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Board Honors Horseshoe Recipients, Discusses Tests

By Staff | Apr 26, 2017

Photo by Lauren Matthews Pictured, from left, are Rachel Bates, Makayla McDougal, and Jacob Kuhn, 2017 recipients of the Golden Horseshoe.

Wetzel County students Rachel Bates, Makayla McDougal, and Jacob Kuhn were honored at the April 18 meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education.

Bates, McDougal, and Kuhn each have earned a West Virginia Golden Horseshoe Award due to their knowledge of the state. These three winners outscored fellow eighth graders throughout the county in their knowledge of West Virginia.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, Golden Horseshoe Honorees are treated to a tour of the Capitol and Cultural Center, as well as a luncheon, held in their honor. Furthermore, each recipient is inducted into the Golden Horseshoe Society. The State Superintendent of Schools presides over this matter, as each student kneels and is tapped on the shoulder with a sword.

At the April 18 meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education, Board Vice President Bill Jones remarked that he was once able to attend a Golden Horseshoe awards ceremony. Jones remarked that the ceremony was probably one of the most “prestigious ceremonies” he has ever been affiliated with.

“It was beyond fabulous!” Jones said.

Board President Warren Grace thanked the schools and the parents for the roles they have played in these students’ success.

At the April 18 meeting, Wetzel County’s principals continued presentations on practice assessments within the schools, as well as how each school would increase proficiency on statewide assessments.

At the April 3 school board meeting, the county’s high school principals took their turns at giving presentations. The following are some highlights from those presentations:

Paden City High School Principal Jay Salva had noted that his students took the spring Interim Cumulative Assessment “very seriously” and “the results showed.”

Salva said teachers would take data gathered from the ICAs to apply to their teaching; he noted that teachers took specific test questions to work out in class.

“We noticed they aren’t doing a good job at citing sources,” Salva said. “If the question says cite from three different sources, a lot of kids have trouble with that.” Salva said teachers were looking to target more intensive reading strategies as well.

Salva said his math teachers really dug “into their standards and they did cumulative tests that they created for ninth and 10th grade because we didn’t use the diagnostics.” Salva said he asked the teachers to review all the required teaching standards, highlighting the ones they have already covered and explain how the students performed on those standards.

Valley High School Principal J.C. Kimble informed the board that students took newly created diagnostics, on the computer, in the spring. For ninth grade English Language Arts, the fall average score was 13, while the spring average score was 17. For math, ninth graders were not given diagnostic tests in the fall due to the fact that the new tests were not available. Students took newly created diagnostics, via the computer, in spring. The spring average score was 18.

Valley’s 11th grade class had some impressive test results. For the English Language Arts Interim Cumulative Assessment, one student had a perfect score in the fall. For the spring ICA, three students had perfect scores. While no 11th graders had a perfect score on the fall math ICA, the spring ICA had one perfect score from the 11th grade.

Magnolia High School Principal Kathi Schmalz touched on the topic of “teacher focus groups” to help improve the culture at MHS. She said every teacher at Magnolia is a member of a focus group. Groups include integrating academics, technology, guidance and advice, and engagement, to name a few.

“Every group has been working hard all year to see what we are doing to move our school and move our students, and how to make our school a school where students come and learn,” she said.

Schmalz said the staff has been researching how to improve Advanced Placement exam scores. She said staff has been working with Mingo County, which has been recognized for its impressive AP scores.

For spring ICA and diagnostics, Schmalz said the teachers created a summative assessment of all standards that have been taught. “Kids have to know there is a reason behind what we are doing. They have to know it is important, and we were able to take a look at what they had accomplished at the end of the first semester, and we used this data to move forward.”

Schmalz said, that prior to the General Summative Assessment, the 11th graders would go through a special “boot camp.”

“A group of teachers will do nothing but spend two days prior to the assessment with the kids, helping them to develop that mindset that this is important. They will work on getting the computers ready and make sure they are well equipped to take the assessment.

Schmalz said the ultimate goal is that “all students will be college and career-ready.”

“It’s not about the test, and it is about what we can get them to know.”

At the April 18 board meeting, Hundred High School Principal Beth Sigley spoke to the board about Hundred’s practice assessments, as well how students would work to improve assessment results.

Sigley had been unable to present to the board at its April 3 meeting, due to her attendance at a Principal’s Leadership Academy.

