PARKERSBURG - The state Department of Education last week quietly released the 2006-07 WESTEST results, with more than 80 percent of West Virginia schools meeting state and federal standards.
This year 558 out of nearly 700 West Virginia schools met the standards set by the state and the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Schools are measured using the state WESTEST academic accountability exam to see whether students have made adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward the goals of No Child. The test is administered each spring to all students in grades 3-11 and scores are rated for all students and student sub-groups, such as special education, minorities and low-socioeconomic status (SES) students.
In years past the Department of Education has done a large-scale release of information in the fall, with school systems and the department calling press conferences to discuss the information. This year test test scores and a press release were posted with little fanfare on the department's Web site late Friday, and there were no state or local press conferences.
"We're just following their lead on this one," Wood County Schools Superintendent Bill Niday said Tuesday.
In Friday's release, state Superintendent Steven Paine distanced the state school system from the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
"While NCLB has played an important role in closing the achievement gap, its emphasis on standardized testing does not fully support the skills students need to be globally competitive," Paine said in the release. "We recognize that it is time for us also to focus on the quality mission and that means embedding 21st century skills into all that we teach."
The state has been looking at different ways to assess student performance, including new indicators for adequate yearly progress. Work on the WESTEST 2 already is under way and will more closely align with the state's 21st Century Learning program and curriculum.
"The WESTEST is but one indicator of student progress," Paine said in the release. "It is important that we balance 21st century assessment practices to include other meaningful measures of student achievement such as benchmark assessments and formative classroom assessments."
The No Child legislation is up for reauthorization, which means dramatic changes could occur in the law or it could be eliminated altogether. Many lawmakers and educators are waiting to see the outcome of November's presidential election to have a better idea on the future of the education legislation.
However, local officials say until there is a change, the law as-is will be followed.
"If and until the law is changed and so long as it is in place, we will continue to approach it in the same way," Niday said. "The WESTEST is one indicator, an important indicator, and we will continue to look at as such."
A spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Education could not be reached for comment Tuesday.