By Bob Weaver

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Roger Propst has announced a new administrative structure at Calhoun Middle-High School whose primary purpose is to focus on delivery of instruction.

The changes come after the school has failed to meet No Child Left Behind standards five out the last six school years.

"These are all efforts to provide a safe, encouraging, and challenging environment for students to pursue academics," Propst said.

For several years the school has functioned with a principal and two assistant principals whose duties and tasks have been to address either the high school or the middle school separately.

The administrative changes are toward two Principals, one with concentration and focus upon instruction school-wide, the other two focused on administrative tasks, like building and grounds, athletics, food service, and health and safety.

The Assistant Principal position will concentrate primarily on school discipline for all grade levels.

Karen Kirby, who has served as Principal for the past five years, will fill the position of Principal of Administration.

Kelli Whytsell, Assistant Principal for the past three years, will serve as Principal of Instruction.

Mike Worf will serve in the Assistant Principal position with his primary function being school discipline.

"It is believed that this structure will improve consistency, lines of communication between staff and teachers, and most importantly place the primary focus of the school on academic achievement," Propst said.

Calhoun Middle-High School, not unlike nearly half of West Virginia's schools, is facing critical challenges to improve academic outcome.

Propst says the focus is on three important goals:

Goal 1: Calhoun Middle High School will improve academic performance.

Goal 2: Calhoun Middle High School will improve on a cohesive culture and positive climate that is intended to promote a sense of collective responsibility and ownership for improving learning.

Goal 3. Calhoun Middle High School will increase community, parent and student involvement in our school.

Those goals, according to a press release, include activities to increase Depth of Knowledge (DOK), streamline communication, common lesson plan format, school wide discipline committee, new teacher orientation, and student leadership.

"These activities will change the climate and achievement at our school. We are still in the infancy of some of these programs and changing the way things have always been done takes time and effort. We have committed time and resources to these changes," said Propst.

State Superintendent Dr. Jorea Marple says West Virginia will join most states in filing waivers to meet No Child Left Behind criteria by 2014.

The U.S. Department of Education has estimated that 82% of schools in America will not meet standards if waivers are not granted.

"If a teacher were to give failing grades to 82% of their students, I would think it logical to assume the teachers assessment tools are flawed in a significant manner," said Propst.

Propst said significant efforts are being made to improve outcomes at Calhoun Middle-High School, including obtaining grants to address the shortcomings.

One is a Safe Schools Grant to fund an Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in the Middle School, a four-year project funded with $272,000 from the state.

"We have funded a teacher and a paraprofessional to staff the ALC beginning the first day of school this year," Propst said.

The school has also received a School Improvement Grant of $554,730 for three years to fund professional development, planning, peer assistance, etc.

Propst said, "The biggest concern I hear mentioned by my colleagues around the state relating to Westest II (and No Child Left Behind) is that many students do not take the test seriously, and thus the results are skewed badly at times."

Propst says this is even more of a problem in a small county like Calhoun where smaller numbers of students take the test, and low scores lower the overall percentage of mastery, more than they would in a larger group of students.

"Westest is given at the end of the school term when students are ready for the summer break, and since their grades are not affected by the outcome of the test, there are no repercussions for doing badly. It appears that many do not try," he said.

Propst says the retirement of the "baby boomer" generation of teachers has reduced the average experience level of teachers significantly.

"We feel we have a very good faculty, but it will take time for our younger faculty members to reach the level of experience they replaced," Propst concluded.

CALHOUN SCHOOLS FAIL NCLB STANDARDS - Calhoun Middle-High School Lacks Progress Five Of Six Years

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