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Test Scores Redeem MHS

August 17, 2011
BY MIRANDA STOKES, Staff Writer
As many at Magnolia High School anticipated, promising news surfaced for the school, its administration, and staff with the release of the 2011 WesTest 2 scores which prove MHS has met and exceeded state proficiency averages, a step toward redeeming the school from the negative report filed by the state board’s auditing team in March.

Principal Kathi Schmalz held a Summer Academy Teacher Retreat on Tuesday to celebrate the school’s accomplishments and to begin planning for the coming school year.

“Getting good test scores happens because of hard work and great teachers doing great things with kids,” Schmalz began. “This year, our data is going to speak for us.” She went on to say that over the school year many changes were implemented and those changes were not always comfortable. “But the bottom line is that the things we did last year worked for us,” she affirmed.

Wetzel County School Superintendent Diane Watt also attended the retreat to extend her congratulations to the teachers. In her inspirational talk with those present, Watt quoted Babe Ruth, who said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” As symbolic gesture, Watt then presented the teachers with Baby Ruth candy bars for the teachers to keep as a reminder (and treat) for when they feel beat down, as so many did following the Office of Education Performance Audits’ published conclusions.

Schmalz then continued to remind those present of the hard work that was done to bring up test scores and better the students’ education. “For Magnolia to fall in the testing was devastating,” she said. “But we dug our heels in and we started working.” Schmalz credited data analysis, communication, and the installation of a leadership team as contributing factors in finding strategies to better their situation. “This is the attitude we took: It’s not how far you fall, it’s how high you bounce when you hit the bottom,” she stated. “We hit bottom here,” she went on to say, noting the 2010 scores were the lowest they’ve ever been for Magnolia. “We’re never going to hit bottom again.”

Before detailing the WesTest results, Schmalz proudly announced that MHS met a 90 percent graduation rate this past year with a drop-out rate of only one percent. Furthermore, attendance at MHS was rated at 94.4 percent, with the college-going rate of 65 percent. Impressively, according to SchoolDigger.com, a credible Web site containing comparative data of schools across the nation, Magnolia was ranked 17 out of 118 in the state and was named the second most-improved school in West Virginia. “As principal of Magnolia High School, I couldn’t be prouder of this group of adults and our students,” Schmalz underlined.

Math Department Chair Sandy Hinerman commented that one of the reasons the auditing team came to the school was because of the junior class’ math scores. In 2010, the WesTest score ranked MHS 111th out of 119 schools in this class in mathematics. Hinerman was exceedingly proud and moved to share with the other teachers that this year’s scores rose 71 points, ranking MHS as 40th out of 118 schools in West Virginia.

Regarding this year’s test scores, Schmalz summated that MHS met or exceeded every tested subject in every grade level with the exception of freshman algebra. More specifically, MHS exceeded the state’s percentages of students scoring in Reading/Language Arts in grades nine through 11. Specifically, grade nine exceeded the state at or above mastery by 13 percent, grade 10 exceeded the state by five percent, and grade 11 exceeded the state at or above mastery by 14 percent. MHS also exceeded the state percentage in Mathematics in grades 10 and 11, by 15 percent and four percent, respectively, and equaled the state percentage of students at mastery or above in grade nine at 39 percent.

Diane Brown, special education, student assistance committee member, and ed-line administrator, noted that all of the work in raising test scores was set up and active prior to OEPA’s visit. “These gains had nothing to do with that fiasco of the OEPA,” she boasted. Schmalz added the teachers did not lose their focus after the OEPA’s visit and pressed on with test preparation periods.

English teacher Pat Jeffers further pointed out that the comparative data indicates how every grade did better than they did the previous year, another important stride to recognize.

With all this said, however, MHS is still accountable for the OEPA’s findings and recommendations. Schmalz said the school will continue to work with leadership teams and adhere to the state board’s requirements as planned. “We are going to continue to hold high expectations, high standards, and accept no excuses,” Schmalz concluded. “We will expect that of both teachers and students.”

Also on Monday the teachers received iPads to be added to the technological resources the school has been provided in the efforts of engaging students and integrating new technologies in education. The iPads will be used for classroom instruction and staff development.

To view the entire WesTest 2 results for MHS, visit the West Virginia Department of Education’s Web site at wveis.k12.wv.us/nclb/pub and select Wetzel County, Magnolia High School, and select reports from the complete list of data available.

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