CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A public comment period lasting 30 days begins Tuesday for West Virginia’s proposed state education plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a proposal that’s been the focus of a series of statewide meetings this summer.
In general, it covers four areas in public education: academic standards, statewide assessments, school accountability systems and support for struggling schools.
In West Virginia, the areas getting the most public attention have been assessments and accountability.
As proposed in the new accountability system, every public school will no longer be graded using grades of “A” through “F.”
Instead, five specific criteria will each receive one of four levels of classifications: “distinguished,” “accomplished,” “emerging” and “unsatisfactory.”
“What we’re really trying to do is create for each school in West Virginia what we’re calling ‘a balanced scorecard,'” explained Kristin Anderson, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Education.
“Parents, community members, educators will be able to look at their school’s balanced scorecard and see how they’re doing among those five indicators.”
As proposed, the five criteria are proficiency in English and math through statewide testing, student progression in school, high school graduation rates, English proficiency among non-native speakers and attendance and behavior.
Earlier this year, the state Board of Education, with new members appointed under Governor Jim Justice, voted to end the previous “A-F School Accountability System” after just one year of such letter grades.
Anderson said the biggest criticisms of that system were that letter grades did provide comprehensive pictures of school performance.
“Maybe a school earned a ‘D,’ but certainly there are things within that school or areas in that school that are bright spots or areas where they are succeeding or areas that they should be proud of,” she said.
“But because they had that overall letter grade of a ‘D,’ those areas were not necessarily recognized or talked about.”
The change, Anderson told MetroNews, would potentially allow for targeted support and the creation of networks of schools dealing with similar issues.
As for assessments, during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, lawmakers passed HB 2711, a broad education bill which, among many others measures, eliminated Smarter Balanced testing, the mechanism for measuring Common Core standards.
Bids for new, alternative tests are currently being reviewed and the winning bidders are scheduled to be announced in early September, according to Anderson.
Instead of Smarter Balanced, students in 11th grade will be taking college entrance tests, either an SAT or ACT as required by law, in Spring 2018 to gauge proficiency in English and mat.
New test forms will also be in place at that time for English and math in grades 3-8.
The final test results from Smarter Balanced, out of tests taken last spring, will be released in August.
Education officials in all 50 states are required to submit plans to the U.S. Department of Education that outline the foundational pieces of their public educational systems.
West Virginia’s submission is due Sept. 18. After that, the federal government has 150 days to provide feedback or request revisions.
The public hearings on the Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement for No Child Left Behind, wrapped up last week in Greenbrier County.
“For those people that weren’t able to attend a public meeting or haven’t had a chance to give input on the plan, they still will have another chance during the month of August, during this public comment period,” Anderson said.
Beginning Tuesday, public comments on West Virginia’s proposed ESSA plan can be submitted via the West Virginia Department of Education’s website.