CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is no nationally accepted assessment that tracks how prepared all high school seniors are for the life they choose after graduation.
It's a problem educators in West Virginia and across the country are trying to fix, said state Board of Education member Lloyd Jackson.
"West Virginia is one of the pioneering states that's going to help us develop ... a 12th grade preparedness standard," Jackson said. "So we know whether or not our men and women who graduate in the 12th grade are prepared for the world of work, for the military or for higher education."
Jackson joined other state and national officials Monday morning at the Embassy Suites in Charleston for a symposium discussing the need for such an assessment. The symposium was the sixth of seven held across the nation by the National Assessment Governing Board.
The board is appointed by the U.S. Department of Education but operates independently to oversee the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, also known as NAEP or the Nation's Report Card. Students in fourth and eighth grade already take NAEP assessments, and the group wants to expand those assessments to 12th grade students as well.
West Virginia already piloted the program once and will do so again next year, Jackson said. Jackson is the chairman of the NAEP Business Policy Task Force, a group of 12 businessmen and women who set policy and track results for the test.
Jackson was joined at the event by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was one of the speakers. He thanked the participants for their commitment to education, and warned of the challenges the state could face if it does not produce students who can succeed beyond high school.
After Manchin, Jackson and several other people affiliated with the board spoke, attendees participated in a panel discussion with education leaders. Some panelists include Brian Hemphill, president of West Virginia State University, Paul Hill, chancellor of the state Higher Education Policy Commission, and Chuck Heinlein, superintendent of schools for West Virginia.
NAEP is a "low stakes" test; as with the Westest, educators use the data to show progress, but there are no consequences for students who perform poorly. However, Jackson said the governing board has data connecting the test to "high stakes" tests-like the ACT and SAT-that shows students do take the test seriously.
Jackson said the group hopes to expand the depth of the assessment for 12th-grade students. Right now the test tracks academic preparedness: Jackson said the group wants to create an assessment that will let educators know how ready a student might be for the workforce or other endeavors past high school.