Improvement of Hillsboro Elementary WESTEST scores

Schools are not meeting targets for achievement across the state and in Pocahontas County — with the exception of Hillsboro Elementary School, according to a report of the 2014 WESTEST assessments handed out during the county Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

At most schools throughout the county, 2014 WESTEST scores in reading and math increased slightly or declined.

At Hillsboro Elementary School, WESTEST scores in math increased from 32.5% achieving mastery in 2013 to 50% at math mastery level in 2014. Thirty-five percent of students at Hillsboro achieved mastery status in reading and language arts in 2013. In 2014, reading and language arts mastery jumped to 58.3%.

Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel said Hillsboro’s gains will be used as a model throughout the county.

“You look at Hillsboro and they made significant gains. And we’re going to talk about that because they do a little bit of a different structure down there. They have a Monday through Thursday schedule and then on Friday, they have extended planning time where the teachers can dialogue with one another.

“The advantage of the school is it’s a small student population, so they are able to do that, but that may be a prototype for all of us to say, ‘how do we get teachers together to do serious planning for topics?’ It’s called professional learning community. So you always look and say, ‘what can we get better at?’” Bechtel said.

The West Virginia Accountability Index scores schools based on a number of factors including WESTEST scores, attendance, student growth, and graduation rates. The Index groups schools according to Success, the highest ranking, Transition, Support, Focus, and Priority, the lowest ranking.

The only school that achieved a success rating in the county was Hillsboro Elementary School, which increased its ranking from being a transition school in 2013. Success schools are defined as those that have met their target scores and in which the majority of student subgroups are making academic progress.

Only 18 percent of schools in the state, or 119 of the total 650 schools, earned a success designation in 2014.

Marlinton Elementary received a transition ranking, the same ranking it received in 2013. Transition schools are defined as those that have met target scores or have demonstrated a majority of students are making academic progress.

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Marlinton Middle School, and Pocahontas High School received a support ranking, which means these schools did not meet their target scores and have not demonstrated that a majority of student subgroups are making sufficient academic progress. Last year, Green Bank and Pocahontas High School were designated as success schools. Marlinton Middle remained in the same support status as in 2013.

Dr. Bechtel said small group instruction will be used to assist struggling students.

“If the teacher begins to bring those identified kids for small group instruction, it may only take a little bit of remediation every week. Some kids might need to meet in a small group with the teacher five days a week for 15 or 20 minutes,” Bechtel said.

The increase in support school rankings was expected across the state. The Department of Education report states that year two of the Index required each school to increase target goals; for this reason, the number of support schools increased in the state from 75 in 2013 to 215 in 2014.

2014 WESTEST scores are as follows (2013 scores):
Green Bank Elementary-Middle School: math mastery 39.47% (39.7%), reading/language arts mastery 41.4% (43.7%)
Hillsboro Elementary: math mastery 50% (32.5%), reading/language arts mastery 58.3% (35%)
Marlinton Elementary: math mastery 42.6% (45.6), reading/language arts mastery 44.1% (40.7%)
Marlinton Middle: math mastery 38.7% (41.5%), reading/language arts mastery 41.36% (38.5%)
Pocahontas High School: math mastery 46.47% (45.5%), reading/language arts mastery 32.39% (55%)

Starting in the summer of 2015, schools will be given grades A-B-C-D-F in replace of the current Success through Priority ranking, Bechtel said.

Others actions from the board meeting included miscellaneous expenditure approvals, approval for charter bus transportation for the Green Bank Middle School’s eighth grade trip, and a letter of support for the Pocahontas County Education Association to petition Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for a pay increase. Also, Holly Bradley was approved as AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer for the Farm to School program through November 2015.

Personnel changes included in this month’s meeting are as follows:
Green Bank Elementary – Middle School: resignation of M. Jean Taylor due to retirement as cafeteria manager
Marlinton Elementary School: resignation of Cheryl N. Meadows as teacher of multi-subjects retroactive Nov. 20, and resignation of Thomas L. Barnisky due to retirement as head custodian.
Marlinton Middle School: employment of Louisa C. Kiner and Jennifer L. McCarty as cheerleading coach at a supplement of $750 to be divided equally. Also, employment of Cynthia Shreve and Louisa C. Kiner as homework help teachers at $20 per hour, 9 hours per week for up to 25 weeks.
Pocahontas County High School: employment of Samara A. Mann as assistant band director at $20 per hour, 9 hours per week for up to 25 weeks.
Pocahontas County Schools: employment of Diane Arbogast as substitute teacher’s aide and of Lynne Bowman as substitute teacher at state basic pay effective Dec. 10.

Story By

Kelly Taber

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