|COMMENTS by Cynthia Dale Calhoun County Board of Education member|
Dale has issued comments regarding recently released OPEA findings following a visit to Calhoun Middle-High School and Arnoldsburg and Pleasant Hill Elementary schools, which CM-HS failed to meet yearly progress under No Child Left Behind standards for four of the last five years and resulted with the school ranking 55th in WV counties regarding academic outcomes:
In October of 2011, the West Virginia Education Performance Team conducted an audit of the Calhoun County School System with primary focus on the Five Year Strategic Plan.
Upon receipt of the report our system made corrective action plans on all noted negative findings. The superintendent, board members, some central office staff and various school administrators travelled to Charleston to attend the WV State Board of Education meeting on March 14th.
At the meeting, the OEPA Audit Team requested approval of their report coupled with our corrective action plan; the report and corrective actions were approved. The superintendent spoke to the WV State Board of Education during the meeting and pledged diligence to improve test scores within our county.
We take the recommendations made by the audit team and our proposed corrective plan seriously. Therefore, our Strategic Plan will be reviewed annually and utilized as a roadmap for overall school improvement.
Within the Summary Section of the report on page 54 the audit team noted, "It is the determination of the Office of Education Performance Audits that the Calhoun County Board of Education is a high functioning board and the county superintendent possesses the leadership necessary to lead the county."
There was only one reason that the Audit Team came to our county and one reason only, which was due to our test WESTEST 2 scores. I have read and studied this 100 page report in great detail and am condensing the findings for readers of this article. There are many positives within the report that deem noting.
First, our Graduation Rate is 87 percent; which is better than the 80 percent required by the state. Our Attendance Rate is 96.99; which is better than the 90 percent required by the state.
Guidance and Advisement far exceeded the minimum requirements of Policy 2510 to allow students to choose a career major in order to complete the necessary courses warranted toward their particular career path.
The High School's Counselor and Curriculum High School Administrator worked together to provide this information to students as early as middle school. The number of students going to college after graduation is 58.2 percent with the state percentage at 58.8.
This percentage difference is not a significant discrepancy. High school students are provided with many opportunities to receive dual credit from Marshall University, Glenville State College, and West Virginia University. Calhoun Middle High School was the only school in the state to offer Math 153 and 154 which is Calculus 1A and 1B from West Virginia University. Last year our high school graduates had obtained 419 college credit hours which gave them a substantial jump start on their collegiate endeavors.
WESTEST 2 security is paramount as well as the administration of the test. Our schools met that audit satisfactorily. All other tests such as ACT Plan/Explore, ASVAB, ACT and SAT were administered on the specified dates. Data analysis was conducted on the WESTEST 2, Benchmarks and Acuity. Training was provided personnel on data analysis.
It was found that schools did a good job of providing information to parents and the community through the utilization of Edline, school websites, a Parent Resource Center, News Releases and parent classes on technology.
Grant writing was conducted to secure monies for the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant to improve school climate and culture. A grant to provide an Alternative Learning Center at the middle school was written and monies were received.
A commendation was noted for all school booster groups and staff for excellent recordkeeping and depositing their funds promptly in the correct account. This shows that monies are utilized for the purpose intended.
A commendation on Student Handbooks being well written and containing informative information was noted. It was also noted that our students have adequate access to library and technology applications.
Board of Education members had completed the necessary state mandated obligations such as the superintendent's evaluation, board goals/objectives, and the annual-on-line board assessment. Board meeting minutes verified that public meeting protocols were followed and meetings were conducted in a professional and respectful manner.
The additional good news being we will be getting air conditioning in the high school gymnasium so that our important graduation ceremony will be more enjoyable for all attendees. We also will be breaking ground soon on our new school building in Arnoldsburg.
Here are the areas in which the Calhoun County School System needs to improve. Our test scores are the main focus of why the team came to our county. You already know about the federal mandate of "No Child Left Behind" which commands states to develop a testing tool which in our state is the WESTEST 2.
No Child Left Behind is one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation ever passed and has been inadequately implemented by the Education Department. WV teachers must teach to the test with the state mandated Content Standard Objectives (CSOs) which is the guide for them to follow in their daily instruction.
This concept is ludicrous and stifles teacher creativity within their instruction and narrows the curriculum for the students. The state of West Virginia ranks low per other states in academic achievement. When will they understand their concept of instruction is not working! Research will show that in an educational environment such as this, that if test scores improve, it is due to the result of repetitive drilling per the narrow content that the test covers.
Here are additional noted negative findings per the OEPA Audit. We have conducted corrective action responses to the Strategic Plan to encompass change.
We did not employ half-time Attendance Director even though our attendance has increased and above the state mandate. The Curriculum Administrator at the CMHS is doing this job in order to save the county money.
The Audit Team advised us to post the position for Attendance Director for next school year and this will be done. Curriculum Administrator will no longer be conducting this job next school year.
Director of School Improvement has too many responsibilities. Within our county we often attempt to double up on job duties due to lack of monetary funds.
Work on Master Schedule at the high school level to incorporate the opportunity of the students to take band. Scheduling is problematic due to that it must be aligned with the Vocational School's Schedule.
A School Counselor must be in the two elementary schools part-time. Therefore, the middle school counselor position was reposted for next year to incorporate the two elementary schools.
Additional attention to be given to evaluation procedures (Policy 5310) of school personnel.
Create a Comprehensive Preventive Maintenance Plan - advised to utilize a state wide preventive maintenance program with software to implement the program. Calhoun will participate in the state guided program. An automated work order system was suggested.
Disciplinary Problems such as Aggressive Behavior has increased along with Failure to Obey Rules, administrators will continue on-going programs already in place to attempt to decrease incidents.
Include additional pertinent information on Job Postings.
Noted in the report, "They were encumbered by too many administrative responsibilities to focus enough time on achievement. State mandates guide and demand all of this paperwork to be submitted. They also noted that we have a limited number of staff and this is so true. I might also add a limited amount of monetary resources to hire additional personnel.
All Calhoun County Board of Education members, Mr. Roger Propst, Superintendent of Calhoun County Schools and additional personnel are all aware of what needs to be accomplished to achieve the corrective actions that have been incorporated in the report and will strive to meet those goals.
Disclaimer: These are my interpretations of the OEPA Report and circumstances dealing with this topic.