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Paine believes consistency in policy is key to raise NAEP scores

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine says it’s going to take consistency and accountability to see improvement in the state’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores.

Paine appeared on a recent episode of MetroNews ‘Talkline’ to discuss the NAEP results that showed the Mountain State to be one of three states to have a significant drop in fourth-graders’ math scores.

He cited research by Professor of Education Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Linda Darling-Hammond, by saying that it takes three years for state policy to impact state achievement. Paine has been in the position since April 2017, saying the results reflect the policies in place in 2016.

Paine further said that he heard during the recent educational listening tours that keeping the same goals in place hasn’t been done in years.

Steve Paine

“I wish I had a nickel every time somebody said ‘Could you just leave us alone in terms of the stability. Keep our standards where they are, keep our assessments where they are, keep our accountability system where it is, the balanced scorecard, and don’t change it for about five or six years so we know how to play by the rules,'” he said.

Mississippi has seen steady gains in NAEP scores and has had the same state superintendent and board of education for six years, according to Paine. Mississippi averaged 241 on the 500-point scale for fourth-grade testing, one point above the national average.

West Virginia’s 2019 average score for fourth-graders totaled 231, the lowest score for the state since 2005. Paine said on ‘Talkline’ that the state will see increases in the 2021 results, as the test results are shown every two years.

“The results will get better and I will just about guarantee we will see increases in two years,” he said. “We are doing all the right things. Right now what we need is everyone not to pile on the negativity of the results. Everybody, let’s band together, stay the course, let us move this system forward together. It will happen.”

Paine added that the board of education is creating a policy going forward in December that will hold local school boards and superintendents accountable for results, both in NAEP testing and in attendance, which can cause scores to drop.

“Those local boards and superintendents in this policy are going to be held accountable to have student achievement discussions with individual schools at their board meetings,” he said. “There needs to be transparency and meaningful discussion about academics.”

Paine was also critical of the 2019 results, which showed West Virginia eighth-graders averaging a 272 in math which was nine points below the national average.

Eighth-grader scores in reading in the state saw a drop of three points from 2017 to 2019 to an average of 256. The nation’s average in this category is 262, which also saw a drop of three points.

Paine said that the test scores are not a fair comparison for the state to be ranked based on the sample size, which he said were less than 1-percent of kids in a random sample population. He further said that there were more children in a special education background tested in Grade 4, which “typically don’t perform as well on standardized testing.”

“There’s so much of this that needs to be shared out the entire educational community, including the DHHR and others with social-emotional mental health issues,” Paine said. “The opioid crisis has caused a spike in the number of kids in special education, and that’s well documented. I’m not trying to make excuses but I’d like to put this in the right context.”

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