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A-F School Grading Policy

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March 8, 2017

WVEA’s sustained opposition results in end to A-F school grading

WVEA’s lengthy, sustained effort to eliminate the state’s A-F school grading system and revise the statewide summative assessment program has proven successful. Thanks to each of you who voiced your opposition to the programs and helped to influence the decisions!

The state Board of Education decided at its March 8 meeting to waive Policy 2320 for the 2016-2017 school year, which means A-F grades of individual schools will not be released next fall. The waiver will allow the state Department of Education to develop a new school accountability system that meets the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

That follows the board’s decision at its February meeting to waive Smarter Balanced testing in grades 9 and 10 for English/language arts and math and do away with Smarter Balanced across all grades after the spring. In the meantime they will explore other testing options.

This action follows many years and months of opposition to A-F school grading and Smarter Balanced from WVEA and our members.

WVEA was the only statewide organization representing teachers and education employees to speak out publicly and consistently about our opposition to these policies. We strongly believe this opposition helped lead to these positive changes.

WVEA also spoke against a possible move toward end-of-course exams in high school. WVEA argued that no educators had been consulted about the change. The state board stripped end-of-course exam language from proposed policy changes last month.

WVEA has also encouraged the state board and the state superintendent to reconvene a stakeholder committee on assessments to study issues related to testing and come back with a long-term recommendation for statewide assessments.

Hopefully we will finally get an assessment program that works for us and we can stick with it for several years.

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A to F school grading policy in effect

The state Board of Education’s revisions to its A-F school grading policy (Policy 2320), which WVEA opposes, went into effect in November 2016, when schools received their first grades.

Schools received an A, B, C, D or F grade based on a scoring system approved by the state board. Too much of that scoring system depends on a student’s performance on the statewide summative assessment, which is currently the Smarter Balanced.

WVEA does not believe this accurately measures a school’s quality or performance. WVEA continues to oppose the A-F school grading system and the negative impact it could have on our schools and communities, and we have been publicly vocal in our opposition.

On Oct. 12 the state Board of Education set the cut scores for how to grade schools A, B, C, D or F. In this first year, schools were graded on a bell curve, meaning the majority of public schools in West Virginia (more than 53 percent) received a “C” grade.

Out of 668 public schools that received grades, 356 were given a "C." There were 45 schools given an "A" grade and 162 a "B" grade.    

Smarter Balanced test results from the spring of 2015 and the spring of 2016 make up most of a school's A-F score. Ninety schools were labeled "D" schools and 15 were labeled "F" schools.

High schools are graded somewhat differently than middle schools and elementary schools. High schools can receive a total of 1,500 points. Elementary and middle schools can receive up to 1,200 points.

Here is how High Schools will be scored:

| Math proficiency rate: Up to 250 points

| English proficiency rate: 250 points

| Observed Growth (actual growth of each student): 100 points in math

| Observed Growth: 100 points in English/LA

| Adequate Growth (determines whether observed growth is enough for students to reach grade-level expectations, or there is growth to standard): 100 points in English/LA

| Adequate Growth: 100 points in math

| Accelerated Improvement of Lowest 25% of students in math: 100 points

| Accelerated Improvement of Lowest 25% of students in English/LA: 100 points

| Reducing the number of students in the at-risk subgroup: 50 points

| Attendance: 50 points

| Combined College and Career Ready Indicators. Measures students achieving college ready benchmarks or earning college credit; measures the percentage of high school students who complete Career and Technical education concentrations: 150 points 

| Graduation Rates: 150 points

Here is how Elementary and Middle Schools will be scored:

| Math proficiency rate: 175 points

| English proficiency rate: 175 points

| Observed Growth (actual growth of each student): 100 points in math

| Observed Growth: 100 points in English/LA

| Adequate Growth (determines whether observed growth is enough for students to reach grade-level expectations, or there is growth to standard): 100 points in English

| Adequate Growth: 100 points in math

| Accelerated Improvement of Lowest 25% in math: 100 points

| Accelerated Improvement of Lowest 25% in English/LA: 100 points

| Reducing the number of students in the at-risk subgroup: 100 points

| Attendance: 100 points

| (ELEMENTARY ONLY): Below-standard third-grade reading rate (increasing the percentage of students scoring at or above standard in third-grade reading): 50 points

| (MIDDLE ONLY): Below standard eighth-grade mathematics rate (increasing the percentage of students scoring at or above standard in eighth-grade math): 50 points

    

WVEA believes that A-F will unfairly perpetuate the idea that many of our public schools are failing even though that is not the case.

There is the possibility of sending confusing, mixed messages to our students and communities. For instance, a West Virginia school that worked hard to close achievement gaps and had been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School could later be deemed a D or an F school if students struggle on their tests in a subsequent year.  

WVEA believes that A-F school grading continues a departure from the fundamental reasons for testing. Student assessments should not be about issuing letter grades for our schools or grading our teachers. The purpose of these assessments should be to inform instruction and collect data that allows our students and schools to improve.