met only eight of 13 categories of educational progress under the federal No Child Left Behind program. The district's graduation rate fell below the state's 80 percent standard.

Lonoconus said he has directed changes in the curriculum district-wide, noting that scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in the district's elementary and middle schools have improved, and he expects scores in the high school to improve as well.

"You can't do this overnight," he said. "Eighty percent of our students were not getting algebra until ninth grade, and we have to change that. We're pushing it down to eighth grade, but these changes take time to implement."

Lonoconus said the district has phased out its less challenging math courses, such as consumer math, in the high school, and all high school students are required to take algebra and geometry.

"We're raising the bar," he continued. "There's nothing wrong with a little sweat. We're teaching our students to think."

He said when recent graduates return, they often tell him and other administrators they should have pushed them harder and been more demanding.

Lonoconus said a student mentoring program, in which older high school students work with their younger counterparts, will be implemented in the district's two middle schools.

"These programs help the incoming students to feel safe, welcomed and cared for, and they give them a connection to the school," he said.

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