Above Average Not Good Enough

With release of standardized test scores for county school districts still a few weeks away, we already are hearing the same boast we did last year: Our scores are above state averages.

Not good enough. On average, public school students in West Virginia perform far below most of their peers elsewhere in the country, on assessments of academic achievements for which state-by-state comparisons are possible. Here in the Mountain State, saying a school system’s performance is above average isn’t saying much.

State-level results of standardized testing last year have been released, as we reported Saturday. The good news is that students in general seem to have done better on mathematics than in the past.

But the bad news is that, in general, language arts scores were down in comparison to the previous year.

The even worse news is that according to the state’s own definition of “proficiency,” fewer than half the students taking the test — far fewer, in some categories — achieved test scores at the “proficient” level. Just 22 percent of 11th-graders scored that well on math.

State public education officials continue to experiment both with better ways of teaching children and improved methods of assessing their performance. One big change is that the standardized test used for three years is gone. Beginning this school year, a different assessment tool will be utilized.

School officials in both Ohio and Marshall counties told our reporter they were pleased their students have shown improvement, compared to the previous year’s tests. That certainly is good to hear. No one should expect a 180-degree turnaround overnight. Getting our schools headed in the right direction shows progress is being made.

Detailed information to be released soon, on how students performed in each county and at individual schools, will tell the tale — or at least part of it — on where progress is being made and where not enough reform has been accomplished. Where serious deficiencies exist, they simply must be addressed decisively, and not just with excuses or mere promises.