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State School Leaders Approve a Diagnostic Year as Part of West Virginia's Education Reform Efforts

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February 18, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano got a nod from the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) to use one year to ensure that all pieces of the state's education transformation are comparable and coherent. The WVBE unanimously voted on Thursday during its monthly board meeting in Charleston to allow for the one year time period.

Martirano made the recommendation to confirm the alignment of the statewide assessment, accountability and accreditation systems which are all part of the One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving vision plan.

"The sense of urgency to improve student achievement levels across the state remains constant," said Gayle Manchin, WVBE president. "Board members agreed that a one year diagnostic period is prudent to guarantee a thorough and consistent system of student assessment, accountability and school accreditation."

"I am appreciative for the board's vision and leadership evident in the unanimous vote to approve the recommendation," said Martirano. "The diagnostic year will allow us to create synergy between the major initiatives as well as inform and instruct the next steps in improving student achievement and ensuring West Virginia students graduate college and career ready."

The recommendation by state school leaders aligns with the U.S. Department of Education's (USDE) acknowledgement for a transition year as states administer a new assessment. As a result, the USDE is allowing state departments of education to adjust their implementation timelines under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility waiver. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) must apply for renewal of its ESEA Flexibility waiver by March 31. The original waiver allowed West Virginia to launch a new student achievement and school accountability system and freed West Virginia public schools from certain federal rules and deadlines.

"We are not backing down from the components of reform including the Next Generation Standards which guide our students as they become college and career ready," said Martirano. "However, as we examine our processes and our products, and as we look to our citizens for ways to improve the educational delivery model for our young people, we must make certain that all the transformational efforts are sound, logical, united and consistent. We need to take the time that good implementation requires."

Action taken during the board meeting included:

  • allowing for a diagnostic year related to the West Virginia's A-F School Grading System;
  • allowing county school systems to choose how the college and career ready mathematics standards are organized into high school course offerings; and,
  • allowing for the elimination of social studies assessments, and only requiring science assessments in grades 4,6 and 10.

"This one year period is going to allow us to get it right," added Martirano. "We have listened to county superintendents, principals and educators and they say they are committed to consistent student achievement data being used to guide school improvement and instruction."

Martirano also presented a year-by-year One Voice, One Focus outreach plan which included regional meetings to provide input on West Virginia's college and career ready standards; development of parent resources about what the Next Generation Standards look like in classrooms; and, additional professional learning for teachers.

For more information, contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at (304) 558-2699.

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