Drumroll, please: Hillendale celebrates top scores

School’s combined PSSA math/reading result was highest in state

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor,  The Times

Fourth-grade teacher Todd Picard leads Hillendale students in the wave during a “special spirit” assembly.

For several hundred students filing into the gymnasium of Hillendale Elementary for an assembly, the subject matter was top-secret.

Spearheading the espionage? Principal Steve M. Dissinger, who wanted to surprise the students for their top performance on the annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test.

The hard work by students and staff to obtain the highest combined math and reading scores out of more than 1,000 schools merited celebration, he reasoned. To amplify the point, he enlisted a host of co-conspirators, including a contingent of teens known for their attention-getting abilities.

As soon as the students all took their seats, 4th-grade teacher Todd Picard energized the already-enthusiastic audience by leading them in the wave. Adding to the excitement, the school’s Husky mascot cavorted around the room. (In keeping with the air of intrigue, a mystery parent wore the costume.)

Principal Steve Dissinger expresses gratitude to the students and staff for the hard work that led to top PSSA scores. On the stage behind him is the Unionville High drum-line.

Then the curtain on the stage opened to reveal members of the high-school band’s drum-line, joined by members of the school’s percussion program. After a high-decibel, crowd-pleasing performance, the high-schoolers took positions around the students to accompany them on the Hillendale spirit song.

Dissinger told the students how much he appreciated their efforts and dedication. “The purpose of this assembly and having all of you gathered here today  is to celebrate hard work,” he said. “It’s not about a No. 1 ranking; that’s a wonderful thing, that’s a beautiful thing. But what it’s really about is hard work.”

Then he invited everyone to return to their classrooms, where parents had been busy setting up cider, apple-cider doughnuts, and apples – echoing the banner hanging in the gym: Hillendale students are the apple of our eye.

Principal Steve M. Dissinger (right) and Hillendale’s Husky listen to the Unionville High drum-line performance. _

The PSSA is a test used to measure a student’s attainment of state academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 4, 8 and 11 is assessed in science. Individual student scores, provided only to their respective schools, can be used to assist teachers in identifying students who may be in need of additional help, and school scores provide information to schools and districts for curriculum and instruction improvement discussions and planning.

Hillendale’s academic achievement comes at a time when results at many other schools plummeted. Many had been under investigation for altering results or coaching students improperly, probes that resulted in tighter security, state officials said. At Hillendale, scores went up from last year, Dissinger said.


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