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Testing results show minimal progress in reading, math by WV students

The percentage of West Virginia public school students scoring at least “proficient” in reading and math only marginally increased last school year from the year before, while science proficiency dropped, according to statewide standardized test data released by the state Department of Education on Thursday.

For the 2018-19 school year, about 46 percent of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 39 percent did so in math and 33 percent in science.

The prior school year, 2017-18, 45 percent of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 38 percent did so in math and 37 percent in science.

State schools Superintendent Steve Paine deferred questions about the scores to a spokeswoman, who had already fielded questions from reporters. He did step out of Thursday’s state Board of Education meeting to talk to MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval.

2018-19 standardized test scores

“There’s more good news in terms of where districts were and how they’re improving than there is bad news,” Paine said on that radio program. After mentioning math scores, he said the state this year is maybe a 2-8 football team rather than a 0-10 one.

Again last school year, high school juniors had the lowest math proficiency rate of any tested grade level. Only one-fourth were proficient.

The minimal math improvements on a state level came despite the education department’s math4life campaign, which Paine announced last year. It’s planned to last five years.

Paine also spoke about other issues, like the amount of students missing 10 percent of school days or more. These kids are dubbed “chronically absent” in education circles.

Andy Whisman, the state education department’s director of data analysis and research, said a fifth of students missed at least 10 percent of school days last school year. The department didn’t provide multi-year data for that.

Regarding test scores, Whisman said educators and assessment experts compared test questions to the state’s academic standards to determine what minimum score constituted proficiency. He said the state ultimately decides what scores count as proficient based on that.

The state school board and state Legislature have changed West Virginia’s tested grade levels and subjects, and the actual tests used, several times over the past five years, limiting comparability over that time.

But last school year and the previous one, the state kept things the same: American Institutes for Research tests for reading and math in grades three through eight and in science just in grades five and eight, and the SAT college entrance exam in the subjects of reading, math and science for high school juniors.

The proficiency rates reported Thursday also include the results from a “small number of students” who take an alternate assessment, said department Communications Executive Director Kristin Anderson. The alternate test is given to the students who have the most significant cognitive disabilities, the department says.

The SAT has an evidence-based reading and writing section and a math section. Students can score between 200-800 on each.

A 470 on the evidence-based reading and writing section is the minimum to be considered proficient in West Virginia, while 520 is the proficiency cutoff score in math. The department didn’t provide average SAT scores on the 200-800 scale for the subjects — it just gave the percentages of students deemed proficient or not.

To earn the state’s Promise Scholarship, a student, alongside meeting other requirements, must score at least 520 in math and 530 on evidence-based reading and writing and an 1100 combined, so a student must go above the minimum in either math or evidence-based reading and writing.

To get into West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus, in-state high school students must get at least a 990 on both sections combined.

If students can afford to pay to take the SAT more times than the free test they’re given as juniors, they can combine their best scores on different sections across multiple times taking the test to meet the WVU minimum. For Promise eligibility, you can try the SAT multiple times if you can afford it, but can only submit scores from one sitting.

The SAT science score, according to College Board’s website, is a “cross-test score” that’s based on questions in the reading and math tests “that ask students to think analytically about texts and problems” in the science subject area.

Students can score from 10 to 40 on the science cross-test, with 27 being considered proficient in West Virginia.

West Virginia doesn’t require that students pass standardized tests — like the SAT — to advance grade levels or graduate.

In Kanawha County last school year, 48 percent of students in all tested grades scored at least proficient in reading, while 43 percent did so in math and 35 percent in science.

The prior school year in Kanawha, 47 percent of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 42 percent did so in math and 39 percent in science.

In Putnam County last school year, 56 percent of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 53 percent did so in math and 40 percent in science.

The prior school year in Putnam, 56 percent of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 54 percent did so in math and 48 percent in science.

To see the test scores by subject and grade level, and on the state, county and school levels, visit https://zoomwv.k12.wv.us/Dashboard and click on the “state assessment results” tab or circle.

To see the “balanced scorecards,” visit mywvschool.org, where you can get more specifics for counties and schools by choosing a county [they’re called districts] and clicking “download data set” under the bar that labels what the colors mean.

The scorecards show the department’s scoring of schools based on these test scores and other factors, including attendance, the percentage of students without out-of-school suspensions, and graduation rates.

Reach Ryan Quinn at

ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow

@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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