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The Avonworth School District is a small, suburban, public school district located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Avonworth School District encompasses approximately 11 square miles. The district serves the Boroughs of Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights and Emsworth and Kilbuck Township and Ohio Township. According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 8,716 people. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $27,781 a year, while the median family income was $62,331.[4] According to District officials, in school year 2009-10 the Avonworth School District provided basic educational services to 1,409 pupils through the employment of 122 teachers, 83 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 15 administrators. Avonworth School District received more than $4.7 million in state funding in school year 2009-10.

Avonworth School District
Map of Allegheny County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
258 Josephs Lane

Allegheny County

School board9 members
SuperintendentTom Ralston
Faculty114 teachers (2010)
Number of pupils1407 pupils (2010) [1]
 • Kindergarten89
 • Grade 1128
 • Grade 2105
 • Grade 3124
 • Grade 4101
 • Grade 5121
 • Grade 696
 • Grade 7107
 • Grade 8119
 • Grade 9102
 • Grade 10109
 • Grade 11105
 • Grade 1288
 • OtherEnrollment is projected to be 1447 pupils in 2020 [2]
Color(s)Red and White
Budget$23.6 million [3]
Per pupil spending$16,374 (2008)
Per pupil spending$14,916.43 (2010)

The district operates four schools: Avonworth High School (9th–12th), Avonworth Middle School (7th–8th), Avonworth Elementary School (3rd-6th), and Avonworth Primary Center (K-2nd).


The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[5] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "D-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[6]

In 2010, the school board meeting minutes and policy manual are available online in the district's website.

Statewide High School PSSA RankingsEdit

The following statewide rankings (out of 676 public school districts) are based solely on the PSSA results of the high school's junior class:[7]

  • 2017- 94th
  • 2016- 41st
  • 2015- 476th
  • 2014- 267th
  • 2013- 135th
  • 2012- 142nd
  • 2011- 97th

High schoolEdit

Avonworth High School is located at 304 Josephs Lane, Pittsburgh. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 394 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 59 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 38 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 10:1.[8] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[9] In 2011 and 2010 the school achieved AYP status.[10]

College remediationEdit

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 35% of Avonworth School District graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[11] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[12] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.[13]

Dual enrollmentEdit

The high school offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school, including the graduation ceremony. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[14] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[15] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[16] For the 2009–10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $1,839 for the program.[17]

Graduation requirementsEdit

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[18]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating class of 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[19]

SAT scoresEdit

From January to June 2011, 80 Avonworth students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 526. The Math average score was 543. The Writing average score was 515.[20] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[21] In the United States, 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[22]

Middle schoolEdit

Avonworth Middle School is located at 256 Josephs Lane, Pittsburgh. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 308 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 39 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 23 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[23] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[24] In 2011 and 2010, Avonworth Middle School achieved AYP status.[25]

In 2009 and 2012, the Avonworth Middle School was named a School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. The recognition goes to schools that are: academically excellent by challenging all students, are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence and are democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports. Schools must apply for this recognition.[26]

Elementary schoolEdit

Avonworth Elementary School is located at 1320 Roosevelt Road, Pittsburgh. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 704 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 60 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 53 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[27] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[28] In 2010 and 2011, Avonworth Elementary School achieved AYP status.[29] In 2011, 84% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In math, 89% of the students in 3rd through 6th grades were on grade level and 63% scored advanced. In 4th grade science, 92% of the pupils were on grade level.[30]

Special educationEdit

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 110 pupils or 7.6% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 50% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[31] In December 2009, the Administration reported that 156 pupils or 11.1% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress .[32] To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the district's Special Education Department.[33][34] Avonworth School District has agreements with Glade Run Lutheran Services and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit #3 for special education services.[35]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[36] The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district's students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student's needs accrue the same level of costs.[37] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[38] Overidentification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have less than 10% supported through special education services, like Avonworth School District.[39]

Avonworth School District received a $679,188 supplement for special education services in 2010.[40] For the 2011–12 and 2012-13 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[41][42]

Gifted educationEdit

The District Administration reported that 93 or 6.83% of its students were gifted in 2009. The highest percentage of gifted students reported among all 500 school districts and 100 public charter schools in Pennsylvania was North Allegheny School District with 15.5% of its students identified as gifted.[43] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student's building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[44][45]


In 2011, the average teacher salary in Avonworth School District was $58,179.61 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $16,277.69 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $74,457.30.[46] According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers’ total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation, including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.[47]

In 2007, the district employed 85 teachers with the average teacher salary in the district at $53,238 for 180 days worked.[48]

The district administrative costs in 2008 were $800.02 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[49] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent for the 2007–08 school year was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[50]

Reserves In 2008, the district reported an unreserved designated fund balance of zero and an unreserved-undesignated fund balance of $2,604,070.00.[51]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the income level.

