Few W.Va. Schools Meeting Required Goals

WHEELING – More than two-thirds of high schools in the Northern Panhandle will receive additional support from state and regional officials because they failed to meet goals for attendance, graduation rate or academic success.

The West Virginia Department of Education released data from its new accountability system Wednesday, showing a majority of the state’s public schools failed to meet those goals. State schools Superintendent Jim Phares said the evaluation system gives parents a more accurate picture of how their children and schools are doing.

The system replaces federal yearly progress requirements of No Child Left Behind. In May, West Virginia won approval of its own method for identifying struggling schools and devoting resources to improve them.

Using data based on a majority of students tested in fourth through 10th grades, the state system puts each school in one of five categories, with a “success” ranking at the top and a “priority” ranking indicating areas that require the most improvement and resources.

Of the 11 high schools in the panhandle, three received the “success” designation – Cameron, Tyler Consolidated and Paden City. Students at these schools met academic goals in math and language arts, and the schools reached goals in attendance or graduation rate, student academic growth and student success on WESTEST 2. Also, learning gaps between student groups are small at these schools.

Statewide, the report says 184 schools, or 28 percent, were in that category.

Four other local high schools – Wheeling Park, Oak Glen, Magnolia and Valley – were deemed “transition” schools. These schools met some, but not all, of those same goals. As a result, they will receive additional support from their Regional Education Service Agency and the Department of Education. These schools must complete a targeted strategic plan and be monitored occasionally for progress. They may partner with the local RESA and others to provide professional development, technical assistance and interventions and must show progress in student achievement each year to maintain or improve this status.

The transition category included 251 schools, or 38 percent, across the state.

Finally, John Marshall, Brooke, Weir and Hundred high schools received “support” designations, meaning the majority of student groups at these schools did not meet annual academic goals and that the schools failed to reach goals in attendance or graduation rates, student academic growth, student success on WESTEST 2. Learning gaps exist between student groups at these schools.

“Support” schools will be monitored and must partner with their local RESA on an improvement plan. The support category lists 89 schools, or 14 percent, statewide that aren’t going in the right direction and need help in every area.

Local elementary and middle schools range from “success” to “support status, with some falling under the “focus” category. “Focus” schools show learning gaps between student groups based on the WESTEST 2 that are too large. There are no “priority” schools – the lowest performing schools in the state – in the Northern Panhandle.

According to data from the annual WESTEST 2 standardized test, 46 percent of state students were proficient in math, down slightly from last year; and 49 percent were proficient in reading, up slightly from 2012. The new accountability system shows that of those students meeting proficiency levels, 64 percent are keeping up or will exceed growth expectations in math, and 70 percent will do so in reading.