Standards and Accountability: West Virginia is one of 12 states that earned A’s for standards and accountability this year. The state has standards-based exams at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in English, mathematics, science, and social studies/history, making West Virginia one of 12 states to have such exams in every core subject and grade span. The tests also use a variety of items to measure student knowledge, including multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions.
The state has adopted clear and specific standards in English, math, and science in every grade span. Social studies/history standards are clear and specific at the middle and high school levels only.
West Virginia publishes test data on school report cards. It assigns ratings to schools based, in part, on test results. And it provides help to schools identified as low-performing. Such schools also face sanctions, such as permission for students to transfer from low-performing schools to higher-performing ones.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: West Virginia ranks among the top 15 states this year for its efforts to improve teacher quality. The state requires and finances a one-year mentoring program for all beginning teachers and pays for teacher professional development for each district. West Virginia recently revised its policy to include a framework for alternative routes to certification. Three institutions now sponsor alternative-route programs. Applicants must complete subject-area coursework and pass content tests in the subjects they plan to teach.
West Virginia requires its traditional teacher-candidates to pass basic-skills tests and subject-matter exams to earn their initial licenses. The state also requires that state-trained assessors observe classroom teachers. But its grade goes down because those observations are not used to determine whether a teacher should receive a more advanced teaching license.
The state could beef up its efforts related to accountability for teacher quality. West Virginia’s school report cards include little of the teacher-qualification data tracked by Education Week. And the state’s system for identifying low-performing teacher education programs is based solely on its program-approval and -review process. The state, for example, does not hold those institutions accountable for the performance of their graduates on the job.
School Climate: The state performs at about the middle nationally on school climate. The state has only a limited open-enrollment policy. And it is one of only 10 states without charter school laws.
Moreover, 4th and 8th graders in West Virginia are less likely than their peers in other states to attend schools where more than half of parents attend parent-teacher conferences, based on data from the background survey of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But the state outperformed most other states when school officials were asked if lack of parent involvement was a problem in their schools, according to the NAEP survey. Most of the West Virginia administrators surveyed said that wasn’t a problem or was a minor problem.
School-size indicators also contribute to the state’s grade. A higher percentage of students in West Virginia attend small schools at all three levels—elementary, middle, and high school—than in most other states. The average elementary-class size in the state is smaller than most, at 19.4 pupils, according to data from the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey.
Equity: West Virginia has the third-best coefficient of variation of the 50 states: Only Florida and Hawaii, which has a single statewide district, do better. The state’s showing indicates that, compared with other states, West Virginia has few differences in education spending per pupil across districts. Even so, West Virginia has a positive wealth-neutrality score, which suggests that, on average, well-to-do districts in the state still receive more state and local funding than property-poor districts do. The state ranks 25th among the 50 states on that indicator.
Spending: West Virginia spent $8,756 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year, compared with the national average of $7,734. Almost 97 percent of students in the state are in districts that spend at least the national per-pupil average. The state scores a 99.9 on the spending index, which indicates that even the 3 percent of students in districts spending below the national average do not fall very far below that average. West Virginia also did better than most other states in keeping spending above the rate of inflation from 1992 to 2002, with an average annual increase of 2.7 percent. The state has the second-highest percent of taxable resources spent on education, at 5.2 percent; the national average is 3.8 percent.