Fayette County schools have taken positive strides in the past year, figures from the WESTEST (West Virginia Educational Standards Test) show.

The WESTEST was administered to students in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10 statewide last spring.

According to West Virginia Achieves, the agency which charts accountability for the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, over 88 percent of the county’s schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2004-05. That was better than figures compiled in 2003-04 (76 percent) and 2002-03 (57.69 percent in SAT-9 testing).

“Quite frankly, I’m pretty proud,” said Superintendent Helen Whitehair. “I’m pleased what our people have done for the kids in the classroom. They worked hard throughout the school year and deserve to be celebrated.”

According to state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, 594 state schools (83 percent) met AYP in 2004-05.

The news on a state and local level, Paine said, is “a wonderful morale booster at the beginning of the school year.”

Whitehair said local improvement can be based at least in part — now and in the future — to efforts by county staff, school administrators and teachers to target improvement in reading and mathematics, as well as prioritizing curriculum. Also, the Fayette County School Improvement Leadership Team is focusing on elements that impact student achievement: curriculum, instruction, school effectiveness and student/parent support.

“Teachers have been working all summer to do that (prioritize curriculum) to make sure the kids are prepared with the essential skills they need,” she said.

West Virginia Achieves focuses on closing the achievement gap between student subgroups. Their measuring stick, the WESTEST, assesses student achievement of the West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives. Schools are classified and ranked for subgroup assessment (nine different areas related to nationality, level of learning capability or socioeconomic status), participation, and graduation or attendance rates. Schools must be efficient in all subgroups to make the grade.

Only three of Fayette’s 25 schools didn’t achieve AYP this past school year — Collins Middle School and Meadow Bridge and Oak Hill high schools. Collins failed to meet guidelines in assessment subgroups (specifically special education), while the two high schools were lacking in graduation rates.

Due to higher enrollment figures, which means it participates in more of the subgroups, Whitehair said, “It is much harder for Collins to meet AYP than any other school in the county.”

“It is important to point out that if a school is identified as not meeting AYP, the status should not reflect on the teachers or students,” Whitehair added. “A school can be identified for a variety of reasons and we will make certain to assist the school as it improves its student achievement levels.”

In 2003-04, six schools didn’t achieve AYP in Fayette, while 11 didn’t in 2002-03.

Another important aspect of this year’s results, Whitehair says, is the fact that none of the three schools who came up short are Title I schools. “If you are out of compliance in Title I schools, federal sanctions occur,” the superintendent noted.

“Our students with disabilities are also working their way towards proficiency,” Whitehair said. In addition, the county’s black and low SES (socioeconomic status) subgroups are showing improvement, she added.

For more information, visit http://wvde.state. wv.us and click on the West Virginia Achieves icon.

— E-mail: skeenan@fayettetribune.com

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