Several educators at Kanawha County middle schools that did meet standards agree that social issues are a part of middle school education.
But principals at South Charleston Middle and DuPont Middle agree that experienced, skilled teachers can overcome those obstacles.
South Charleston Middle Principal Henry Graves said little turnover on his staff and a high level of organization have helped his school achieve the standard every year since 2008.
"They have a system . . . they're like Marines," Graves said of his sixth-grade math teachers. "Not as far as being harsh, just highly structured."
Elementary students are sometimes treated with "kid gloves," DuPont Middle Principal Tommy Canterbury said. The school failed to meet standards in 2011, but Canterbury credited the commitment of teachers and a particularly strong focus on math over the last year for the recent success.
That attention from teachers does include aspects apart from purely academic, said Mark Franco, team leader for seventh-grade teachers at the school. He doesn't think it significantly impacts the day-to-day operations at DuPont Middle.
"Socialization is important, but I don't think that's a big focus at our school," he said.
It should be one of many different facets to middle school education, Huxley said, adding that providing training for teachers at that level could improve performance.
Huxley explained many colleges offer education programs for seventh through 12th grade or kindergarten through sixth, but it's rare to see a middle-education focus.
"It doesn't make them bad teachers, but they may not have specific (training)," Huxley said.
Williamson said the state is aware of the issues at the middle school level. She said she is confident adopting the Common Core Curriculum, a new set of academic expectations that many states are adopting in favor of No Child Left Behind, should improve achievement.
Overall, 53 percent of Kanawha County students earned proficient scores in math. Fifty-four percent achieved proficient scores in reading. Those figures are above state averages and improvements over last year.
For more information about achievement in specific schools and counties across the state, visit http://wveis.k12.wv.us/nclb/public12/nclbmenu.cfm.