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School data reveal positive growth over long term

More students dropped out of Kanawha County high schools last year than in 2012, and fewer students received the Promise Scholarship.

But long-term trends paint a more nuanced picture: 180 fewer students dropped out last year than five years ago - 395 compared to 540 in the 2006-07 school year - and more students were awarded the Promise Scholarship this year than in 2011 - 367 compared to 307.

These figures and more were presented to the county school board Monday as accountability data have been reported from the last academic year. Officials say they'll continue to parse it in the coming weeks and months.

"I think we need to drill down a little bit further," board member Robin Rector said. "I don't want to leave out the fact that we might have some celebrations here, too. Too often we focus on the negative only."

Generally, it's difficult for Kanawha County to compare itself to West Virginia's other county school systems: it's the largest system in the state by a long shot, and a far cry from most of West Virginia's shrinking rural districts.

Still, Kanawha County students outperformed the state average on the Westest 2 - the standardized test that all schoolchildren take annually - in nearly every category.

Kanawha County's proficiency rate was higher than the state's in math and reading for every grade level. In reading, Kanawha County students showed growth over three years in every grade except 4 and 5. In math they showed growth or maintained the same level of proficiency in every grade except 8.

This is the first year the county has worked under West Virginia's new state-developed accountability system, instead of the federal system governed by the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The new system places every school in one of five categories: success, transition, focus, support or priority.

In Kanawha County, 27 schools were named "success schools," the top designation, meaning they met all state benchmarks and made meaningful gains over previous years. Three schools - J.E. Robins, Watts and Mary C. Snow West Side elementary schools - were classified as "priority" schools, meaning they have historically poor performance.

The new assessment system will also let county officials track progress of individual students over the years, a tool Superintendent Ron Deurring said would be of tremendous use as officials try to pinpoint problem areas across the system, and personalize teaching.

"Now we can actually look at individual students and see if they're on pace," he said. "It's going to be really useful."

On the ACT, the college admissions test, Kanawha County students outperformed the state average in every subject this year. The county average was higher than the national average in every subject but math.

The average composite score - the overall test score - for Kanawha County students was 20.9. That's on par with the national average, also 20.9, and higher than the state average of 20.6

Kanawha County had more recipients of the Promise Scholarship, the state-funded college scholarship, than any other school system: Kanawha County graduated 367 scholarship recipients last year, which is equal to $1.7 million for the first year of college.

That scholarship requires a 3.0 GPA and an ACT composite score of 22.

George Washington High School bred the most recipients, with 103 scholarships awarded. Sissonville had the fewest, with 17 students getting the award.

Jon Duffy, director for research, evaluation and assessment for Kanawha County Schools, said that three schools - St. Albans, South Charleston and Herbert Hoover - had the highest number of Promise scholars in the past five years.

"So that's really positive," he said.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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