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Gov. Shapiro speaks at Northgate Middle/High School

Gov. Josh Shapiro and other state officials were at Northgate Middle/High School on April 18 to announce changes to the state assessment system.

The governor said all state assessment testing will transition to digital testing by 2026 to create a more efficient testing process for both students and teachers. Northgate has served as a model for digital testing after implementing it for all secondary students this past school year.

"I wanted to be here today because this is a school that gets it," Gov. Josh Shapiro said about Northgate during his news conference at the school, referencing the district's efforts to shift to digital testing for state assessments. "This is a school that understands how to use these tests effectively — how to meet students where they are to make sure they and their teachers are empowered. I wanted to be here today to hold you up as an example to others across this Commonwealth."

Chris Caton, director of curriculum, noted that digital testing has resulted in a number of benefits, including less time to manage materials and increased security. He also noted students prefer the online test with their Chromebooks rather than completing written exams.

"When discussing Northgate’s achievements, standardize testing often takes a back seat for me," Caton said, referencing a variety of ongoing initiatives aimed at creating a more holistic learning environment. "While assessing student achievement It’s important and necessary, it shouldn’t dictate out approach. But it is important and it’s our aim to execute it with excellence and with a student-centric mindset."

Gov. Shapiro walks in Northgate High School

Northgate High School junior Carrie Wynn said the digital testing more closely matches the way students learn in the classroom every day. The familiarity helps alleviate some of the stresses that come with the assessments.

"I can’t stand here today and say that moving to online testing has made me more excited for these tests, but it was not the nerve wracking change that I had anticipated," she said. "In fact, it was more similar to the way we learn in class."

Other state officials also spoke during the news conference in the library, including state Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin, state Sen. Way Fontana and state Rep. Emily Kinkead.

Kinkead credited Northgate for being a leader in innovation.

“Northgate has a strong history of taking a student-first approach to maximize the accessibility and efficiency of its programming, including standardized testing,” Kinkead said. “While these tests are necessary to secure federal funds, most of the teachers, students, and staff who tackle the PSSAs and Keystones every year feel strongly that they have become an obstacle to the larger objectives of our education system and need major reforms like this.”

Read more about the governor's announcement:

Chris Caton speaks to a group of officials

State officials and local education leaders are at Northgate on April 18 to learn about the district’s College in High School program. In partnership with three local universities, Northgate offers high school students an opportunity to earn college credits through 21 courses.

Students interested in earning dual enrollment credit may register for Northgate’s College in High School (CIHS) program courses. Each course has its own set of eligibility guidelines to ensure that students are prepared for the rigorous expectations of college-level work.

The district has seen students flourish in the program in recent years as it has continued to grow in popularity. Last year, one graduate entered Penn State University and was able to transfer 29 credits earned at Northgate High School. Another student going to Point Park University was able to transfer 21 credits.

During the current academic year, 79% of Northgate students in grades 10 to 12 have enrolled in one of the courses eligible for the CIHS program, with 140 of those courses taken for university credit.

The CIHS program is being utilized by students spanning our demographic footprint. About 35% of students enrolled in a CIHS-eligible course this school year identified as African American, Multi-Racial, Hispanic/Latino or Asian. That marks a 5% increase over the previous year’s enrollment of the same demographic.

Michael Wagstaff

The Northgate School District has selected Michael Wagstaff to serve as interim Middle School Principal for the remainder of the school year.

The district’s Board of School Directors approved the position during its meeting Monday night. Mr. Wagstaff will be replacing R.J. Long, who has served as middle school principal since 2021.

Mr. Wagstaff said he was thankful for the opportunity and credited his faith for leading him to a career in education. He added he was excited to take on the new role with the school district.

“I want to thank Dr. Caroline Johns, Dr. Nancy Hines, Dr. Jeff Evancho, and the remainder of the administrative team for providing me with this tremendous opportunity to serve as the interim principal at Northgate Middle School,” Mr. Wagstaff said. “I am also grateful to work with Dr. Nicole Smith and her vast amount of knowledge and experience leading at the high school level.”

Mr. Wagstaff has been working with the Northgate School District for the past four years. He previously served as an intern principal at Bellevue Elementary. More recently, he has been working as an intern principal at Avalon Elementary for the past two school years under the guidance of Dr. Joseph Peacock.

“During my time at Northgate, I have been provided numerous opportunities to learn the dynamics of becoming a school administrator,” Mr. Wagstaff said. “I’m now looking forward to working with the middle school students and staff. This is a unique opportunity and I hope to continue enhancing my skillsets and experience as a school leader.”

Mr. Wagstaff will be job shadowing Mr. Long until his anticipated final day on April 19. At that time, Mr. Wagstaff will take over the full responsibilities of the position until June 10.

Mr. Long said it was a privilege to serve at Northgate as both the middle school principal and federal programs director, and he thanked the entire community for its support.

“I appreciate the opportunity to have served the middle school students, teachers, and families of our district,” Mr. Long said. “The support, trust, and kindness that the Northgate students, teachers, families, board members, and administration have given me over the past three years have been simply amazing. I am a better person and a better leader for having worked at Northgate and I hope that my time in the district has made a positive impact on our students, teachers, and middle school culture. My experiences here in Bellevue and Avalon will be carried in my heart and my head as I move forward in the next chapter of my life.”

Students and an adivsory pose with a trophy

Bellevue Elementary School's 4th grade team won 1st place in its division in the balsa wood structure problem at the Western PA Odyssey of the Mind Regional Tournament. They are now heading to PA State Finals alongside the Avalon Elementary School 6th grade Division II balsa wood structure team and the 7th & 8th grade Northgate Middle School team, which solved the vehicle problem.

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