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School skill data shows mixed gains, declines for county students at start of year

by Kate Evans

Beginning of the year student data indicated some academic gains and some losses as the Morgan County school system works through the pandemic.

Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney and Secondary Education Director Beth Golden gave a PowerPoint presentation at the Morgan County School Board November 16 meeting that included STAR reading and math proficiencies, pre-kindergarten data, Camp MoCo and Camp Alpha data. Both talked about ways to close learning gaps.

Pentoney noted that the last normal school year for county students was the 2018-2019 school year and that kindergarten, first and second grade students haven’t had a normal school year yet.

Pentoney said the school system had increased the benchmark for proficiency.  A score of 40% or more was originally considered proficiency for students, but they raised the bar.  Last year it was changed to 50% or higher for proficiency and this year proficiency is measured at 60% or more. Beginning of the year STAR proficiency dropped from 2020 to 2021.

Reading

Some 20% of Morgan County students achieved proficiency (scored 60% or more) on the 2021  beginning of the year STAR reading assessments. Some 36% of county students were proficient (scored 50% or more) on the same test in 2020.

The STAR assessments were just added this year at Berkeley Springs High School, Pentoney said.

Paw Paw Elementary’s average proficiency was 38%, Warm Springs Intermediate School-35%, Widmyer Elementary-22%, Berkeley Springs High School-18%, Warm Springs Middle School-17%, Pleasant View Elementary-15% and Paw Paw High School-10%.

In 2020, the beginning of the year (BOY) county proficiency average with 50% or above considered as proficient on the STAR reading assessments was 36%.  School proficiencies were Widmyer Elementary-85%, Paw Paw Elementary-50%, Warm Springs Intermediate-39%, Pleasant View Elementary-35%, Warm Springs Middle-32% and Paw Paw High School-21%.

Math

Some 27% of Morgan County students achieved  proficiency (scored 60% or more) on the 2021 beginning of the year  STAR math assessments. Some 44% of county students were considered proficient (scored 50% or more) on the same test in 2020.

School proficiencies were Widmyer Elementary-44%, Warm Springs Intermediate-31%, Paw Paw Elementary-30%, Pleasant View Elementary and Berkeley Springs High School-27%, Paw Paw High School-23% and Warm Springs Middle-16%.  First grade math proficiency was over 50%.

On the 2020 beginning of the year STAR student math assessments, the county school proficiency average at or above 50% proficiency was 44%.  School proficiency averages were Widmyer Elementary-63%, Warm Springs Intermediate-53%, Paw Paw Elementary-48%, Pleasant View Elementary-42%, Paw Paw High School-33% and Warm Springs Middle-32%.

Summer camp data

Golden said that she was very pleased with the STAR data they had from Camp MoCo and Camp Alpha summer camp students. A majority of kids maintained or gained proficiency in English/language arts and math.

Most grades had at least 55%-60% of camp students maintaining or gaining proficiency in math and 50-55% maintaining or gaining proficiency in English/language arts on beginning of the year STAR assessments.  Seventh grade reading percentages were around 85%, with eighth grade reading around 70% and seventh grade math around 75%.

Pre-kindergarten

Pre-kindergarten assessments for math and science showed scientific inquiry, geometry and measurement, classification and algebraic thinking and number and numerical operations had dropped slightly since last year.  Pentoney said they needed to improve numerical operations such as adding things together and subtracting.

Pre-K English/language arts skills such as writing, print awareness, phonological awareness and oral language has also decreased slightly from the 2020-2021 school year. Pentoney said that rhyming, rhythm, alliteration and phonological awareness need addressed.

Pre-K social-emotional skills such as play and self-regulation were high.  Pre-K physical health and development skills like gross and fine motor skills need work.  Pentoney said skills such as throwing and catching balls were kids’ greatest weakness along with eye-hand coordination.

Skills

Their presentation also included a breakdown of West Virginia math domain groups-numbers operations, algebra and geometry- and what skills were covered and overlapped from pre-kindergarten to Algebra 2.  They also discussed trip steps in mathematics-skills that were especially difficult that can cause students to stumble on the staircase of learning.

“All steps are not created equal.  Some skills are harder to master,” Pentoney said.

There are also some prerequisite skills that must be taught and mastered before kids move on to the next grade, she noted. For reading, focus skills are vocabulary and fluency.

Closing the gaps

Pentoney said school officials are monitoring student engagement in testing and teaching best testing practices.  They’re also watching kids that are on the benchmark edge and providing intervention programs. Free entrance to school events has greatly improved teen mental health, she said.

Other strategies included Tier 1, 2 and 3 support, focusing on truancy and absenteeism and constantly monitoring kids’ socio/emotional health.

MC After 3 Jr. is starting in December and an after-school program is beginning in Paw Paw.  Golden said that they are close to implementing an online tutoring program.

School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said there are new tools available with STAR assessments that offer targeted lessons for individual children to help close the learning gaps.

Board comments

Board president Aaron Close raised staff concerns about teaching four to five different groups in the classroom.  He also wondered what standards are being taught to a third grader.

Board member Eric Lyda suggested that parents could help if they knew what standards their children are learning.

Board vice-president Pete Gordon said that fractions don’t end in fifth grade.  Re-teaching, bell-ringers and constantly weaving trip steps into a variety of problems and mini-lessons would help.

Board member Laura Smith said she sees a lot of positives and likes the tutoring online idea especially as a grandparent.

Board member John Rowland noted his students said they forgot fractions because he didn’t review them enough. Reviewing is crucial. Rowland said that he taught five to six different groups in his classroom.

“It’s not ideal, but it can be done,” he said.

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