Failing grades for many WV public schools

The state Department of Education has released the first report card grading every public school in West Virginia, and in many cases it is not one you would want to take home to your parents.   I’ll get to the findings in a moment, but first some background.

The DoE developed the “Balanced Scorecard” to provide “a clear snapshot of school performance and growth from year to year.”   Each school is given one of four classifications—exceeds standard, meets standard, partially meets standard, does not meet standard—for academic achievement, student progress during the year, graduation rate, attendance, behavior and other areas.

This first report provides scorecards for every elementary, middle and high school in the state so parents, students, teachers and anyone else interested can see how their community schools are doing.  The report is well organized and you can click here to see how every school performed.

The math grades stand out because they are terrible.  Eighty-eight percent of the state’s 116 high schools fall in the “does not meet standard” category.   That rating “indicates that a school’s performance on a particular indicator is substantially below the expected level set by the State Board of Education.”

(The Board adopted the Balanced Scorecard system to replace the proposed A-F grading system, but if a school is “substantially below” expectations, that has to translate into a D or F.)

The scorecard shows middle and elementary schools are performing better than the high schools in math, but they still have a way to go.  Fifty-five percent of middle schools fall below standard, with 41 percent partially meeting the standard.  At the elementary level, 21 do not meet the accepted level, while 52 percent partially meet standard.

There is a clear lack of excellence on the math front.  Out of the 633 elementary, middle and high schools in West Virginia, only 104, or 16 percent, fall in the “meets standard” range, meaning the school’s performance is within expectations.  More troubling perhaps is that only three schools statewide (all elementary schools) exceeded the standard for math.

The English language arts grades are a little better.  At every level, a majority of the schools are at least partially meeting the benchmark.  However, twenty-one percent of the high schools, 24 percent of the middle schools and 16 percent of the grade schools are not meeting the standard.

Just as in math, excellence is missing. Just four of 633 schools exceeded the criterion in English language arts.  A total of 98 schools, or 15 percent, graded out as meeting the standard.

The scorecard indicates many schools have an issue with getting kids to show up, with the biggest problem in the higher grades. Half of the high schools in the state failed to meet the standard for attendance, while 41 percent partially met the expectation.  Just six of the 116 high schools graded out as meeting the set goal for attendance, while one school exceeded the standard.

The school accountability system is the initial attempt by the state Board of Education to evaluate all our schools and present the findings to the public. The Board deserves credit for taking a hard look at how our schools are doing and being a tough grader.  The findings are deeply concerning, but it would be more worrisome if there had been a Lake Woebegon effect and all schools were above average.

Now we have what appears to be an accurate baseline from which to build.  What gets measured gets done and, if the commitment is there, improved.  This scorecard shows our public schools have a lot of room for improvement.



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