Princeton Times

News

September 14, 2012

Students can pick school; most stay put

PRINCETON — While three schools in Mercer County must offer students the choice to attend another school, so far, only four students have taken advantage of the option.

Bluefield Intermediate, Mercer and Straley schools fell short for two consecutive years of the annual yearly progress mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind. As a result, the school system must offer students at those schools the chance to attend their choice of two other schools that did meet the federal benchmark.

Mercer County Schools must also foot the bill for any additional transportation costs, Information Specialist Kellan Sarles explained this week.

At Bluefield Intermediate School, the optional schools are Bluewell and Brushfork. For the Princeton schools, students may opt to attend either Athens or Melrose Elementary.

“Those letters have already gone out to the parents, and they have been in their hands for some time,” Sarles said.

The students who opt to transfer are slated to change schools on Sept. 17, according to the Mercer County Schools website, http://boe. merc.k12.wv.us.

Sarles emphasized that although the students must be offered a choice, the fact that these schools missed the AYP mark, based upon WESTEST 2 testing completed last spring, does not mean the schools are not quality institutions.

“We have tremendous teachers in the classrooms in all schools. The fact that [these three schools] did not make AYP is not, in my estimation, a mark on the teachers’ commitment or ability,” Sarles said. “At the same time, we take it seriously, and schools then can look at the areas that might have weaknesses.”

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According to the West Virginia Department of Education website, wvde.state.wv.us, WESTEST 2 is a custom-designed assessment for students. The individual content assessments measure a student’s level of performance on clearly defined standards, objectives and skills. Scores are based on test questions that have been developed and aligned to the West Virginia 21st Century content standard objectives.

AYP is based upon the recommended growth in proficiency ranking among all students at a school, as well as students in subgroups, determined by socioeconomic factors, ethnicity and other distinctions.

The proficiency standards recorded at the three schools in question this year indicated:

• At Bluefield Intermedi-ate, 41.23 percent of students were proficient in reading. The county rating is 44.57 percent, while the state’s is 48.42.

In math, 41.78 percent of BIS students rated as proficient, while the county level measures at 46.84 and the state comes in at 46.54.

Science and social studies scores were less proficient. In science, BIS 26.79 percent of the students were proficient, compared with 34.18 percent in the county and 40.73 percent in the state. In social studies, 24.84 percent of BIS students were graded as proficient. The county level was 32.51 percent, and the state’s was 36.79 percent.

• At Mercer, 44.33 percent of students scored proficient. In math, 45.18 percent of students were proficient. In science, 32.55 percent of students were proficient, and in social studies 30.48 percent of students tested scored in the proficient level.

• At Straley, 37.42 percent of students ranked in the proficient category in reading. In math, 32.07 percent achieved proficiency. In science, 25.65 percent reached the benchmark, and in social studies 21.38 percent were ranked as proficient.

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While the AYP is determined by the number of students who are proficient, Sarles said the state is also looking at a growth model that measures the overall increase or decrease in student achievement.

Mercer County Test Coordinator Rosemary Mitchell reviewed the growth model during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, explaining that she appreciated the model’s attention to improvement, rather than focusing solely on proficiency standards.

“This is a truer picture of what we’re doing than probably anything else I’ve seen,” Mitchell said. “We are making growth, and we are moving in the right direction.”

For example, as a county, Mitchell said Mercer County WESTEST scores ranked 29th out of 55 counties in the reading/language arts categories. In math, Mercer County ranked 19th.

Compared with 2011 rankings of 35th in reading/language arts and 24th in math, the newest round of test scores clearly show moves in the right direction.

“Are we showing improvement? Yes. Is it enough? No,” she said.

Board of Education members examined the growth model, and Board President Greg Prudich speculated that growing could be more difficult for students who are already high achievers, because they don’t have far to go beyond proficiency.

“Better to be in the slow growth and high achievement” than to grow dramatically but still achieve low, he said.

Meanwhile, Board member Ted Gillespie said he preferred a line graph to the “spatter spots” of the growth model.

“That’s meaningful to me. I like the growth model, but I want to win,” he said.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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