CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- National and state education leaders met in Charleston on Monday to discuss how to better prepare high school seniors for college and the effect that academic preparedness has on the country's economy.The 12th Grade Preparedness Commission of the National Assessment of Educational Progress hosted a symposium at Charleston Embassy Suites to focus on how to properly assess student achievement and how to use that assessment to better monitor progress.The latest NAEP results for West Virginia show that about half of the state's high school seniors scored at or above basic achievement on standardized tests. West Virginia students scored below average in math and reading compared to national standards.The event is one of seven symposia held around the country and featured panelists including Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill, West Virginia State University President Brian Hemphill, Senate Education Committee Chairman Robert Plymale, Board of Education President Chuck Heinlein, state board member Lloyd Jackson and House Committee on Education Chair Mary Poling.Sen. Joe Manchin also made an appearance, in addition to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who communicated by way of video."We chose West Virginia because of its long history as a leader in education reform and in using student achievement data from the Nation's Report Card," said Ronnie Musgrove, former governor of Mississippi and chairman of the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission.
West Virginia was one of the first states in the U.S. to seek a tool to compare student achievement with other states."We are extremely pleased that West Virginia is participating in this project because we want to be proactive and transparent with our efforts to improve student achievement," Heinlein said. "West Virginia students have shown some progress but there remains an urgent need to significantly boost academic achievement. Assessments such as NAEP provide us a snapshot of the areas that need attention. This information is extremely helpful as we work to improve our public schools in West Virginia."The state has benefited immensely by using NAEP and would have never been able to do so if it weren't for Plymale's promotion of the system, said Mark Musick, advisor for the commission who served as panel moderator."We have to know from a state perspective where we rank against the nation and the world because it's such a global economy. If we're not preparing students up to the levels we need to be, we will not participate in economic prosperity in the future," Plymale said. "We're a data-driven society and we have very poor data. I'm a firm believer in unfiltered data, and we need to have the truth of where we are at this point. All policy is going to be driven by data and where you stand."A new database operated by a Higher Education Policy Commission task force will help provide clear data so that educators can see what areas students need help in most, Hill said."For the very first time, from when a student enters into the education system all the way through post-secondary education, we will be able to pinpoint what types of environments and experiences they had along the way and what sort of academic testing they had and how that prepared them," Hill said. "We are going to have better data. We would like to be further than where we are, and this will allow us to take those corrective actions."Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.