State school board approves grading evaluation system for public schools

By Matt Maccaro in News
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education put the final touches Wednesday on a program that will give individual letter grades to each public school in the state beginning this fall.

The program will grade schools on an A-F Accountability System, adjusting a point structure based primarily on student achievement.

“The goal of our accountability system is to communicate student achievement progress to education stakeholders and serve as a platform for school improvement,” said Board of Education President Mike Green. “This is not a punitive system, but rather a means of empowering our communities and arming them with data and strategies for continuous school improvement.”

State BOE member Gayle Manchin said that accountability is key with the new system.

“The most critical issue is accountability,” she said. “Are our students reaching the expectations that we have set up in our standards? We have high standards that I think make our students competitive.”

While other factors such as school safety are important, the most critical issue when evaluating schools is performance itself, Manchin said.

“When we are talking about schools and getting an A to an F, the priority in my mind is are students achieving,” Manchin said. “Are schools succeeding in providing the best quality of education we can provide in West Virginia?”

The WVEA was strongly opposed to the grading system, releasing a statement criticizing the new policy.

“This unnecessary program will perpetuate the idea that many of our public schools are failing even though that is not the case,” said WVEA President Dale Lee. “Beginning this fall, schools will receive an A, B, C, D or F grade based on a scoring system approved by the state Board of Education. Too much of that scoring system depends on a student’s performance on the statewide summative assessment, which is currently the Smarter Balanced. WVEA does not believe this accurately measures a school’s quality or performance.”

All public schools throughout West Virginia will receive a letter grade in mid-November 2016.