West Virginia Schools Make Top 10 on National Education Report

January 11, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va – West Virginia schools and students are topping the charts, according to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2011: Uncertain Forecast, Education Adjusts to a New Economic Reality.  West Virginia made it onto the Top 10 list with an overall grade of B-. The nation received only a C.

The 15th annual edition of Quality Counts continues the report’s tradition of tracking key education indicators and grading the states on their policy efforts and outcomes. This year’s special theme—the impact of the economy on education—is complemented by updated 50-state information on policies and conditions in four of the areas monitored by the report on an ongoing basis: Chance for Success; K-12 achievement; transitions and alignment policies; and school finance.
 “Quality Counts 2011 gives our state a good snapshot of how we compare to other states,” said state Superintendent of Schools Ted Mattern. “The governor, the Legislature, the state Board of Education, students, teachers and West Virginia Department of Education staff have worked very hard all year. While we still have work to do, this year’s report is positive reinforcement that we are heading in the right direction with our Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it. vision.” (http://global21wv.com)
West Virginia was one of the top three states in the Transitions and Alignment section of the report, receiving an A. Education Week examined state efforts to connect the K-12 education system with early learning, higher education and the world of work. Fourteen key transitions and alignment policies were included in Quality Counts 2011. The high marks were in thanks to West Virginia’s early learning standards, college readiness standards, career-specialized high school diplomas and a K-12 definition of work readiness. 
The School Finance category focused on eight commonly used measures of equity and spending, including areas such as per-pupil expenditures, percent of state taxable resources used on K-12 education, and the relationship between district funding and local property wealth. West Virginia received a C+ in this category. Based on Quality Counts 2011, the nation has increased its per-pupil expenditure by $666 and the top ranked state has increased its per-pupil expenditure by $728. West Virginia has only increased its per-pupil expenditure by $392. In addition, West Virginia’s per-pupil cost include an expenditure of $300 million for the unfunded past service liability of the Teachers’ Retirement System.
“Our students face many challenges that impede significant gains in achievement. The demographic changes in our state over the last decade tell a story of increasingly more of our children with physical and mental health issues, disabilities and living with the effects of poverty. During this same time span, our expenditure for public education has not increased at the same rate as the rest of the nation.”
To fully understand the role education plays throughout a lifetime, Education Week developed the Chance-for-Success Index. The index combines information from 13 indications that span from cradle to career. The Chance-for-Success category allows states to identify concerns outside of the educational structure such as family income, parental employment and parental level of education.
Noting low marks in areas such as parent education level, family income and the number of residents who have acquired a two- or four-year postsecondary degree, West Virginia received a C- in the Chance-for-Success category.
Quality Counts 2011 used West Virginia’s 2009 National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP) as part of the Chance-for-Success and K-12 Achievement categories of the report. It is important to note that students took the 2009 NAEP just as more rigorous content standards were introduced into the classroom in 2008 as part of Global21.
“Research shows that any time change takes place in the educational arena at first there is a dip in achievement levels,” Mattern said. “Five years ago we recognized the urgency for change based on our NAEP scores. The need to change from a 20th century school system to a 21st century more rigorous and globally competitive school system that will provide students with the skills needed to meet or exceed national education standards was apparent.  Since that time, we, with the involvement of the education community, have made a substantial number of changes to meet the needs of today’s students.”
These changes include:
  • Increased level of rigor of Content Standards and Objectives (CSOs)
  • Aligned curriculum with national and international standards
  • Increased graduation requirements
  • Increased availability of pre-K programs
  • Established RTI (early intervention model) to increase literacy skill success
  • Established learning skills (communication, critical thinking and personal/workplace skills) and technology skills as an integral part of the curriculum for all students
  • Established a network of electronic resources to support 21st century instruction (Learn21, Parent21 and Teach 21: http://wvde.state.wv.us/teach21/)
  • Redesigned assessments to align with more rigorous and relevant CSOs

Education Week is a weekly education magazine distributed nationwide.  For more information on Quality Counts 2011, contact Liza Cordeiro, West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office, at (304) 558-2699.

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