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First A-F school report cards out next month for public schools

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First A-F school report cards out next month for public schools
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The question of how West Virginia’s individual schools are doing will be answered next month when the first report cards for the Mountain State’s public schools are released.

On Nov. 10, A-F grades will be announced publicly for each school as part of the new West Virginia A-F School Accountability System initially created in the 2013 education reform law to track student learning, growth and achievement.

What are going to be annual grades, according to Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent of schools, would be “truly representative” by measuring student performance, improvement, persistence and post-secondary readiness on multiple fronts.

Areas of success and areas needing improvement will be identified using the A-F grades, he said.

Resources from the county, regional and state levels are then to be provided to address the specific places where individual schools are falling short.

“When we talk about the long-term gain, in terms of our long-range plan, this is what it’s all about — using that data from year to year to make improvements so it’s equitable and there’s a level of access for all students,” Martirano said.

“We’re on the vanguard of some really great work here in West Virginia for years to come.”

The school report cards are based on the following components:

Performance

– The percentage of students who met grade level expectations in math and English-language arts on state assessments. Reading achievement for 3rd graders and math achievement for 8th graders is also measured.

Improvement

– The percentage of students who are improving and the percentage of students on track to reach grade-level expectations in math and English-language arts.

Persistence

– The percentage of students participating in learning opportunities and graduating on time as measured by attendance and graduation rates, and the reduction of the number of students at-risk for dropping out.

Post-Secondary Readiness

– The percentage of students passing Advanced Placement of International Baccalaureate tests, scoring well in college-credit bearing courses, or completing a Career and Technical Education concentration.

School grades are determined based on 83 percent student performance metrics and 17 percent non-performance items, officials with the state Department of Education have said.

Of the 83 percent student performance, 55 percent is based on growth and 45 percent is based on proficiency. The 17 percent non-performance items consider items like attendance, graduation rates, passage of Advanced Placement exams and dual-credit courses.

In terms of grades, elementary schools are being graded on 1,200 point scales while high school grades are being determined using 1,500 point scales.

The individual grades break down like this:

A: Schools with distinctive student performance
B: Schools with commendable student performance
C: Schools with acceptable student performance
D: Schools with unacceptable student performance
F: Schools with lowest student performance

After being calculated by the West Virginia Department of Education, each school’s performance rating is verified by the West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audits through the accreditation process.

The grades then go to schools, county school systems and communities.

States already using A-F school grading systems are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the West Virginia Department of Education.

It’s taken years to develop and implement the Mountain State’s school grading system which has been called “a new and better way of measuring and reporting school performance each year.”

The state Board of Education approved a policy for school grading in May 2014 at the urging of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in his State of the State Address that year.

In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act as the replacement for No Child Left Behind. Its requirements included state-determined school accountability systems based on multiple measures.

An amended accountability policy in West Virginia was then adopted in June of this year.

“The more young people that graduate college and career ready, the better off we’ll be and we’re right there and we’re so proud of the work,” Martirano said last week as he stood alongside U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. in Charleston.

Coming up this week, Martirano is scheduled to announce graduation rates for West Virginia’s Class of 2016. The graduation rate for the Class of 2015 was 86.5 percent, high enough to put the Mountain State at #18 nationally.

The new numbers, Martirano promised, would be “even better.”

“Sometimes we talk about our state from the fact of deficits in terms of education, we need to talk about our strengths,” he said. “There are some many wonderful things occurring in West Virginia.”