West Virginia Schools Show Improvement on Latest Performance Data

The release of school performance data in West Virginia brought good news to many districts around the state. According to the State Department of Education report, nearly a quarter of the schools hit the achievement and improved performance benchmarks set by the state, while another 40% fell short but still showed improvement over last year. The results are based on scores from standardized tests taken by the students last year.

According to Shay Maunz of the Charleston Daily Mail, parents and other interested parties will be able to look up the data on the website that went live at the same time that the results were released. This is the first set of performance results released as part of the state's new accountability system designed to comply with the terms of West Virginia's waiver from the provisions of No Child Left Behind Act.

That new system, part of which is called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver, places every school in one of five categories: each school is labeled as a Success, Transition, Focus, Support or Priority School.

Success and Transition schools show at least some achievement that is on target. Support and Priority schools fail to log achievement that meets those targets — to be labeled a Priority a school must also be persistently one of the lowest performing in the state, with sub-par performance over the last three years.

Focus schools show large gaps in achievement between subgroups, like differences in the performance of poor students and their peers that come for a more favorable socioeconomic background.

The system looks not only at student test results but also compares their progress to the degree of improvement the state considers "adequate," which means that students in high-performing schools must meet tougher performance standards than their peers from districts or schools that don't perform quite as well.

Although almost all demographic groups showed academic improvement over last year, the man in charge, State Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares, called the improvements "too small."

Of the 133,000 students tested last year, 46 percent were proficient in math. Results showed disparities between average students and their peers in specially identified subgroups though: only 33 percent of African-American students were proficient in math, 39 percent of students from homes with low socioeconomic status and 20 percent of special education students.

In reading, 49 percent of all students were proficient — 39 percent of African-American students, 41 percent of low socioeconomic status students and 17 percent of special education students.

The same data show that fewer students met the proficiency mark in 2013 than in 2012.

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