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WV officials reveal new school evaluation system

By BISHOP NASH

The Herald-Dispatch

ONA, W.Va. — State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine joked that nothing had brought West Virginia’s counties together more than a combined disdain for the “A through F” grading measures imposed on the state’s roughly 700 public schools.

After several months hammering out a replacement for “A through F,” the West Virginia Department of Education revealed the final draft of its new school accountability system Wednesday evening at a public information meeting at Cabell Midland High School in Ona.

All 50 states are required to submit an accountability system to the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed in 2015 as a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. The act is a symbolic shift from broad federal oversight to allow for more discretion at the state and county levels, said Kristin Anderson, communications director for the state Department of Education.

“You’ll see that West Virginia is taking advantage of a lot of the flexibility the federal government is giving us,” Anderson said.

Each public school will be evaluated on five criteria: proficiency in English and math via statewide testing, student progression toward college or career readiness, high school graduation rate, English proficiency among non-native speakers (an estimated 2,000 students in West Virginia), and attendance and behavior.

Each criterion will be graded at four levels, from highest to lowest: distinguished, accomplished, emerging and unsatisfactory.

The department has toured the proposed system across the state seeking public input over the past month, Anderson said, with most public interest generated by the possibility of replacing “A through F.”

“Throughout the summer, we felt it was important to provide time for the general public to come ask us questions and give input on the plan,” Anderson said. “We’ve had really good dialogue with parents, educators and community members.”

Dozens of local education professionals heard the department’s proposal and offered their own feedback. Newly appointed Cabell County Superintendent Ryan Saxe commented on the plan’s attention to high school graduation rates, noting students should not feel discouraged should they require extra time to graduate.

“We do not want to let them down and not allow them the opportunity to count for something in that fifth year if they have to continue their education in order to graduate and have that diploma,” Saxe said.

“Every day they’re not there, they’re missing knowledge and they’re not going to be able to catch up because they never heard the information to start with,” Nance said.

West Virginia State Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Cabell, voiced his support of the proposed system, calling it a chance to “get away from the strong arm of the federal government.”

The full proposed accountability system will be published next week on the department’s website and will be open to public comment for 30 days. The plan will be submitted to the federal government for review on Sept. 18.

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