School News

School officials question testing platform as Star test results show mixed picture of student proficiency

by Kate Evans

Morgan County Schools Star Benchmark proficiency data for the beginning and the end of the year assessments for students during the 2021-2022 school year showed some increases in achievement along with declines.

There were also some low beginning and end of the year proficiency averages for individual schools as well as some jumps in proficiency by the end of the year for others.

Morgan County’s beginning of the year Star assessment proficiency average for reading was 20% and the end of the year proficiency average for reading was 22%, Morgan County Schools Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney said at the August 2 school board meeting.

The county beginning of the year Star proficiency average for math was 26% and the end of the year Star math proficiency average was 31%.


Pentoney shared a PowerPoint presentation on the county Star Benchmark Data which included curriculum updates, the Morgan County Schools curriculum team focus and new benchmarking tools for the 2022-2023 school year.

Pentoney said in her presentation that Morgan County students show growth in their knowledge of reading and math each year.  Most grow about one year in each subject.

This chart shows the approximate Star Benchmark Profi- ciency Percentages for each Morgan County school and for Morgan County as a whole for the 2021-2022 school year for beginning of the year and end of the year Star assessments.

Individual schools

Individual schools ranged from 10% to 38% proficiency in the Star reading assessments at the beginning of the year and 12% to 45% in Star reading proficiency averages at the end of the year.

In math, the school Star proficiency averages ranged from 16% to   44% for the beginning of the year assessments  and  16%  to  59% proficiency averages for the end of the year Star math assessments.

Pentoney discussed each school’s average Star assessment proficiency for each subject.

Star was not a good tool for Berkeley Springs High School, she said.  It was the high school’s first year of using Star for beginning of the year and end of the year benchmark proficiency.

It wasn’t long before high school teachers decided that they didn’t like the tool.  Pentoney felt that  the grades 9-12 Star data wasn’t as reliable.

Pentoney said that Paw Paw Elementary had interventionist math support.  Math proficiencies were higher at Pleasant View Elementary  than reading and showed more growth.

Warm Springs Middle School lost ground between their beginning of the year and end of the year assessments in reading.

Curriculum team

After school officials reviewed the Star benchmark data for each school and for the county, they asked if Star is the best tool they could use to diagnose and assign practice for students to improve their reading and math skills or if there were better programs, Pentoney said.  They wondered how to get input from staff.

A Morgan County Schools curriculum team with both elementary and secondary teachers started meeting in January to look at the programs that teachers were using for interventions and support, she said.  The curriculum team   is finding tools to assist and assess.

Pentoney said that some teachers really like IXL but it was missing a diagnostic piece.  Now IXL has a diagnostic tool Snap Shot.

This year’s tools

For the 2022-2023 school year, grades k-3 would be using  Amira which is online Running Records, as a benchmarking tool, Pentoney said.  Grades K-5 would have HMH into Reading (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt curriculum) and HMH Growth Measure, an adaptive  math and reading benchmark assessment.

Grades 6-12 would use IXL’s Snap Shot and Diagnostic, which encompasses reading, writing and math, as a benchmark assessment.

School board vice-president Pete Gordon said that he had heard that Star had some deficiencies.  He had toured IXL to explore the program.

Pentoney said they were looking at learning gaps and making plans to address them.  Those plans include online practice and small group instruction.