Local school test scores up, but still lag state’s
Morgan County Schools showed improvements in the 2010 WESTEST 2 proficiency scores. However, rates of students proficient in math and reading and language arts are below the state average in most grade levels.
The county scored above the state average in math in the seventh, ninth and 10th grades, and in reading in the ninth and 10th grades.
Gains were also made in the achievement of students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students.
Warm Springs Intermediate School, Berkeley Springs High School, Greenwood Elementary and Paw Paw Elementary raised their reading scores from last year.
Warm Springs Middle School, Warm Springs Intermediate School, Berkeley Springs High School, Greenwood Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary and Paw Paw High School raised their math proficiency percentages.
School Superintendent David Banks felt schools showed a lot of improvement.
Banks said the difficulty of WESTEST 2 exam questions has increased. The questions are three to five-step problems involving
critical thinking and problem-solving and are weighted in difficulty.
Scores for reaching mastery level on the tests have also been raised.
21st Century skills
The school system chose to not implement the 21st Century skills initiative all at once due to concern that it would be too much for teachers, Banks said.
The initiative involves more hands-on, small group learning — a drastic change from how things have been done, he said.
Their goal over the past five years has been to implement chunks of the program little by little.
Banks wondered if the slow implementation affected the test results.
Banks said teacher turnover is his biggest concern, along with getting high quality teachers. Turnover has lessened, with around 20 teachers leaving this year, but it’s still an issue, he said.
The system has some good new teachers, Banks said. The New Teachers Academy helps to train them, but isn’t a fix-all.
Teachers have a lot on their plate and are required to be good managers and innovators, he said.
A high poverty rate and students coming and going from the school system are other concerns. Transient students were taking the assessment tests without the benefit of a whole year of instruction, Banks said.
“How do we get them caught up?” he asked.
Goals & strategies
Data from principals monitoring classrooms is being given to teacher teams so they can improve instruction.
In addition, Banks said they’ve instituted a big parental involvement push. They want parents to understand how they can help their child at home. This year’s Parent Child Academy has begun sessions.
Academic support is being offered before, during and after-school along with remedial help in the summer for kids who need to get caught up.
Banks said they’ve had a decline in referrals for substance abuse.
Banks wants each student connected to a mentor who will be there for them in a time of need. He hopes students will connect to an activity or a teacher that makes them want to come to school.
“We have to do a better job on getting kids to understand why some lessons are relevant and important. Each lesson should begin with why it’s important,” Banks said.
Reading a concern
Banks said he is more concerned about reading now than math. They were still looking for a new reading coach since Kandy Kulus was now a central office director.
If he had all the money in the world, Banks said he would boost salaries to retain personnel and extend teacher contracts for two weeks for paid staff training.
Schools are in a good place with personnel so they can help kids who are struggling, he said.
They are emphasizing the successes that each school had and working on the areas needing improvement, as well as the needs of individual students, Banks said.