|By Bob Weaver|
Charleston Gazette columnist Phil Kabler wrote, "This time of year, football fans like to check the polls to see where their favorite teams are ranked."
"Thanks to a concerned educator, I was to put together a different kind of rankings, based on academic, not athletic, performance," Kabler said.
With the help of an educator friend, he was able to access a private, password-protected site operated by the West Virginia Department of Education, intended for county school superintendents and top administrators.
The state education site says that Calhoun County is the worst performing school system of West Virginia's 55 counties, based on Westest 2/No Child Left Behind testing and standards, which reflects academic performance of students.
Worse yet, West Virginia ranks at the bottom in educational performance in 2010, according to the Nation's Report Card, the respected annual measurement of performance and outcomes.
Calhoun Middle-High School has failed to meet the state's Average Yearly Progress standards five of the last six years.
The school had been on probation in 2008 following an audit by state education officials. That report cited CM-HS for having problems in achievement, curriculum, student and school performance and leadership, recognizing "the urgency for change."
The Education Performance Audit Team said, "the school's performance and progress are persistently below standard."
After efforts were made, the state took the school off probation.
See CALHOUN MIDDLE-HIGH SCHOOL FAILS TO MEET NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND STANDARDS - Temporary Accreditation Issued From Earlier Audit
Kabler said, "That (secure) site makes it easier to compare educational performance, county-by-county, and school-by-school."
Spencer Newspapers reported this week that Calhoun County schools was at the bottom, with Roane County ranked at 52.
Each year the state Department of Education updates data from the federal No Child Left Behind requirements, including West Virginia's
Westest 2 scores.
In addition to putting some of that data on a public website, the department has a private, password-protected site, intended for county school superintendents and top administrators, Kabler reported.
That site makes it easier to compare educational performance, county-by-county, and school-by-school, said Kabler.
The Hur Herald was told by the West Virginia Department of Education that the agency does not have such a list.
"The West Virginia Department of Education does not rank schools related to performance outcomes in a matrix from best to worst," said Lisa Cordeiro, public information specialist, "but does provide public data about specific schools."
The private WVDE web site lists the 10 worst school systems: 1. Calhoun, 2. Fayette, 3. Barbour, 4. Roane, 5. Mingo, 6. McDowell, 7. Logan, 8. Lincoln, 9. Pleasants, 10. Hampshire.
Top ten best school systems in the state (Based on overall proficiency scores for all grade levels related to Westest 2: 1.Putnam, 2. Monongalia, 3. Ohio, 4. Pendleton, 5. Marion, 6. Tyler, 7. Hancock, 8. Brooke, 9. Mineral, 10. Jefferson.
Kabler said counties on such lists have been taken over by the state system. In several cases, after years of state control, academic improvement has been slow to occur.
Kabler released another list with the lowest percentages of students meeting standards for proficiency:
1 Mount View 2. Mount Hope (now closed), 3. Calhoun County, 4. Lewis County, 5. Burch, 6. Midland Trail, 7. Lincoln County, 8. River View (McDowell County), 9. Hampshire Senior, 10. Tug Valley, 11. Preston, 12. Philip Barbour, 13. Robert C. Byrd, 14. Logan Senior, 15. Riverside, 16. Webster County, 17. John Marshall, 18. Tygarts Valley, 19. Sissonville, 20. Bluefield.
Sixty-six percent of state schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind standards, with the State Department of Education asking for a waver from those standards.
No Child Left Behind standards have been the subject of contentious debate by the nation's educators.
Kabler, in his column said, "Unfortunately, the mindset of too many West Virginians is that they'd rather have their high school ranked in the top 20 for sports than for academics."
Calhoun school administrators say they are making major efforts to improve academics, and presented a plan at a recent meeting of the Calhoun Board of Education.
The detailed plan was presented to the board by CM-HS principal Karen Kirby and school administrator Kelli Whytsell.
Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Roger Propst said, according to school board minutes, "I certainly commend the Principals at Calhoun Middle-High School for their efforts and their presentation. It is quite apparent they have a vision and are pursuing it."
Propst addressed the issues in an earlier article published by the Hur Herald, noting improvements made by students.
School officials and board members did not comment on this story, but board members did say, according to school board minutes, they were impressed with a detailed improvement plan presented to them.
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