By Beth Christian Broschart
West Virginia schools and students are learning the ABCs of the state's new accountability system as student performance results were unveiled this week throughout the state.
The new accountability system is the result of the state receiving flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, Adequate Yearly Progress is no longer the standard being used.
Schools are now designated to one of five categories: success, transition, focus, support or priority, with success being the highest designation possible and priority being the lowest.
In Randolph County, 71.4 percent of the schools were designated as either transition or success schools, while none were designated as priority schools.
School designations in Randolph County include Elkins High School, success; Coalton Elementary School, success; Tygarts Valley Middle High School, transition; Valley Head Elementary School, transition; Homestead Elementary School, transition; Jennings Randolph Elementary School, transition; Harman School, transition; Pickens School, transition; Third Ward Elementary School, transition; George Ward Elementary School, transition; Beverly Elementary School, focus; Midland Elementary School, focus; North Elementary School, support; and Elkins Middle School, focus.
Student growth in the area of mathematics was evident in many Randolph County schools. Areas for improvement in Randolph County schools include closing the achievement gaps between student subgroups, increasing graduation and attendance rates and increased academic growth for all students.
"We are very fortunate to have 10 of our 14 schools in the top two designations," said Terry George, Randolph County superintendent of schools. "We feel we have tremendous schools, staff and students. We have already started the process on the three focus schools by undertaking steps to improve student achievement. Everyone is striving to bring those schools in the top two designations as soon as possible."
Tucker County High School and Davis-Thomas Elementary Middle school were designated as transition schools, while Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School was designated as a focus school.
"The focus designation identified a specific subgroup of students not doing as well as the other," said Dr. Eddie Campbell, superintendent of Tucker County schools. "We have developed a procedure that we will follow for the next three years, taking steps to close that gap. We have started the process and will have a regional team working with us helping set the wheels in motion with our target group.
"The transition status is saying we are doing okay," Campbell said. "We will continue to work to improve and continue to grow. We are continually trying to improve all of our schools and shooting for a success designation - we are setting the bar high."
Barbour County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Super said he was excited with the county's designations.
"When we looked at our results, we were pretty pleased," Super said. "With our success, we know we still have a long way to go, but our schools are making progress."
School designations in Barbour County include Kasson Elementary Middle School, transition; Belington Elementary School, focus; Junior Elementary School, priority; Mt. Vernon Elementary School, transition; Philippi Elementary School, focus; Volga-Century Elementary School, transition; Belington Middle School, success; Philippi Middle School, priority; and Philip Barbour High School, success.
Upshur County school designations include Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, transition; French Creek Elementary School, focus; Hodgesville Elementary School, transition; Rock Cave Elementary School, transition; Washington District Elementary School, success; Union Elementary School, focus; Buckhannon Upshur Middle School, focus; and Buckhannon Upshur High School, focus.
The three guiding principals the state utilized to develop a new accountability system are communicating realistic expectations for students, creating a system of support and recognition for all schools and valuing both performance and growth.
"Schools must work toward rigorous but realistic goals on a daily basis for all students," George said. "All teachers must accept where their students are and make a commitment to move them forward to increase individual student performance and growth."
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares said the release of the data is important for students, teachers and schools.
"This year's results include a mixture of positive results as well as several areas that must be improved," Phares said in a press release. "Most importantly, we know our teachers and students would be applauded for their hard work and efforts because even though the statewide assessment became more intense in 2010, the majority of our students continued to show growth."
Parents may review specific school data online at wvde.state.wv.us/esea/performance/.
"It is important for our schools to understand that the new accountability system is not about comparing one school to another," Phares said.
"The system is about keeping your eye on the finishing line despite where a student starts and moving that individual student forward to proficiency."
Schools achieving the sucess designation have met the annual academic goals in mathematics and English/language arts; also, the school has reached its goals in attendance or graduation rates and student academic growth.
A transition designation means the majority of the student groups have met the annual academic goals in mathematics and English/language arts or the school has reached its goals in attendance or graduation rates, student academic growth, and student success on WESTEST 2.
Focus schools are elementary and middle schools with too-large learning gaps between student groups, based on academic progress on the WESTEST 2. For high school students, the graduation gap between student groups is too large.
A support school designation means the majority of student groups have not met the annual academic goals in mathematics and English/language arts and the school has not reached its goals in attendance or graduation rates, student academic growth and student success on WESTEST 2.
A priority school designation means the school is among the lowest performing in the state based on the number of students at or above mastery on WESTEST 2.