State unveils A-F grades for schools

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State unveils A-F grades for schools
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

After delays that officials attributed to standardized test and federal school accountability changes, the West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday finally fully answered Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s request in his January 2014 State of the State address for it to establish an A-F grading system for entire schools.

The state school board’s vote to approve the school ratings was 7-0. Tom Campbell and Gayle Manchin were the only board members absent.

The A-F system has received opposition from superintendents, principals and teachers.

“The West Virginia Education Association and its members have opposed the A-F grading system from the beginning,” Dale Lee, president of that school employees union, said at a press conference Tuesday. “We have spoken before the state board numerous times to express our members’ concerns over a misguided representation of what education is about.”

Most of schools’ letter grades are based on students’ scores, and their growth in those scores, on the annual Smarter Balanced end-of-year standardized tests in math and English language arts. That test has received criticism from those same groups.

“The school letter grade is a means of narrowly defining schools’ success chiefly based upon student standardized test scores in select subjects,” Lee said. “Our schools have too many variables, too many moving parts, too many different components that make up what happens each day in our public schools. ... It is foolish to believe that student test scores are clearly and singularly connected to the school and the community."

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