The West Virginia Department of Education recently released the state-wide accountability scores for all the schools in the state. The new accountability system grades scores A through F according to several components.
Marlinton Middle School received a B, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Hillsboro Elementary School and Pocahontas County High School received C grades; and Marlinton Elementary School received a D.
Pocahontas County Schools superintendent Terrence Beam said the schools are graded on a bell curve on criteria selected by the state.
For elementary and middle schools, the highest score is 1,200 and that is based on: attendance, grade level achievement scores in English/Language Arts and Math, third grade reading scores, eighth grade math scores and the percentage of students improving their scores from year-to-year.
High schools may receive a score up to 1,500 and are graded on: attendance, number of students graduating on time, the reduction of dropouts from year-to-year, the percentage of students who pass dual credit courses or Advanced Placement courses and completers in Career and Technical Education [CTE] courses.
Beam said while it is important to have accountability scores for the schools, he and other superintendents in the state disagree with the criteria on which schools are graded.
“The superintendents have gone to the state board, and are going to ask the legislature and the state board not to use this system,” he said. “It is so unfair for a lot of reasons. I think the percentage of students improving their score from year-to-year is a little unfair. If you have a high achieving score or a high achieving school one year, you don’t have a lot of room to grow, so it shows little growth and that drops your score down.”
Throughout the state, Beam said there are several school grades which shocked him because he knows they are good schools with stellar students.
“I know of schools that are Schools of Excellence, exemplary schools throughout the state that are C schools because they couldn’t grow like the others,” he said. “If you start out with really low scores, you’ve got room to grow a lot. That is kind of misleading I think.”
Now that the scores have been determined, Beam said it is time to find ways to improve them for next year.
“I think you’re going to hear the majority of [principals] say our third grade reading scores are not very good,” he said. “We’ve got to do more for our kindergarten, first grade and second grade students to get them to grade level quicker than we’re getting them there.”
With the hiring of Math Coach Joanna Burt-Kinderman six years ago, the math scores in the county have improved dramatically, and Beam thinks it is time to find a coach who can do the same for students struggling with reading.
“We’ve tried for several years now to figure out a way to hire an ELA coach that would serve in the same capacity as what Joanna does with our math students,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success with that program and we’d like to do that with ELA. There’s no magic pill you take. It’s a process. If we would happen to go down that road of finding an ELA coach, the first thing you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to find the right person for that job. Then, second, you’ve got to have patience to give them the chance to develop that program.”
Beam said that teachers, students and parents should not get discouraged by the grades the schools received because he knows those grades aren’t an accurate reflection of the schools.
“We’re not criticizing Marlinton Elementary in any way for having a D score because they had no idea – first of all, how this score was going to be achieved – so how do you prepare for something when you don’t even know what the rules are?” Beam said. “It’s not fair to say Marlinton Elementary has major problems. That’s simply not the case.
“If Marlinton Elementary School had students that were really achieving well and they did not improve much, then it hurts their school because they’re not showing any growth whereas if you have another school that had all low scores and they all moved up a little bit, then that shows great growth,” he continued. “So you’ve got to be really careful on judging these schools by their grade. I just don’t want our citizens to overreact to these scores.”
Much like with the former accountability grading system, the State Department of Education will provide funding for schools with D and F grades in order to help the schools provide programs and intervention for struggling students.
“There will be money for the D and F schools to start off with,” Beam said. “I’m sure that we’ll be getting some help for Marlinton Elementary School through the state department in some way. I’m sure there will be trainings and workshops on how we get the money and how that money is to be used.”