School News

Early-year school data uncovers areas of growth, ongoing need to raise student skills to grade level

by Kate Evans

Morgan County Schools Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney and Secondary Education Director Beth Golden discussed elementary and secondary school “beginning of the year” benchmark test data at the October 17 Morgan County School Board meeting.

Many grades saw improvement and secondary scores increased 2% from last year. However, a large percentage of students fell below grade level in reading and math.


Students are considered above grade if they are more than .5 years above their current grade level, said Golden.

On grade means .5 years below to .5 years above their current grade level.

Below grade indicates students are .6 to 1.5 years below their current grade level.

Far below grade level is more than 1.5 years below current grade level.

Not pinpointed means not enough questions have been answered to accurately pinpoint levels.

Pre-K, elementary

Pentoney said she was excited about how the pre-K data looked. Some results were much better this year.  28 pre-K students were already at mastery in alphabetic awareness and mastery of throwing and catching had improved.

Many pre-K students excelled in oral language in speaking, identifying and using shapes, counting, self-regulation, play, print awareness, writing and gross motor movements. Beginning of the year mastery in measurements, numerical operations and algebraic thinking were low.

Reading, math K-5

Pentoney said that it was the first year of using iReady as a benchmark assessment for K-5 reading.  Some 19% of all K-5 students were on or above grade level in reading with their beginning of the year data.  49% were considered below grade level and 32% were at risk for far below.

In math, 11% of k-5 students were on or above grade level in math with their beginning of the year data. 54% were below grade level and 35% were at risk for far below grade level. Pentoney said students in the red areas were 2-3 years behind grade level.

The percentages of K-5 students at or above grade level in reading ranged from 5%-32% with 77%-95% of them falling at 1, 2 or 3 years below grade level.

In math, students at or above grade level at each grade ranged in percentage from 5-20% in math with 80% to 95% of students scoring at 1, 2 or 3 years below grade level.

The iReady benchmark is similar to the West Virginia General State Assessment tests with test questions. Comparisons to last year’s benchmark test with a different company showed students faring a little better for the most part on the previous year’s testing.


This year with the Science of Reading, county school directors will work on teacher buy-in, share research and use common programs for reading instruction in all schools, Pentoney said. Next year they will begin systematic professional development on best practices on teaching reading.

For math, schools will have John San Giovanni coaching on number routines and problem solving.  They will also continue with Reflex and Frax to develop math fluency, Pentoney said.

Other strategies will include school-based coaches, four square writing continuum, increased use of formative assessments, analyzing data to drive instruction, monitoring Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions and providing families with strategies to use at home to help their child in reading and math, she said.


Golden addressed the IXL data for year two for high school and middle school students at the meeting.

IXL is a targeted learning tool that provides tailored lessons, supports focused student outcomes and offers individualized pathways to address student weaknesses, said Golden.

Some 25% of grade 6-11 students were on or above grade level proficiency in English language arts in their beginning of the year IXL benchmark assessments, Golden said. Another 11% were below grade level and 58% were far below grade level.  Not pinpointed levels were 5%, which has improved from last year.

In math, 8% of grade 6-11 students were on or above grade level on beginning of the year assessments.  Another 16% were below grade level and 74% of students were considered far below grade level.  Not pinpointed levels were 7%.

Proficiencies increased 2% in both English language arts and math from beginning of the year benchmarks in 2022 and 2023, Golden said.  All grades came in higher in English language arts except for ninth grade.  Math had similar results.  Golden said they are having trouble engaging kids in the tests.

Beginning of the year proficiency growth in student cohorts (as students move to the next grade level) grew from 2022 to 2023.  Golden said they need to accelerate that growth more.

Students are performing on state level on the PSAT 9 and 10 exams, she said.   Students were slightly below state level on the SAT School Day exam.

A high number of students in grades 1-8 had maintained or gained proficiency in English language arts and math through participating in the summer Camp Alpha and Camp MoCo programs.  A total of 20 students attempted credit recovery in the high school summer program and all 27 attempted credits were recovered, Golden said.

Improvement steps

Golden said school staff and administration is doing so much to address student proficiencies: standardizing the testing environment, changing schedules, tracking beginning of year, mid-year and end of year assessment scores, attendance and time to complete benchmarks.

They’re helping kids track their own data, holding student meetings,  goal setting, using best instructional strategies and refining weekly IXL smart scores.

The big focus is accountability and teacher training.

Principals are on board and “we’re working on it,” Golden said.  An all-day Principals meeting was held on October 17.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said.

Pentoney added that the focus is on student achievement and getting kids to invest in their own data.