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West Virginia students make modest improvement on standardized testing

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West Virginia students make modest improvement on standardized testing
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

West Virginia students made a minor improvement in 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment testing, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

The data showed that math proficiency improved from last year’s 26 percent to 30 percent while English-language arts scores improved from 45 percent in 2015 to 47 percent.

MORE Read Smarter Balanced test results here

WVDE Executive Director of Communications Kristin Anderson said the scores in year two of the test are preliminary, but the math improvement is a number to be proud of.

“You have to think about where we started. We knew that in one year we were probably not going to jump 10 or 20 percentage points on proficiency,” she said. “But to see that 5 percent jump, we’re really pleased with that.”

WVDE Office of Assessment Director Dr. Vaughn Rhudy said there were many possible reasons for improved scores, especially that the test was no longer new to students and teachers.

“Students are getting used to the test. This is the second year so they are getting more familiar with the test and the test items,” he said. “We do have quite a few innovative items on this particular test. The teachers are more familiar with it. They’ve become familiar with the way the test is administered.”

Time spent on the test was close to the estimated amount in grades 3-5, but dropped off in middle school and even more so among high school students. Rhudy said time spent on the test largely varies from student to student, but it is a cause for concern.

“Exactly what the reason for that is, it could be some motivation factors and so forth. That is a great concern to us. We want to make sure that our students are spending whatever time is necessary (which) is going to depend on the individual student.”

Even for high school students, Rhudy said there’s a reason to take the Smarter Balanced seriously: students who score highly enough can avoid remedial courses in college.

“I’m not sure the word has gotten out completely to all of the high school students, especially grade 11 students that if they get a three or a four on the grade 11 test, that that will get them out of remedial courses in college,” he said. “I think we’re going to try to do more communication on that.”

Rhudy said there wasn’t a set number where the WVDE wants West Virginia students to be, but continued improvement was expected.

“We want to be as high as possible,” he said. “We would like for in each of our grade levels to be at least more than 50 percent. We’re moving toward that, particularly in ELA.”

The 2016 Smarter Balanced scores were released Wednesday at a meeting of the state Board of Education in Charleston.

The Smarter Balanced creates tests aligned with Common Core standards and is used by 17 U.S. states.