Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)


August 14, 2001, Tuesday

Correction Appended


Schools 'go to war' against low scores; 13 Kanawha County schools, the most ever, underachieved on standardized test


BYLINE: Eric Eyre


SECTION: News; Pg. P1A


LENGTH: 581 words

Principals and counselors from a dozen Kanawha County schools were ordered to the central office Monday to develop plans for bolstering student test scores.

Last week, the state Office of Education Performance Audits cited 13 Kanawha County schools for low scores on the Stanford Achievement Test. It marked the largest number of schools on the state's "probation list" since students first took the test in 1997.

Principals, counselors and central-office administrators examined test results and discussed strategies for improving scores in a four-hour meeting Monday morning.

"It's like going to war," said Stonewall Jackson Principal Carol Thom. "It's a full-scale effort."

Schools that didn't meet the minimum standards were Anne Bailey, Belle, Chandler, Cedar Grove, Midway, J.E. Robins, Chesapeake, Sissonville and George C. Weimer elementary schools; and Clendenin, Dunbar, Stonewall Jackson and DuPont middle schools.

The school board closed Midway Elementary in June.

Low-performing schools plan to eliminate most assemblies and noneducational field trips this year. They also plan to extend the school day, set up after-school programs and establish special reading and study-skills classes.

Principals plan to monitor teacher lesson plans more closely.

"We're identifying the deficiencies and coming up with strategies," said Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniel. "It's a process. We'll continue to work with principals throughout the school year."

The number of Kanawha County schools on the state's probation list decreased from 1997 to 1999, but increased during the past two years.

Last year, Kanawha school board members vowed to remove all schools - 10 at the time - from the probation list. Instead, the number increased by three.

"People should be having success with the SAT-9 by now," said Kenna Seal, director of the state's Office of Education Performance Audits, which accredits schools. "Instruction should be getting better with time."

Seal's office flagged six Kanawha County schools in which fewer than half of students scored above the 50th percentile on the standardized test. The 50th percentile mark is the score where half of the nation's students fall above and half below.

Another eight Kanawha County schools made the probation list because more than 15 percent of students scored below the 25th percentile. The state tacked on that standard two years ago.

The measure forced principals and teachers to work with their lowest-performing students.

In past years, schools had targeted students "on the bubble," those whose test scores hovered just under the 50th percentile mark.

"You usually target for the middle of the road," said Chesapeake Elementary Principal William Russell, whose school had one too many students below the 25th percentile this year.

Three Kanawha County schools - Chandler Elementary, and Stonewall Jackson and Clendenin middle schools - missed both minimum test-score measures this year. Chandler had the lowest test scores in the state.

Seal acknowledged that large counties may have a difficult time paring schools from the state's low-performing list.

Kanawha County, for instance, zapped four schools from last year's list. But this year, six new schools were added.

"It's like cutting your lawn and just getting the high weeds," Seal said. "But the other weeds keep growing."

To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-5194.


LOAD-DATE: August 15, 2001




CORRECTION-DATE: August 15, 2001, Wednesday


CORRECTION: A story and headline in Tuesday's Gazette about Kanawha County's plans to bolster student test scores should have said that the number of schools on the probation list - 13 - was the highest number since the 1997 school year, when 15 schools were on probation.


Copyright 2001 Charleston Newspapers