Mason County test scores on the rise


September 14, 2012

MASON COUNTY — In a continuing quest to improve test scores among Mason County students, teachers have been hard at work focusing more on problem areas and four schools have met the state of West Virginia’s “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) requirements for the 2011-12 school year.

The four schools that met AYP standards for the 2011-12 school year were Leon and Roosevelt Elementary Schools and Wahama and Hannan Junior/Senior High Schools. While some teaching strategies may differ among the elementary and high school levels, there are several programs and activities principals have attributed to the students’ improved success on the West Virginia Educational Standards Test (WESTEST).

Among the many factors that contribute to the success of students, one that is very simple, yet very important, is attendance. Leon Elementary Principal Don Bower said perhaps one reason why they met AYP standards was their 98.2 percent attendance last school year. Bower also mentioned that several teachers at Leon come to work early and stay late. Bower also said they focused a lot on writing last school year, using a program call “Four Square Writing, since a portion of the language arts tests is writing.

While some may see Leon Elementary as a small country school with several things working against them, Bower said that’s not the case.

“We’re not in the city,” Bower said. “There are a lot of things people could use as excuses and they don’t.”

Bower also discussed a few areas in math that Leon students still needed to improve on, such as measurements. In order to address this need, Bower said that Leon will have a measurement day once a month where students will focus on measuring items around them and developing a concept of inches and feet. Bower also mentioned they will have a day of conversion, where they focus on converting metric measurements. Bower also mentioned a way Leon is working to improve social studies and writing scores, stating they are using writing prompts on social studies topics, such as figures like George Washington or geography.

For Roosevelt Elementary, Principal Robin Carter stated meeting AYP standards last school year was a combination of efforts, particularly emphasizing reading and writing across the curriculum. Carter added their efforts to bring several arts programs to the school, in conjunction with the French Art Colony in Gallipolis, Ohio, was also a contributing factor. Carter also said Roosevelt has some co-teaching in place with special education and inclusion students.

Roosevelt Elementary is also one West Virginia school piloting a new program called the West Virginia Teacher Evaluation System, which helps the teachers develop goals for the students and focuses more on student learning.

When it comes to meeting AYP standards at the high school level, in addition to focusing on reading and writing across the curriculum, both Wahama Principal Kenny Bond and Hannan Principal Karen Oldham stated their schools focused on something called Professional Learning Communities (PLC). Bond and Oldham both explained that PLC meetings, which are held twice a month, allow the teachers to come together and discuss the curriculum and to help identify problem areas and at-risk students. It was also stated the PLC’s bring the teachers together so they can discuss what topics have been covered in what grade levels so they can use that as a foundation that can be built upon. Bower and Carter also mentioned Leon and Roosevelt also focus on PLC’s to help improve the student’s test scores.

Bond also discussed another program that helps students in the test scores that is not necessarily focused on academics. Wahama is also holding meetings of SADD, or Students Against Destructive Decisions, formerly Students Against Drunk Driving. Bond said this group also helps students make good decisions in other areas of their lives, which in turn will also affect their behavior and academics.

Oldham also said that Hannan students have a bellringer in every class, which is a question or a problem for that class that also focuses on math and language arts. Oldham added that Hannan also has several incentives and awards for the students, including a monthly block party, and an end of the year trip to Washington D.C.

In addition to meeting AYP standards, Oldham said the graduation rate at Hannan also increased from the 60 percentile to the 80 percentile, and there are also programs to help students who have dropped out earn their GED.

“I’m very proud of the staff and the students,” Oldham said. “We’ve worked really hard here to show improvement and progress in our students.”

While several other schools in Mason County did not meet AYP requirements, it was reported that test scores for students overall are improving. As previously reported, nearly 25 percent of students in Mason County showed improvement in mathematics, a four percent increase from the 2010-11 scores. In reading/language arts, 24 percent of Mason County students showed improvement. Percentage wise, it was stated that 44 percent of Mason County Schools met AYP standards for the 2011-12 school year, which was a 22 percent increase from the 2010-11 school year.

Superintendent Suzanne Dickens also stated that Mason County’s rating among other West Virginia counties was also improving. Out of 55 counties, Dickens stated for the 2011-12 school year, Mason County was ranked 27 in Reading and Language Arts and 32 in Math. Mason County’s 2012 rating is an improvement from previous ratings, as Dickens said Mason County was 33rd in 2011, 44th in 2010, and 48th in 2009.