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Wheeling paper’s FOIA reveals low test scores

WHEELING, W.Va. — Northern Panhandle public school districts fared poorly on West Virginia’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, a review by the Sunday News-Register indicates.

In both math and reading, students from Hancock to Tyler counties struggled to meet basic proficiency levels, the scores indicate. For example, in both Tyler and Wetzel counties, only 7 percent of 10th-grade students met proficiency in mathematics. In reading, only 41 percent of Marshall County’s 11th-graders – now seniors at either John Marshall or Cameron – achieved proficiency.

The Sunday News-Register filed a Freedom of Information request for the test scores with the West Virginia Department of Education in early September, and received them late last week.

Proficiency in a subject is determined by a score of 3 or 4 on the test, which is based on a 1 to 4 scale.

Students who score a 1 or 2 in a subject are deemed not proficient.

Students in grades three through 11 were tested in math and reading. Students in grades four, six and 10 also were tested in science.

When it comes to the results, there are numerous areas of concern for local school districts. For example, at Magnolia High School in Wetzel County, only 1 percent of ninth-graders and 4 percent of 10th graders were proficient in mathematics.

At John Marshall High School, only 11 percent of 11th graders were proficient in math, and 37 percent were proficient in reading.

The school’s 10th graders fared little better, with 13 percent proficient in math and 38 percent proficient in reading.

In Brooke County, which over the past decade or so has performed well in the West Virginia Math Field Day competition, the Smarter Balanced math results did anything but add up.

Only 18 percent of sixth-graders were proficient in math, along with 19 percent of eighth- and ninth-graders and 16 percent in the 10th grade.

Ohio County Schools fared above the state average in both math and reading, but the results remain a concern. Proficiency in mathematics, for one, declined in every grade tested in Ohio County from third through seventh, remained steady in grade eight and then declined again in grades nine and 10 before rising slightly in grade 11.

Other school districts, such as Marshall County, saw overall poor performance from all grades. Not a single grade in Marshall County had a proficiency level for math or reading above 50 percent, the only local district with such a result.

As for high points, 70 percent of Tyler County’s fifth-graders scored proficient in reading, with 62 percent of 11th-graders also proficient in reading. Tyler County also had the highest level of math proficiency, with 64 percent of third-graders in the small county scoring proficient.

Science also saw its share of poor results on the test. In Marshall County, 29 percent of 10th-graders were proficient, while in Hancock County, 42 percent of 10th-graders scored proficient.

Ohio County saw 51 percent of its 10th-graders score proficient, with Brooke at 33 percent proficiency for 10th-graders, Tyler 32 percent proficiency and Wetzel, 31 percent.

The numbers are the numbers, but interpreting them in terms of overall student performance is another matter.

In a deposition before Wheeling attorney David Delk, who is suing Ohio County Schools over access to the questions on the Smarter Balanced test, Sue McGuier, director of assessment and federal grants for the district, admitted the school district did not have access to the test questions.

“We have no way of knowing what was on the test,” she said in reference to a question about which mathematical concepts were tested.

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