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Some counties stick with testing schedule despite missed days

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Some counties stick with testing schedule despite missed days
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Students in some county school systems in West Virginia have started  taking the annual standardized tests even though their school years now won’t until at least mid-June.

The year-end dates were moved back to allow for makeup days necessitated by winter weather cancellations. The state Board of Education denied waiver requests made by 27 counties, mandating the school systems complete the necessary 180 days of instruction.

State Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Clayton Burch said some of those counties will now have standardized testing later.

“You want to have maximum instruction. You want to have as much time possible to target as great a percentage of those standards before children enter that test,” Burch said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

But some counties ending the school year deep into June have decided to retain their original testing dates. For some counties it could mean as many as six weeks of school after the testing is over.

Burch said the extra time should be used for instruction.

“The test does not mark the end of something,” he said. “The test is a temperature of how we’re doing, how we can improve the system. We still got to prepare a child that’s in fourth grade—they are going to progress to fifth grade. We have to continue that instruction.

“We’re getting away from this idea that we do standardized test and the year is done,” he said. “We hope that it is becoming part of instruction and children are starting to see it as what they are doing throughout the school year.”

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said the testing should be moved back. He said the testing shouldn’t take place until 80 percent of the material has been covered. Lee also said there are technical problems with the online testing, because schools don’t have enough computers or adequate broadband service.

Some students don’t want to take the test at all because of its connection to the controversial Common Core teaching standards. Nearly 200 students at Spring Valley High School in Wayne County have submitted paperwork “opting out” of the test, though Burch said the state has no opt-out policy.

He warned that not taking the tests could hurt the students down the road.

“What’s next? What happens when those students go to take the ACT or the SAT to do entrance into higher education? The ACT and SAT are aligned to those same standards,” Burch said. “We’re asked continually to improve the education system. We test to gather data on how to improve the system and without data that’s very difficult to do.”

The school systems are given a 36-day window to conduct the tests for students in grades three through 11. Each student has seven testing sessions using computers in the schools. The students are this year being tested on English and math.

Students in the fourth, sixth and 10th grades also are tested in science. The state school board waived social studies testing this year.