State basic education fundingEdit

In 2011-12, the district will receive $2,347,240 in state Basic Education Funding.[52] Additionally, the district will receive $32,268 in Accountability Block Grant funding. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 137 students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2010–11 school year.[53]

For the 2010-11 budget year the Avonworth School District received a 2% increase in state basic education funding for a total of $2,442,068. In Dauphin County, the highest increase went to South Fayette Township School District which received an 11.32% increase in state funding. One hundred fifty school districts in Pennsylvania received a 2% base increase for budget year 2010-11. The highest increase in the state was given to Kennett Consolidated School District of Chester County which was given a 23.65% increase in state funding.[54]

In the 2009–2010 budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $2,394,184. This was the lowest percentage point increase, in Basic Education Funding, for the school districts in Allegheny County and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Four county school districts received increases of over 6% in Basic Education Funding in 2008–10. Chartiers Valley School District received an 8.17% increase. In Pennsylvania, over 15 school districts received Basic Education Funding increases in excess of 10% in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding. Seventy school districts received a base 2% increase. The state's Basic Education Funding to the Avonworth School District in 2008–09 was $2,347,239.65.[55] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the budget proposal made in February each year.[56]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 144 students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[57]

Accountability Block GrantEdit

The state provides supplemental funding in the form of accountability block grants. The use of these funds is strictly focused on specific state approved student educational achievement uses. Avonworth School District uses its $87,584 to fund full-day kindergarten. These annual funds are in addition to the state's basic education funding.[58] Schools Districts apply each year for Accountability Block Grants.[59] In 2009-10 the state provided $271.4 million in Accountability Block grants.[60]

Classrooms for the Future grantEdit

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Avonworth School District was denied funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the district received $150,010. For the 2008–09, school year the district received $45,413 for a total of $195,423. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[61]

Science It’s Elementary grantEdit

Avonworth Elementary School successfully applied to participate and received a Science It's Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[62] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth's public elementary schools. Called Science: It's Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[63] To encourage schools to adopt the program's standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[64] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. They had to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated. The 2006-07 State Education Budget provided $635 million in new spending for pre-K through 12th grades for the 2006-07 school year. This marks an 8-percent increase over 2005-06 public school funding.[65] The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Federal Stimulus grantEdit

The district received $688,970 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[66] This funding is for 2009–2011 school years.

Race to the Top grantEdit

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[67] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[68] Pennsylvania was not approved in the first round of the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved. A second round of state RTTT application judging will occur in June 2010.[69]


A proposal was made, by David Wassel, a prominent citizen, to consolidate Allegheny County school districts to save tax dollars, focus dollars on student achievement, and improve student services. The plan calls for a proposed district that includes: Avonworth School District and Northgate School District. The proposed district would serve the communities of: Avalon, Bellevue, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Emsworth and Kilbuck.[70]

Governor Edward Rendell proposed a consolidation of Pennsylvania's 500 school district to 100 with adjacent school districts, in each county. He suggested that the administrative cost savings be redirected to improving lagging reading, math and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes.[71] A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings for people in both communities.[72]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. Less than 95 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have enrollment below 1250 students, in 2007.[73] This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[74] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[75]

Real estate taxesEdit

Avonworth School Board set property tax rates in 2009–10 at 19.3000 mills.[76] Property tax rates in 2008–2009 were set at 18.8000 mills.[77] In 2007 the millage was set at 18.8000 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region.

Act 1 Adjusted indexEdit

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2010–2011 school year is 2.9 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[78]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Avonworth School District 2006–2007 through 2010–2011.[79]

  • 2006–07 – 3.9%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007–08 – 3.4%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008–09 – 4.4%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009–10 – 4.1%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010–11 – 2.9%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011–12 – 1.4%, Base 1.4%[80]
  • 2012-13 - 1.7%, Base 1.7%[81]

The Avonworth School Board applied for an exception to exceed the Act 1 index in 2010-11 due to escalating pension costs.[82][83]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district's index. Of the districts who sought exceptions 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[84]

Avonworth School Board applied for an exception (pension obligations) to exceed the Act 1 index for the 2010-11 budget.[82] The Board did not apply for any exceptions in 2009-10.[85] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[86]

Property tax reliefEdit

In 2010, property tax relief for 2,765 approved residents of Avonworth School District was set at $89.[87] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Avonworth School District was $92 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2685 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Allegheny County, the highest tax relief went to Duquesne City School District which was set at $348.[88] The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. This was the second year they received this amount.[89] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Allegheny County, 60% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[90]

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[91]

Wellness policyEdit

The Avonworth School Board established a district student wellness policy in 2006 – Policy 246.[92] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006." The Superintendent annually reports to the Board on the district's compliance with law and policies related to student wellness.[93]

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education and physical education that are aligned with the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[94]

The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.


The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and an extensive sports program. The Avonworth School Board determines eligibility to participate through board policy.[95]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[96]


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Coordinates: 40°31′22″N 80°05′12″W / 40.52267°N 80.08655°W / 40.52267; -80.08655