MERCER COUNTY STUDENTS POST WESTEST2 GAINS DESPITE TOUGHER STANDARDS


PRINCETON, WV, September 15, 2011:   According to newly released WESTEST2 data, schools across Mercer County continue to show improvement in reading/language arts and mathematics as measured by the statewide assessment given in May 2011.   According to Karen Hall, test coordinator, 19 of 20 schools posted gains in either reading or math based on previous year scores, and 14 schools showed improvement in both subjects.

           The news is encouraging because, last year, the minimum scores required for students to reach “proficiency” increased.  For example, on the math section, third graders needed to score 557 points to be considered at Mastery in 2009.  In 2010, the required score increased to 581 points.

           According to Hall, the percentage of proficiency needed for schools to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) has also increased.  “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires that all students in the United States reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014.  To reach that goal, each year a greater number of students must meet or exceed the proficient level on WESTEST2 for a school to meet AYP.”

           To achieve AYP, high schools must also achieve an 80% graduation rate or show significant progress toward that goal.  By new federal calculations, only those students who graduate within four years of entering ninth grade may be counted toward this goal. Students requiring a fifth year to complete all credits may not be counted toward the formula.     

In Mercer County, 54% of all schools met all the standards for AYP.  Those making Adequate Yearly Progress were Athens, Brushfork Elementary, Ceres Elementary, Lashmeet/Matoaka School, Melrose Elementary, Montcalm Elementary, Oakvale, Sun Valley Elementary, and Bluefield High.  Primary schools do not administer WESTEST2 and therefore meet accreditation by other standards. Memorial, Whitethorn, and Princeton Primary are fully accredited schools.

Information about the performance of individual schools may be accessed by visiting the West Virginia Department of Education website (http://wvde.state.wv.us) and clicking Data, School and District.

           All West Virginia students in grades 3 – 8 and 11 take the WESTEST2 each spring.  By mandate of state and federal legislation, WESTEST2 scores, combined with other factors including attendance and graduation rate, determine the areas of accountability for which each school is held responsible. 

           No Child Left Behind legislation dictates that each year schools must show improvement over the previous year’s reading/language arts and math scores, and this improvement must extend to minority students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

           Satisfying AYP requirements is considerably more difficult for large schools with diverse populations.  Big schools may have 20 or more areas on which they are measured while smaller schools may have fewer than 10.  Large middle schools (which test in all three grade levels) have the greatest challenge.  Not reaching the performance standard in even one area prevents a school from meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.

“We are not satisfied with where we are,” Akers said.  “We know there is need for improvement.  I am again meeting with each principal to analyze the data and develop district and school-level initiatives to address deficiencies.”