School News

Student assessment data from start of the year shows drops in basic subject mastery, COVID-related gaps

by Kate Evans

Beginning of the year assessments for the 2022-2023 school year showed a mixed bag of progress and challenges for Morgan County students.

Morgan County Schools Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney and Secondary Education Director Beth Golden gave a PowerPoint presentation at the December 20 school board meeting on the assessments for  pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school students.


Pre-K mastery levels were high in speaking (92%), self-regulation,  play and balancing Pentoney said.   Skills in which they had moderate mastery included written numbers, geometry and measurement, writing and storytelling.  Scientific inquiry was low at  27%.

While pre-K students excelled in health development, safety practices and object manipulation and control, they scored  low in  throwing a ball.  Teachers are doing vigorous exercises and activities with pre-K students every day to work on their skills, Pentoney said.

Pentoney said that students received more instruction this year before the assessments were done, which raised mastery levels.  New assessments and equipment were also used.


Beginning of the year reading proficiencies were 12% for kindergarten, 20%-first grade, 35%-second and third grade, 27%-fourth grade  and 21%-fifth grade.

Beginning of the year math proficiencies dropped 24% from last year in first grade and declined 15% in third and fourth grades.  Second grade math proficiency remained the same at 28% and fifth grade decreased 3%.

Pentoney also said that they are seeing evidence of COVID-related impacts in the assessment results.  This year’s first grade only had 58 students that attended pre-kindergarten. Second and third grade students hadn’t had a normal instructional year for two or three years.


Benchmark and monitoring assessments had changed for pre-K through fifth grade students, she said.  Kindergarten and first grade are now using Amira and Growth Measure for Math for benchmark assessments. Grades 2-5 are now using Growth Measure for Reading and Math.  Second and third grades can also use Amira for their benchmark tests.

Kindergarten and first grade are now using Amira and Waggle instead of STAR as monitoring assessments, Pentoney said. Grades 2-5 are using Waggle with Grades 2-3 being able to use Amira.

Performance descriptors for Growth Measures are Above Level (75%), On Level (50%-75%), Approaching (25%-50%), Below Level (Below 25%-1 year below grade level) and Far Below Grade Level (2 years below grade level), she said.


 Teacher training on the new assessments included two beginning of the year full-day sessions,  ongoing coaching for grade level team meetings on Waggle, Growth Measure and  Amira along with ongoing coaching for Writeable for Grades 3-5 and 6-12 and also training for principals.

Pentoney said they would continue program and assessment trainings, data mining, understanding how data relates to  instructional needs and incorporating family engagement in reading and math.

Secondary scores hit “far below” grade level

Secondary Education Director Beth Golden said that District beginning of the year English language arts proficiency for Grades 6-12 was 12% above grade level, 11% on grade, 12% below grade, 55% far below grade and 10% not pinpointed.

District math proficiency for Grades 6-12 was 1% above grade level, 5% on grade, 13% below grade,, 68% far below grade and 13% not pinpointed.

IXL  was adopted as the new benchmark assessment for middle and high school. IXL benchmark scores are defined as above grade, on grade, below grade, far below grade and not pinpointed. Not pinpointed means that not enough questions have been answered to accurately pinpoint levels, Golden said.

Above grade is more than .5 years above current grade level.  On grade is .5 years below to .5 years above current grade level.  Below grade is .6 to 1.5 years below current grade level.  Far below grade is more than 1.5 years below current grade level, she said.

IXL is a targeted learning tool that tailors lessons by age group, topic and subject.  IXL can help kids build skills in areas of weakness through individualized pathways, Golden said.

IXL English language arts (ELA) diagnostics include overall reading level, vocabulary, reading and writing strategies and grammar and mechanics. IXL math diagnostics are fractions, algebra and algebraic thinking, numbers and operations, geometry, measurement, data, statistics and probability, she said.

IXL’s continuous diagnostic is used for progress monitoring and allows student levels to be monitored throughout the year.

Ten minutes  a week using IXL diagnostics can help pinpoint students’ levels. Students are already showing growth in both reading and math, Golden said.

Action plan

Golden said that they are working on instructional strategies and an action plan to raise students’ skills.  Continued support involves ongoing reinforcement of using IXL for student growth,  training and support for best practices and data analysis, technical support for teachers and administrators and student goal-setting.

Writeable, on online writing program, and Bold School PLC instructional strategies are being implemented. Academic and technology coaching is being increased. Professional development in differentiated content and mentoring support for high school math teachers are being offered.

The summer programs are really working, Golden noted.  K-8 students gained or maintained anywhere from 50% to 100% of their English language arts and math knowledge from end of the year STAR/ Math 4 Love assessments from Camp MoCo and Camp Alpha participation.

Berkeley Springs High School and Paw Paw High School students recovered 40 credits through summer programs, she said.