Last school year, about 37 percent of tested West Virginia public school students scored as at least “proficient” in math, per the state Department of Education, while 45 percent did so in English.
On Thursday, the department released statewide standardized test scores and its new “balanced scorecards,” which show the department’s scoring of schools based on those test scores and other factors, including attendance, the percentage of students without out-of-school suspensions and graduation rates.
The test scores and most of the data on the balanced scorecard are from last school year, although some, including the graduation rates, are from the year before that.
Last school year saw the state’s first use of American Institutes for Research tests as the public school standardized tests for English and math in grades three through eight and in science in grades five and eight. Those were the only non-high-school grades tested.
Last school year also saw the state’s first use of a college entrance exam, the SAT, as the statewide public high school standardized test. Education department officials said they didn’t know Thursday what percentage of high-schoolers had scored high enough to earn the state’s Promise college scholarship, nor did they provide the average scores students received on the different parts of the SAT.
Instead of actual average scores on the SAT or the American Institutes for Research tests, the results were reported on the department’s ZoomWV website in terms of what percentage of students scored at least proficient and scored in one of four subcategories: does not meet standard (not proficient), partially meets standard (still not proficient), meets standard (proficient) and exceeds standard (proficient and then some).
The high school testing in English, math and science only occurred in 11th grade last school year. Previously, science was tested in 10th grade, but the state Board of Education changed that.
Staff of the state higher education oversight agencies did calculate that, of the juniors and seniors who took the April SAT, 2,896 received scores that qualify them for Promise, though it was unclear what percentage that represented of the total tested. Senior Director of Financial Aid Brian Weingart said these students still must meet other criteria, like high enough grade point averages, to fully qualify.
He said the minimum qualifying English SAT score is 530 and the minimum for math is 520, and the minimum for both combined is 1100, meaning students have to go above minimum in at least one subject.
Education department Communications Executive Director Kristin Anderson wrote in an email that a 470 SAT English score was the minimum to be considered proficient, and 520 was the proficiency cut off score in math.
To see the test scores by subject and grade level and on the state, county and school levels, visit wvde.state.wv.us/zoomwv and click on the ZoomWV Data Dashboard button in the middle of the page, then click on the “state assessment results” tab at the top right-hand of the page.
To see the balanced scorecards, visit mywvschool.org, where you can get more specifics for counties and schools than just the colors by choosing a county [they’re called districts] and clicking “download data set” under the bar that labels what the colors mean.
There are multiple caveats to the scorecard data, including that some out-of-school suspensions, for offenses considered more serious, don’t count against schools, and the “benchmark” indicator for last school year wasn’t a score growth indicator like it’s supposed to be in the future.
If you download a data set on mywvschool.org, note that the percentages under the assessment ELA and math performance value columns aren’t proficiency rates, but rather the percentage of possible points earned through a system that gives schools 0.25 points for each student scoring in the lowest of the four performance categories up to 1.25 points for each scoring in the highest level. There’s a methodology link on mywvschool.org on the lefthand side.
The balanced scorecards keep the same four labels that are applied to the test scores on ZoomWV but assign them different colors: red for does not meet standard, yellow for partially meets, blue for meets and green for exceeds. The scorecards also apply these same labels and colors to the non-test measures, such as graduation rates.
For middle and high schools, the colors for the standardized test measures result in largely a sea of yellow and red.
State board member Jim Wilson said he finds the balanced scorecards to be easily understandable.
“We are being brutally honest,” Wilson said, holding up a largely red and yellow page. “You might as well be prepared for the editorials that will be coming in the next week about how inadequate our kids are doing, but it does give us a sense of where we are now, what we have to do.”
“I was a little bit surprised that student attendance rates were lower than I would’ve expected,” said state Schools Superintendent Steve Paine. “We anticipated low performance in mathematics, we’ve acknowledged that very, very clearly for the past three or four months.”
Science scores weren’t available Thursday.
About 42 percent of Kanawha County students were proficient in math and 47 percent were in English. About 54 percent of Putnam County students were proficient in math and 56 percent were in English.
Riverside High had Kanawha’s lowest proficiency rates in both subjects among its eight public high schools: about 13 percent for math and under 40 percent for English. George Washington High, the best scoring among Kanawha’s high schools, had a roughly 58 percent rate in math and about 80 percent in English.
As in previous years, as grade level increased, math proficiency rates generally decreased. About 58 percent of third-graders were proficient in math, but that rate was around 50 percent in fourth and fifth grades, around 35 percent in sixth, seventh and eighth grades and 29 percent in 11th grade.
The English proficiency rates, on the other hand, bobbed up and down from each tested grade level to the next, always 43 percent or higher and, in the opposite of the math trend, reaching their peak in 11th grade at 55 percent.
High school juniors also had the highest English proficiency rate of any tested grade level in the school year before last.
But education department officials have said this past school year’s results aren’t directly comparable to prior years.
The board and state Legislature have changed West Virginia’s tested grade levels and subjects, and the tests used for those grade levels and subjects, several times over the past several years.