New Manchester Elementary receives ‘A’ report card

New Manchester Elementary was the lone Hancock County school to receive an “A” on the new West Virginia Report Card grading system, released Wednesday.

Of the seven schools within the Hancock County school system, only one — Oak Glen High School — received an “unacceptable” mark, a “D,” according to documents showing how to interpret the report card.

The West Virginia Department of Education made the new letter grades for schools public Wednesday. Those grades are based on each school’s data from 2015, and indicate the school’s level of success in ultimately getting students career- or college-ready, department officials said Tuesday.

Data used is 83 percent student performance, including scores from the West Virginia General Summative Assessment, also known as the Smarter Balance exam. The remaining 17 percent of the score is based on non-performance metrics, including attendance at all school levels and graduation rates at the high-school level.

Michele Blatt, chief accountability officer for the West Virginia Department of Education, said that grades of A, B and C are within the “acceptable range” of grades, while a D or an F are “unacceptable.”

Schools receiving unacceptable grades must create a plan to improve by next year, and if there’s no improvement, then the state can help with resources through the Regional Educational Service Areas.

The specific A-F grades represent students’ performance as follows: A — distinctive; B — commendable; C — acceptable; D — unacceptable, and F — lowest.

In Hancock County, New Manchester received an A; Allison Elementary and Oak Glen Middle School each earned a B; Oak Glen High School received a D; and all three Weirton schools each received a C.

The state Department of Education designed the accountability system to meet a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 15.

It mandates that every state create such a system, yet it gives states some control over how to assess its own schools’ success in getting students career- and college-ready. The act replaces the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

According to grades released Wednesday, among Brooke County’s 10 schools, Hancock County’s seven schools, Tyler County’s four schools and Wetzel County’s eight schools, each school system had one school earn a D grade. Marshall County’s 12 schools brought in two D grades.

No schools within the local counties earned an F grade. Some schools throughout the state that did receive Fs did so because they didn’t have the required 95 percent of students perform the actual test portion, Blatt explained. Fifteen schools statewide received an F.

All 14 Ohio County public schools earned A’s, B’s or C’s — the only Northern Panhandle county that can make that claim, and one of only a handful in the state.

Educators for years have been debating the best way to provide a clear picture of how schools are doing. Some will look at the letter grade release and determine it does not represent a clear picture of the work being done within schools and a district.

Rather the majority of its data relies on a single test: the West Virginia General Summative Assessment, which assesses only a few subjects in different grades by assigning a proficiency score of 1-4 for students.

For example, the assessment scores only on English/language arts and math for grades three through 11. Science is tested in grades four, six and 10, but was not included as part of the grading system.

Some superintendents are calling for additional assessments to be added to the process.

Although the state board of education was set to approve schools’ grades during its meeting Wednesday, schools already knew their grades.

The state Department of Education withheld releasing them to the public until schools had a chance to verify the data used and appeal their grades.

This is the first year for the report cards, although the state Department of Education has been working with schools for about a year. From now on, scoring will be released each fall during the school year.

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