Principals Celebrate Assessment Success
Wetzel County Schools’ principals spoke highly of each of their respective school’s students at the Tuesday, April 19 meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education.
The presentation was a follow-up to news released by Superintendent Leatha Williams at the Monday, April 4 board meeting. At that meeting, Williams had shared data that revealed improved academic performance between the first Interim Comprehensive Assessment (ICA), taken at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, and the second ICA, taken after 100-135 days of instruction.
Williams spoke of how county requirements are to be aligned mandates that stem from changes made to Senate Bill 359. These changes allow the state board of education to establish a system to assess and weigh annual performance measures for state accreditation of schools and approval of school systems. The West Virginia Board of Education then is now in the process of approving a new policy for accrediting West Virginia’s schools.
“We are moving from focusing on teaching, to focusing on learning.”
Williams spoke on the types of data that can be analyzed to help formulate a plan for improvement.
“One of the things I heard, when I first came to Wetzel County, was “But Mrs. Williams, you don’t know about our students. Our poverty is increasing.'”
“I know that data is a very personal description to educators,” Williams said.
When you talk about the data, you are talking about the individuals in that classroom.
“I want to say that if there have been any misunderstandings between us, the teachers and the Wetzel County Board of Education, then I truly do apologize,” Williams said.
“I want to focus on learning. I don’t want the data to be personal. I want it to be something we can all work toward, to make sure Wetzel County is learning and growing. I mean that from my heart.”
With that being said, Williams noted that the poverty level has not changed from 2007-2015. “You are teaching the same sorts of students you have always taught,” Williams told teachers in attendance.
Williams noted that one change that has taken place is a decrease in veteran teachers. Williams said the school system went from 104 professionals that have 15 years or more of experience to 75.
She also stressed how teachers must have the tools to be highly successful and further noted that previously, teachers did not have the correct tools.
Williams noted that Carnegie Math, which was used by Wetzel County Schools, has been proven to be an ineffective program. Carnegie Math has since been taken out of the school system, and Williams noted that this has been the “right change for the kids.”
Williams said the results of the schools’ first West Virginia General Summative Assessment “wasn’t great.” However, “I personally told the board that I wanted Wetzel County to be the number one performing county in the state of West Virginia.”
Williams noted that though scores were down for all of the counties in West Virginia, she wanted to see how Wetzel County ranked in the State of West Virginia. Williams passed out a handout showing how, in 2015, Wetzel County ranked in comparison to the following surrounding counties: Brooke, Ohio, Hancock, Monongalia, and Tyler. The state average was also included.
Wetzel County’s third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, and 10th grades all had the lowest math performance out of the above-mentioned counties. Third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th grades all had the lowest English Language Arts performance out of the above-mentioned counties.
According to Schooldigger.com, a popular online database that ranks schools, Wetzel County Schools ranked 14 for the 2008-2009 school year. For the 2014-2015 school year, Wetzel County Schools ranked 40.
“We can do better by our students,” Williams said. “They are the future of this community. They are your future here in Wetzel County Schools.”
“I believe in the leaders of our county’s schools, our principals,” Williams said. “They will talk to us about how to get into the top 15, from the bottom 15.”
Below are just a few of the improvements each of the other representatives noted:
Paden City High School: Paden City High School Principal Jay Salva said his school has “shown lots of improvement through the year.”
Salva explained the four levels of test results: “Levels One and Two are undesirable. Threes and fours are what you want.”
Salva explained how lower level performance had decreased at several grade levels. For instance, in seventh grade math, Level One performance had decreased by 10 percent. For 10th grade math, Level One had decreased 25 percent.
Also impressive – 11th grade English Language Arts improved from 45 percent scoring at the top two levels on ICA 1 to 75 percent scoring at the top levels on ICA 2.
“I think (PCHS students) are going to kill it on the General Summative Assessment,” Salva bragged.
“My kids really enjoy being in school, and it’s a family atmosphere,” he said.
Long Drain School: Principal Paul Huston, of Long Drain School, explained that the ICA is “supposed to mirror what we are going to see here in May (on the General Summative Assessment).”
Huston also shared improvement at several grade levels. For instance, 51 percent of fourth graders scored at the lowest level on ICA 1 in English Language Arts. That number decreased for ICA 2, when 31 percent of fourth graders performed at Level One.
Huston also remarked on several improvements made by LDS students in Math. For instance, 54 percent of fourth grade LDS students performed at the bottom level in Math on ICA 1. On ICA 2, only 28 percent of students performed at the bottom level.
