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WV state school board considering no-labels school accountability plan

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail file photo
State Schools Superintendent Steve Paine said he thinks the new system will be better “because you’re not labeling people.”

Following its abandonment of two “summative” labeling systems in three years, the West Virginia Board of Education is now considering a new school accountability system that would no longer give any overall labels to entire schools.

For the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, the board’s “Accountability Index” labeled entire schools with words like “success” and “priority.”

After dumping that and having no summative labeling system for 2014-15, the board gave entire schools A-F grades for their performance in 2015-16, including by taking into account their improvement on statewide standardized test scores from the previous school year.

Gov. Jim Justice, who took office in January, said this of A-F in his February State of the State address: “That’s got to go.” Due to the resignations of the board’s leaders and other factors, Justice was able to quickly make a majority of the board his own appointees, and in March it voted to halt the A-F system.

The summative labels in the two ditched systems were based overwhelmingly on math and English language arts statewide standardized testing.

At Thursday’s board meeting, state Department of Education officials presented a new plan that includes various school measurements, but these statistics wouldn’t be weighed or otherwise combined into any overall label or score.

Department officials said there won’t be an accountability system incorporating this just-ended school year’s data. They said the new system, if the board ultimately approves it, should be in place for next school year’s data, meaning the results will first be unveiled in the 2018-19 school year.

Schools would be assigned colors and labels (red: unsatisfactory; yellow: emerging; blue: accomplished; and green: distinguished) for their performance in individual categories, including “math proficiency” and percentage of students with more than 90 percent attendance. But there’d be no overall colors or labels for schools.

“I think that’s best because you’re not labeling people, but you’re labeling, if you will, quote, unquote, the areas that they really need some specific attention in,” state Schools Superintendent Steve Paine said. “Some people might say, ‘Well, you cited I had a low math score.’ Yeah you did, and you need to work on it. But we’re not gonna say that everything you do in that school is red, and that’s what was happening before, and people were just defeated.”

Michele Blatt, the department’s chief accountability officer, said the system is proposed to only include a few measures that “have volumes of research behind them” showing that they impact student success.

“There’s a lot of things that add value to a student’s education, but if you put too many things in, it just becomes so cumbersome to look at that, where do you focus?” Blatt said.

Department officials haven’t yet proposed the “cut scores” that would set the thresholds for different colors in the different categories; for instance, what percentage of students with no out-of-school suspensions a school would have to achieve to earn a green in that category.

The proposed categories for English language arts proficiency and math proficiency would take into account proficiency rates on the annual statewide standardized tests, but wouldn’t take into account improvement or worsening in proficiency rates from one year to the next.

Blatt said the plan is to define “proficiency” as meeting or exceeding whatever the Durham, North Carolina-based company MetaMetrics has determined is the minimum “Lexile” score for reading and “Quantile” score for math that a child needs to achieve to be performing on grade level. She said MetaMetrics will determine which scores on West Virginia’s statewide standardized tests correspond to which Lexile and Quantile ranges.

The board hasn’t yet chosen a new math or English statewide standardized test for next school year. Gov. Jim Justice signed into law this year House Bill 2711, which banned the current Smarter Balanced tests.

The proposed system wouldn’t include data on social studies or science standardized testing proficiency. The board stopped statewide social studies standardized testing in 2015.

Blatt said the state will still report science test results to the federal government to meet requirements. The proposed system does measure whether ninth and 10th graders earn at least one course credit per year in science, social studies, English and math.

The system does measure growth in test scores for county school systems’ “benchmark assessments” in elementary and middle schools.

Benchmark tests are given multiple times in a school year to gauge progress, rather than near the end of each spring like the statewide standardized tests, and they can differ from county to county. They’ll have to be aligned with Lexile and Quantile scores, but Paine said MetaMetrics already has done this for most such systems use in the state.

The department has announced public meetings on its proposed Every Student Succeeds Act plan, which Blatt said will include general information regarding the accountability system. All start at 5:30 p.m. and include question and answer sessions: June 19 at Lewis County High School, 205 Minuteman Drive, Weston; June 28 at Riverside High School, 1 Warrior Way, Belle; and July 10, at Spring Mills High School, 499 Campus Drive, Martinsburg.

You can visit the department’s Every Student Succeeds Act website to take a survey and sign up to stay informed on the plan’s development at

Reach Ryan Quinn at,, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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