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Frequently Asked Questions

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Is an accountability system required?

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recently signed into law, states are required to implement an accountability system. The law requires each state have an accountability system that is state-determined and based on multiple measures.

What does ESSA require states to do?

States must set goals for increasing the percentage of students who reach state standards in reading and math and for raising graduation rates. ESSA requires that states establish student performance goals, hold schools accountable for student achievement, and include a broader measure of student performance in their accountability systems beyond test scores.

What is the law governing A-F?

Senate Bill 359 amended §18-2E-5 during the 2013 Legislative Session and allowed the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) to adopt a policy to define how schools are held accountable and how school systems are accredited. In 2014, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin charged the WVBE to adopt policy that would assign an A-F grade to public schools. The WVBE adopted an amended accountability policy, solidifying metrics to be utilized in the existing accountability system in June 2016. The policy can be found here: Policy 2320, A Process for Improving Education: Performance Based Accreditation System.

Why is it important to have an accountability system?

Part of our obligation to education is understanding where our students are academically and outlining a plan to increase achievement moving forward. While there are many ways we can work to improve student achievement and raise educational quality, one critical piece is the adoption and implementation of a statewide accountability system. Giving schools letter grades for their performance—just as we do for our students—ensures parents, students, educators and communities understand how their schools are performing.

What is West Virginia’s accountability system?

West Virginia’s accountability system is designed to give parents and communities an annual update on multiple components that together show how well students are learning, growing and achieving. An A to F grading scale is used to show where schools are succeeding, as well as areas that need improvement.

What is the purpose of the A-F school grading system?

West Virginia’s A-F school grading system gives parents, students, educators and communities clear and concise information on how well their schools are doing. This system is a new and better way of measuring and reporting school performance each year.

How does West Virginia’s A-F system work?

On an annual basis, the West Virginia Department of Education calculates grades for every public school in West Virginia based on multiple measures of success. This accountability system will help schools identify their strengths and weaknesses, establish goals, and develop a plan for continuous improvement to measure year-to-year student progress based on multiple measures of performance.

Who assigns the letter grades to schools?

A school’s performance rating is calculated by the West Virginia Department of Education and then transferred to the West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audits for verification through the accreditation process. Once verified, the performance level is approved by the WVBE and communicated to schools, county school systems and communities.

What other states are using this system?

In 1999, Florida was the first state to use the A-F school grading system. They have had many increases in student performance since then. All states that have implemented the A-F school grading system have improved communication and returned the conversation about the core mission of schools to improve student achievement.

List of states that use an A-F School Grading System (alphabetical order):

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

How are letter grades calculated for schools?

Annually, schools will earn letter grades based on a comprehensive report card consisting of the following components:

Performance
The percentage of students who met grade level expectations in math and English/language arts on state assessments. Reading achievement for 3rd graders and math achievement for 8th graders is also measured.
Improvement
The percentage of students who are improving and the percentage of students on track to reach grade-level expectations in math and English/language arts.
Persistence
The percentage of students participating in learning opportunities and graduating on time as measured by attendance and graduation rates, and the reduction of the number of students at-risk for dropping out.
Post-Secondary Readiness
The percentage of students passing Advanced Placement of International Baccalaureate tests, scoring well in college-credit bearing courses, or completing a Career and Technical Education concentration.

What does each letter grade mean?

Annually, every public school will earn a grade: A, B, C, D, F. Elementary and middle schools will be graded on a 1,200-point scale and high schools will be graded on a 1,500-point scale.

Descriptions of each letter grade are as follows:

  • A: Schools with Distinctive student performance
  • B: Schools with Commendable student performance
  • C: Schools with Acceptable student performance
  • D: Schools with Unacceptable student performance
  • F: Schools with Lowest student performance

What measures are used to determine grades?

School grades are determined based on 83% student performance metrics and 17% non-performance metrics. Of the 83% student performance, 55% is based on growth and 45% is based on proficiency. The 17% non-performance metrics consider items such as attendance, graduation rates and the at-risk sub group indicator.

Are grades assigned based on a bell curve?

Cut scores were established at each programmatic level by the WVBE in October 2016. A standard bell curve was used to set cut scores and establish a baseline during this first year of assigning grades (in 2016). A bell curve was used to eliminate subjectivity in the setting of scores. Cut scores will remain constant thereafter for a number of years so schools will know their targets for grade improvement. Cut scores will, however, be adjusted again when 65% of schools reach an A or B grade.

What happens to schools that earn low letter grades?

The greatest benefit of the A-F school grading system is heightened community awareness and increased dialogue and action among education stakeholders. County school systems are expected to provide additional support and monitoring. Schools that continue to perform poorly and county systems that fail to provide support will face intervention from the state level. This system is not punitive, but rather celebrates successes and helps schools get better. It is a fair system which supports our schools and aids counties in identifying areas for intervention and support. Ultimately, our students will benefit from it being in place.

What are the goals/outcomes of the system?

The accountability system will:

  • Inform the setting of school-wide goals
  • Foster conversations about academic performance between administrators and teachers
  • Expand efforts to serve students in at-risk groups
  • Empower schools to engage in systemic improvement
  • Instill a culture of change in schools and the district with respect to using student performance data

The ultimate goal is to ensure every student is demonstrating growth toward proficiency, attending school regularly and graduating from high school prepared for college or a career.

What is a cut score?

Cut scores represent the range of points needed to earn each respective letter grade and designate where each letter grade ends and the next letter grade begins.

How do schools earn an automatic F?

Schools must test 90 percent of their students. If the percent tested drops below 90, the school’s grade will automatically be lowered to an F. If a school fails to test 10 percent or more of the student population that should be tested, the school performance grade is not a valid representation of overall school performance.

Where can I find my school’s report card?

For information, resources and to find your school’s report card, visit: www.mywvschool.org.