Winter may chill scores

One possible major result of this year’s record amount of school closures, due to snow days and the chemical leak crisis, may not materialize until a year from now — when Westest 2 scores are released.

“The effects of a winter like this don’t just affect the current academic year,” said Kanawha County School Board Vice President Robin Rector, who voiced concerns about Westest prep time when the district’s cancellations first began to stack up in January. “It’s not just the days that are missed that causes concern — it’s the interruption in learning, period.”

With Freedom Industries’ chemical leak into the Elk River, and snow days from a record-breaking winter, students in Kanawha County — the state’s largest school district — missed nearly a month of class, including several two-hour delays. Several other school districts were also impacted by both the chemical spill and inclement weather.

The Westest 2 — the state’s version of standardized testing — is given each April, and teachers spend the months prior focusing on preparing students for the test.

There was already extra pressure this year — this is the first time the test will switch from pencil and paper to the computer.

“This year, [teachers] have the quandary, particularly in elementary schools, with assuring that the kids have the skills to be doing it electronically. Also, kids have to be familiar with content, so that’s a lot to plug in when you’ve missed a large number of days,” Rector said. “And teachers certainly feel that their job is based upon these scores.”

Jon Duffy, director of research, evaluation & assessment for Kanawha County Schools, said the school calendar has been adjusted as much as possible to make up for the lost days (though spring break is still scheduled for next week) and preparation for online administration started as early as September.

But, the content-related worries are still there.

“The water and weather issues affected not only Kanawha County, but many of the state’s school districts. Our Westest 2 window was scheduled to open earlier than several others, so losing fifteen instructional days has challenged us to make the very best use of our instructional time,” Duffy said. “Our principals and teachers are working extremely hard to instruct and prepare KCS students, despite the days lost.”

Duffy said that while the test scores do not affect students’ grades, they’re important to determine what lessons students need to focus the most on.

“Standardized tests provide us with valuable information about a student’s academic strengths and areas still needing improvement. Students and their parents can make use of the results by leveraging these strengths, while seeking out academic support where necessary,” he said. “Test scores provide teachers and administrators information about how well students are mastering instruction, and provide feedback for where curriculum may need adjusted to better prepare students for college or a career.”

Testing begins April 21.

Reach Mackenzie Mays

at 304-348-4814 or at

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