Sigley showed how she gathered data from Diagnostic assessment results to drive instruction. She discussed, with the board, what areas students excelled in on English and Math assessments.

Sigley said students excelled in the following English Language Arts areas: evaluating information/sources, writing and revising brief texts, and word meanings.

Students did not do so well in key details, analyze/integrate multiple sources, use of evidence, and language use.

Sigley said when she read the data from the Math Diagnostics, “I was thinking that some of this stuff I’d have to go back through and teach myself.” However, Sigley noted, she was able to navigate the assessment system on the computer and “it shows the exact problem students missed.”

“When I see this, it makes more sense to me,” she said.

Sigley said 11th graders will further study language and vocabulary use and write/revise brief tests. She said teachers are currently working on grading the Spring 2017 tests.

Sigley said students will be taught how to cite evidence to support arguments and how to gather, and integrate multiple sources of information/evidence to support a topic.

Linda Haught, principal at Short Line School, said Short Line students have low performance in math on the summative assessment as well as Interim Assessment Blocks and Interim Cumulative Assessments. Haught said the staff would be utilizing the latter two’s results to determine needs.

She said, for Math, students struggled with fractions, operations and algebraic thinking, understanding what the question is asking, and ultimately, conceptual understanding and application.

To increase scores, students will study practice IAB practice questions, fraction kits, hands-on activities, and SPL groups. Data sources will include on-going formative assessments, “Math Talks,” IAB classrooms work, IAB assessment, and attendance.

Haught said teachers have been trained in utilizing fraction kits, reviewed formative assessments and data, utilized best practices and utilized strategies.

For improvement in English Language Arts, teachers were trained in and implemented “Step Up To Writing” strategies; they utilized a Reading Wonders series that teaches students how to find evidence and understand text structure, and teachers utilized practice tests from ICA’s and IAB’s.

Fay Pritchard, principal at New Martinsville School, said fifth and sixth grade are showing weaknesses in math. She noted that the weakness could stem from teacher turnover. “

Pritchard noted that the school has incorporated Wednesday study groups. Teachers have also developed lessons to address specific weaknesses that they discover through test data.

Teachers have also started monitoring students in pre-k and kindergarten. New Martinsville School has a Title I interventionist in the younger grades, and the school is sharing test data with parents and students. “Everybody has a data notebook, and we explain what their results are to them, so they know that their weaknesses are.” Pritchard said the data notebooks make the tests more meaningful to students.

Pritchard discussed learning techniques for each of the grade levels at New Martinsville School.

Principal at Paden City Elementary, Tammy Chambers, spoke of how the school is focusing on data-driven instruction.

She noted that the greatest weakness for PCE was in math, at all grade levels. She said the focus was math, school-wide. “We’ve made sure that we wanted to focus on the basics of math,” Chambers said. She noted that teachers were trained on fraction kits and implemented those. “There are still gaps due to the fact that older students had not received fraction kit instruction before,” she said.

Chambers spoke on the implementation of a “math interventionist.” The math interventionist pulls kids out of the classroom, works with them to see whatever instruction the kids may need. Also, PCE has an after-school tutoring program.

Reading specialists are also used in the classroom.

Chambers said fifth and sixth graders have a resource time, a morning quiet zone, and mentor/mentee for specific students. Chamber said that the resource is 45 minutes long for fifth and sixth graders, and these students can go to a specific teacher to to a study hall.

Chamber said staff will continue tweak the use of strategies.

Paul Huston, principal of Long Drain School, said LDS is “doing the same things that the other elementary schools are doing.” Huston mentioned specific programs the school is implementing, as well as tutoring and “making time within the day to help kids.”

Huston said his third graders are “doing awesome.”

“I’m tickled to death with those guys.” Third graders performed better, on their March ICAs, than the state average.

Huston said he was able to retrieve the specific questions from the ICA, which would tell him how many kids got the question correct vs. how many missed the question. He noted that it is interesting to find out what the question looks like, so he knows whether the question is something teachers have taught on, “or a format issue.”

Huston also presented to the board “ICA Data Focus, Prior to WVGSA.” He noted that he told his teachers to “figure out what we need to attack in these next couple of months to get us back on track.”

For instance, in English Language Arts, eight graders need to focus on reasoning/evidence, while in math, eight graders need to focus on real numbers, pythagorean theorum.

Huston said students have been working on fraction kits, and he noted that since working on the kits, students have greatly improved.