Among the most important steps being taken toward public school accountability in West Virginia is one that won’t have to wait until legislators approve an education reform package this year. Throughout the state, educators already are preparing for the change.
For many years, standardized tests used to measure the performance of both students and their schools were unique to the Mountain State. The WesTest and later, the WesTest 2 have been administered only to students within the state.
That presented a limited picture of student achievement in West Virginia, because test results could not be compared to other states. Meanwhile, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, administered throughout the nation, showed our students lagging badly behind many others.
Beginning during the 2014-15 school year, a new tool, the Smarter Balanced Assessment test, will be administered in West Virginia. It also has been adopted in 45 other states.
Widespread use of the test means West Virginians will be able to compare performance of our public schools to those elsewhere. For example, Ohio County residents no longer will be limited to learning how well schools there compare to those in other counties and to state standardized test averages.
Once the new examinations are implemented, we will know how our schools stack up against those in California, Pennsylvania, New York and 42 other states.
The new test will represent an enormous leap forward in school reform. In effect, it will let us know whether changes made during the next few years are improvements — or merely window dressing.
— Distributed by The Associated Press