Legislature shaking up testing In West Virginia classrooms: Committee passes ACT testing bill

By JOCEYLN KING

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Legislation that replaces the current form of standardized testing in West Virginia with ACT testing passed its first hurdle Thursday in Charleston.

Members of the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 18 by voice vote, sending it next to the Senate Finance Committee. The measure directs the West Virginia Board of Education to begin administering the ACT and ACT Aspire assessments beginning with the 2017-2018 school year as the state’s “comprehensive statewide student assessment.”

The legislation also eliminates the Smarter Balanced Assessment as West Virginia’s statewide assessment program.

Gov. Jim Justice, in his State of the State Address this month, called for public schools to stop using the Smarter Balanced test, which is only in its second year of use in the state. An amendment to SB 18 added in committee Thursday requires the ACT testing to be used for at least the next four years.

Committee members on Thursday also discussed Senate Bill 251, a bill directing the State Department of Education to develop a three-year pilot program to establish school-based mental and behavioral health services for students and families as an alternative to disciplinary measures.

The committee opted to hold off on a vote on the legislation as more facts and figures about the pilot program are gathered, including how many schools would be eligible to participate. There is not yet a fiscal note attached to the bill.

Under the measure, the program would receive referrals from schools for students who violate the disciplinary code, as well as from the legal system. Judges and magistrates would be permitted to send juveniles for treatment in the program.

The students and their families would be able to opt out of the program in lieu of traditional punishments if the student was referred by a school. They would not have this option if the referral came from the courts.

“When I was in school, I used to get paddled,” Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said.

“When we misbehaved we would be held after school, or have to write sentences or miss recess. I guess you can’t do any of those anymore. Is everyone who misbehaves automatically in the program of mental counseling? Unless if they don’t want to do that, they can take the discipline? I want to know how this is going to work on the ground.”

Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, said discipline would have to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“I know I’d have been there with Mike when I was in school,” he said. “I had no personal issues. I just got out of line once in a while.”

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