State schools earn ‘C’ from education newspaper

By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter

A national report grading the performance of state school systems found that West Virginia falls behind in student achievement despite being the country’s second highest spender on education.

While West Virginia came up short in several categories, like preschool enrollment and factors determining a student’s chance for success, the state’s overall grade of C places it 27th in the nation. The country as a whole also received a C.

In 2013, the report ranked West Virginia ninth in the nation with an overall score of B-minus despite receiving an F in student achievement. The state’s ranking has varied over time though due to the report’s shifting focus each year. That B-minus dropped to C-minus last year when West Virginia’s ranking plummeted to 46th. However, researchers said past reports are not directly comparable to the one issued this year.

Despite the lukewarm results of the report, which was released Thursday by Education Week, school officials said they were encouraged.

State Superintendent Michael Martirano said the report positively reflects areas where the state has shown improvement, but admitted more work still needs to be done if graduation, attendance and student achievement goals are to improve.

“We need to continue to work tirelessly to help all children reach their full potential and ensure that every student graduates from high school college and career ready,” he said.

Martirano has said in past interviews that improving achievement requires intervention before a student even starts school.

West Virginia is one of the best states when it comes to this, the report finds. The state is ranked sixth in early education, though preschool enrollment is one of the lowest in the country at about 37 percent.

Despite this, West Virginia’s preschool program is nationally recognized — most notably for a state law that required universal care to be offered to every 4-year-old.

While the report found that West Virginia has not seen preschool enrollment gains in recent years, it does place the state sixth in the number of students attending a full-day program.

The focus of this year’s report was early education. The nation as a whole received a D-plus.

Other factors graded were student performance and their chance for success.

West Virginia was 47th in achievement and is ranked in the bottom 10 for fourth and eighth grade reading and math proficiency.

The state also was 47th in the chance for success index, which measures the role of education in a student’s life, from childhood to adulthood.

West Virginia’s highest marks came in education spending.

While the state’s education spending was second highest in the nation, the management of the Department of Education’s $2.5 billion budget has been the source of much criticism over the years and one of the factors highlighted in an efficiency audit that found the state wasted millions.

While the high per-pupil spending may not be reflected by student achievement rates, the report found that West Virginia is one of the most equitable education spenders when it comes to low-income students in poorer districts.

The report, Education Week’s 19th, also found that state performance is inconsistent across indexes. The majority of states, West Virginia included, ranked in the top 10 in some categories and in the bottom 10 in others.

The full report can be downloaded at www.edweek.org.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.