School News

County schools on red watch status; staff continues improvement strategies

by Kate Evans

A recent West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) report on the 2023 County Efficiency Indicators for state school districts showed Morgan County as one of six counties with a red “On Watch” status for not meeting standards for four 2023 West Virginia Balanced Scorecard indicator measures.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said in an email that the four red “On Watch” indicators on the 2023 Morgan County Balanced Scorecard are math progress, post-secondary achievement, attendance and on-track to graduate.

Morgan County is one of 26 counties where one support indicator has not met standards for two consecutive years. For Morgan County, that indicator is math achievement, Tuttle said.

Tuttle pinpointed the county’s math score drop as tied to a “drastic dip” in 11th grade SAT scores last year.

Red indicators

On the 2023 Balanced Scorecard, Morgan County had red indicators in middle school and high school English language arts and math achievement, middle school math progress, on-track to graduation, elementary, middle school and high school attendance and post-secondary achievement.

“Some of the indicators are lagging indicators and we already know they will be better next year because of last year’s data.  We have been working on these for some time,” Tuttle emphasized.

Tuttle said that this information was summarized at their September Morgan County Balanced Scorecard data presentation along with strategies to address achievement.

The “On Watch” and support indicators are based on the whole county scorecard, not individual school scorecards, she noted.

Growth, decline

“If you pull the individual schools’ cards, you will see that many of our schools are making good growth.  Pleasant View Elementary had 12% and Warm Springs Intermediate School had 6% growth in English language arts.  Pleasant View Elementary showed 22% and the intermediate school showed 10% growth in math.  Paw Paw High School showed 8% growth in English language arts and 3% growth in math,” Tuttle said.

“Berkeley Springs High School’s eleventh grade SAT scores were much lower than their normal performance level and pulled the whole county down.  Had those scores not taken such a drastic dip, we would’ve been in much better shape as a county,” she said.

Good growth is happening, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the eleventh grade’s poor performance on the SAT exams, Tuttle said.

This group’s performance has been a little weaker over the years, but they did still show growth from their PSAT scores prior to their junior year SAT.

“Warm Springs Middle School students didn’t perform as well as expected.  We attribute some of this to students not trying their best,” she noted.

Improvement strategies

Tuttle said ways that they are addressing the proficiency scores are:

-Focusing on classrooms having highly-engaged, standards-based instruction using county-adopted resources that are being closely monitored.

-Conducting deep dives into teacher and student data to determine specific areas of weakness for each student and teacher and then focusing on targeting those weaknesses.

-Working with schools to set individual student goals for both benchmark and state assessments.

-Focusing on building the instructional leadership capacity of our principals.

-Providing high-quality professional development and coaching on specific math strategies, hi-yield instructional strategies, iReady and IXL benchmarking tools, evidence-based intervention programs for students falling below grade level and helping families to support their students at home.

-Implementing the Paper tutoring program in November where students will have 24/7 access to live tutors to assist with homework and written assignments as well as support instruction in the classroom.

-Offering more SAT prep/practice opportunities in both high schools.

-Continuing the use of Reflex to improve foundational math skills.

-Providing professional development on the Science of Reading for elementary schools.

-Creating plans to help students understand the importance of the assessments so they try their best and take them seriously.

-Re-emphasizing that student achievement is the top priority.

Higher goals, expectations

Tuttle stressed that teachers and administrators have been working very hard to overcome challenges the past few years and are diligently addressing these areas. There are many positive things happening in the school system, she assured.

“The county, schools, administrators, teachers and students are setting higher goals for greater growth this year across the board.  We have very high expectations for our student achievement this year,” Tuttle said.

“Our students have huge needs from dealing with drug issues in the family, abuse, and trauma. We have more JA (Juvenile Abuse and Neglect) cases than Jefferson County. It’s hard to get students to a place they can learn when they are worried about going home. We have amazing families also, but it’s just important to recognize how many of Morgan County’s students are in very difficult situations,” Tuttle added.

Scorecard indicators

Each West Virginia school district along with each of their schools is issued a Balanced Scorecard annually based on 11 indicators of student performance and success.

Those indicators are English language arts and math achievement, English language arts and math progress, English learner progress, graduation rate (4-year cohort and 5-year cohort) attendance, behavior/discipline, on-track to graduation and post-secondary achievement.

Some 25 counties met the requirements of the 11 efficiency indicators, with 16 of them having done so for two consecutive years.

Five counties were identified as needing substantial support. Attendance and math achievement were identified as areas of focus, according to the WVDE press release.

The state Board of Education annually reviews information to determine each county’s approval status as part of the accountability system.

State Superintendent Michele L. Blatt said that it’s critical to work with counties to remediate issues early before they become more substantial and require higher levels of state Board of Education and Department of Education involvement.  Visits to and communications with the counties are planned on a routine basis to regularly review the efficiency indicators and address areas of need.