“We have some good things going for us,” Huston said. He noted that it has helped to “have the opportunity to take those assessments and learn a little bit more about them.”
Hundred High School: Hundred High School Principal Daniel Gottron noted that scores on ICA 2 had moved more into Level Two, instead of Level One. For ninth graders, 29 percent had scored at Level One in English Language Arts on ICA 1;19 percent of ninth graders scored at Level One on ICA 2.
Gottron noticed that the biggest example of improvement was in 11th grade math.
On ICA 1, 50 percent of those HHS students performed at Level One. On ICA 2, only 27 percent of students performed at Level One.
Several students scored in the higher Level Three.
Gottron also spent a portion of his time discussing a school climate survey his students had taken. Gottron noted that the students’ surveys are answered anonymously.
He said approximately 97 percent of kids feel that the academic environment is “maintaining” or “improving” in level of support.
New Martinsville School:
In Math, NMS third graders outperformed fellow third graders in the county. Thirty-five percent of Wetzel County School’s third graders performed at proficiency in Math on ICA 2, while 48 percent of NMS’ third graders students performed at proficiency.
Also, in the English portion of the test, 61 percent of fourth graders had performed at the bottom level on ICA 1. Only 24 percent performed at the bottom level on ICA 2.
Magnolia High School: Principal Kathi Schmalz noted that after seeing test results from the General Summative Assessment, MHS knew “we had work that we had to get done.”
Schmalz remarked that she couldn’t ask for a better group, in her teachers, to come together.
“We taught the standards,” Schmalz continued. “We taught, and we talked about them. We learned so much about how to unpack those standards and how to teach the standards in our classroom, with the focus on learning.”
“The students are excited; the staff is excited, and the morale has never been better because great things are happening for the kids,” Schmalz said.
Ashley Johnson, English teacher at MHS, said 11th grade English Language Art test results on ICA 1 were “mostly in the Level One” categories. She said, at this point in time, not all of the standards would’ve been taught. However, after focusing on the standards, and halfway through the test year, a bench mark assessment was taken.
Johnson said the majority of students have moved from Levels One and Two to Levels Three and Four. She said any student at Levels One or Two can begin necessary remediation.
Specifically, for MHS 11th grade English test results, 62 percent performed at proficiency on ICA 2, compared to only 35 percent performing at proficiency on ICA 1.
“I just wanted to say, personally, I’ve never felt more confident in my teaching,” Johnson said.
“This benchmark assessment aligns with the standards I need to teach. The data is clear and easy for me to understand, and I know exactly where I am. It shows,” Johnson said.
MHS Math Teacher Sandy Hinerman spoke of improved test scores for her 11th grade math students. Hinerman noted that four percent of students performed at Level Four on ICA 1. On ICA 2, 31 percent of her math students performed at Level Four. Sixty-four percent of 11th grade students had performed at the lowest level on ICA 1, while only 34 percent performed at the lowest level on ICA 2.
“I’m still doing the same thing that I have always done,” Hinerman said. “My focus is the student, and I want to empower my students to be able to do anything they want in their lives.”
Hinerman noted that the ICAs are “eye-opening for me to be able to see what the new Smarter Balanced test is all about.”
Short Line School: Short Line School Principal Teresa Standiford shared results of the ICA 2 by showing how many SLS students had increased their performance by one level or more.
Results were as follows: third grade: English Language Arts, 63 percent; Math, 70 percent. Fourth grade: English Language Arts, 50 percent; Math, 61 percent. Fifth grade: English Language Arts, 44 percent; Math, 40 percent; Sixth grade: English Language Arts, 65 percent; Math, 53 percent. Seventh Grade: Math, 41 percent; English Language Arts, 44 percent. Eighth grade: English Language Arts, 45 percent; Math, 53 percent.
Standiford noted that SLS has had a “great year” and she thanked her students, staff, and parents.
Valley High School: Janet Moore appeared on behalf of J.C. Kimble, principal of Valley High School.
VHS had impressive scores on the English portion of the ICA. On ICA 1, 14 percent of 11th grade students at VHS performed at Level Four, the highest level of proficiency. On ICA 2, 29 percent of 11th graders performed at Level Four.
Superintendent Williams noted that her job, as superintendent of Wetzel County Schools, is to “make sure our school is led by the most knowledgeable principals.”
“I have to say that these principals sitting in this room – it is an honor to work with them.”
Board Member Joshua Balcerek asked the principals what they needed from the board, to “keep going.”
Schmalz said continued support, while Salva noted that he appreciates the development time the board gives the schools on three-hour early dismissal days. “We work very hard during that time,” he said.