PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – Wood County students have missed a dozen school days this semester and February isn’t even over. Between frigid temperatures and snow, it’s been tough to get kids in class.

It’s posed a problem preparing for the annual West Virginia Educational Standards Test or Westest. The West Virginia Department of Education stresses educators don’t teach to the test. However, students do have to be prepared for the exam.

Wood County Superintendent Patrick Law said the test is now upon them.

“We’ve continued to miss days right up to the start of the writing assessment, which is part of the overall score for the Westest,” Law said. “So there’s even less time to help prepare those students for that portion of the test.”

Some Wood County students have already started their writing assessment, others will begin in the coming days. The field test portion of the exam begins mid-March.

Law said the advice he’s given teachers to help them prepare their students is simple.

“Make use of your time as best you can. You don’t waste any time. Use every minute available.”

Law explained that while the Westest should be used as a way to help individual students identify where they need to improve, it’s become a test that now measures the school as a whole.

He said he’s hoping for a less wintery school schedule in order to get in as many instructional days as possible.

“Keep our fingers crossed, knock on wood and rub our lucky rabbit feet,” laughed Law.

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  • Independent View

    To: "a concerned educator" I agree with your statement: "Before we start firing teachers over WESTEST scores, let's take a look at what is involved."
    Teachers should not be fired for their students
    doing poorly on WESTEST. Teachers should be taking a competancy test and subject to an annual evaluation by an independent body--not teachers evaluating teachers. We've had decades of the fox watching watching the hen house and that arrangement does not work.
    Until there is a two-fold approach: first, stop measuring student progress or lack of it by using one test result and secondly, evaluate teachers annually and build accountability into the system.
    The $1k raise that the legislature is obviously going to grant (it's an election year too) feeds a system that rewards the worst teachers the same as the best. Where is the incentive for good teachers to excel when they are paid the same as the worst teacher in the next classrom? What a ridiculous system doomed to fail as it has!

    • a concerned educator

      Independent View

      To be able to teach in WV, as well as all states, all teachers must pass multiple competency tests. In WV, they are known as the PRAXIS II Exams. However, once a teacher is hired, there are no additional exams. I agree with you that a more stringent teacher evaluation system needs to be developed, just not one that is based on WESTEST scores.

      One thing that needs to happen is that when a principal sees a teacher not doing their job, the teacher should be put on an immediate improvement plan. If they do not improve within say one month, they should be fired. If the teachers improves, but the same or similar behaviors occur again, the teacher should be fired. I agree that the unions are problematic in the removal of incompetent teachers.

  • Mom

    Several valid points for and against the WESTEST. As children we all knew there would be a standardized test at some point in the year, but I don't ever remember spending the whole year "preparing". I happen to have a child that is a wonderful student, does amazing things in the classroom, but does terrible on these tests. And I believe it has to do with the teachers who put pressure on the kids about being prepared for the test. Just teach!!!

    • Mom

      AND.....after having all those snow days my child came home without any homework!!!!! I was shocked, I would think the teachers would have piled on some work sheets or something to at least try and move a little faster!!!1

  • Brian

    Not enough school time? Anyone hear of homework? What better way to prepare our future workforce than work ethics that teach that sometimes your workdays aren't limited 9-5. Send study/test prep assignments home and spend class time hitting the difficult subjects or prep tests. It's not that difficult, just takes some initiative of the student which appears to be lacking if learning solely exists in the classroom as educators seem to fret as the case.

  • Mark

    I would hope that Dr. Phares would strongly consider applying for a waiver from the feds. Days missed due to water issues plus snow days will make it very difficult for teachers and students to prepare. An accurate account of learning may be impossible to attain this year.

  • a concerned educator

    Before we start firing teachers over WESTEST scores, let's take a look at what is involved. Up until this year, we have been talking about one set of tests over a window of two weeks. This is not a valid assessment of a student's, let alone a school's, overall ability. Some schools, and classrooms, have more students with disabilities and some schools have more students who are poor. Both of these are groups often score lower on all tests, let alone a standardized test such as the WESTEST. How many of the readers of Hoppy's column do not believe that the scores they had on the ACT or SAT or any other standardized test are truly indicative of their ability. Just last week, a major study came out indicating the the SAT is not a good indicator of college success.

    There are too many mitigating factors above and beyond what a teacher does to place the full blame or job evaluation on the teacher for WESTEST scores. I am not saying that there are not teachers who need to be fired because I believe there are. However, a test score alone cannot be a valid assessment of a teacher's performance.

  • dan the man

    But, but....we must have 180 days of instruction in order for kids to do well on Westest. Schools with Block scheduling are only in the 6th week of the new semester. High School teachers and their students are clearly at a disadvantage.

    The leaders of this state make ignorant decisions.

  • Eddie

    Take away spring break.

    Wait, can't do that. Teachers will throw a hissy fit.

  • Marco

    From the headline, sounds like we are teaching for the test and not concept and understanding??

  • Herb

    Why can the test not be pushed back to reflect days missed?

    • rick g

      the entire west test is now online, so instead of being a busy week, the testing windows for the various state and federal tests are now bigger so schools can get all their kids through multiple subject exams on the limited computers each given school has. Each testing window is right up against another so there is limited wiggle room

  • Independent View

    What is the goal here, turning out good test takers or students that have mastered mathematics, have good communication skills and Johnnies that can read?
    The WESTEST is more about teachers and educators being provided a vehicle which they hope will have positive results to point to and say, "education in WV has turned the corner and we are on our way to success."
    In this posters opinion, the wrong group is being tested. Teachers should be tested and given an annual competency test, with pay raises tied to a valid and credible evaluation system. But, their unions will never allow accountability.

    • dan the man

      No disrespect intended "independent view". But would you want your salary or job to depend on the work ethic, behavior, or attitude of a child between the age of 9-17.

      These test will never be valid because by the time kids reach middle school they realize that these test mean nothing to them.

      • Leo

        You are completely correct on both comments. We have had kids do the same because they didn't like a particular teacher. They also know these tests mean nothing and are only used to measure a teachers success. I agree that they should be held back as many times as needed when they don't succeed and maybe, just maybe they will start working.

      • dan the man

        Several states in the United States used NCLB to ensure students are not missing what they need to learn.

        We need accountability with students and teachers. Students must have a specific GPA and Westest score before they move on to the next grade level. If they know they will be retained in current grade level if they score below masterly on the standardized test then perhaps they will actually read the questions before they bubble in their guess.

        Likewise, once the test takers are held accountable then the teacher effectiveness can be judge appropriately.

        I have heard stories where students intentionally bombed a content area on the westest because they wanted to get a teacher, a very strong disciplinarian, to get fired. Because the teacher wouldn't let them get away with acting inappropriately.

    • Eddie

      I agree wholeheartedly. However, it's not the unions completely at fault. It's the politicians who allow the unions to push them around. Of course, you have those same politicians who suck up the unions being re-elected every election cycle.

      People need to start paying attention to what their delegates do and get rid of the teacher union suck ups.