G-ICYMI™: State might let counties switch standardized test from SAT to ACT

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s state schools superintendent expressed openness Wednesday to allowing counties in the future to give their public high school students the ACT instead of the SAT as their standardized test, despite the state previously picking the SAT over the ACT to become the statewide standardized test for public school juniors starting this spring.

Also at Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting, the board, in voice votes with no nays heard, hired Schools for the Deaf and the Blind interim superintendent Mark Gandolfi to that role on a permanent basis, with a $116,000 annual salary; hired School for the Blind Principal Jamie McBride-Vittorio as the combined schools’ chief academic officer, with a $97,000 annual salary; and transferred Jason Butcher, who oversaw the now-dissolving Regional Education Service Agencies in a role that had been directly under the board, into a roughly $77,300-annual-salary position in the state Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education.

The state school board oversees both the education department, whose day-to-day operations are directly under the state schools superintendent, and the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. In November, the board fired Martin Keller Jr. from the superintendent role at those Romney schools.

The board approved the personnel changes after spending about an hour in a closed session, which the board claimed was allowed by open meeting law exceptions for personnel issues and for attorney-client privilege, saying the board was receiving an update on the litigation Keller filed over his firing.

Also, in more voice votes with no nays heard, the board placed five proposed policies on a 30-day public comment period.

The proposed policies include one (Policy 2340, West Virginia Measures of Academic Progress) that would eliminate the requirement in current policy that high schoolers who go through “transition” math and English courses in their senior year retake the statewide standardized test in that year. Students currently go into these transition courses if they don’t score high enough on the 11th-grade test, though they can get exemptions to regardless take higher-level courses.

If the SAT were given again in 12th grade, it’d be another free chance for students to take it.

Vaughn Rhudy, executive director of the state’s Office of Assessment, said the requirement was already dropped this year, but didn’t elaborate how during a brief interview.

“There was a lot of communication from districts that it placed an additional burden on the districts” Rhudy said. He also said the department is considering taking a “different approach” with transition courses.

Lou Maynus, an assistant state superintendent, also said there didn’t seem to be much change in scores before and after 12th grade courses, and the move would cut testing time.

In a vote that didn’t come after a public comment period, the state school board also repealed its “Policies of Operation Manual, Child Nutrition Programs.”

Corley Dennison, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the state agencies that oversee two- and four-year colleges, has said that of seniors who took the ACT or SAT during their high school years through the end of 2016, 11,682 took the ACT, while 2,077 took the SAT.

Before this school year, neither was used as a statewide standardized test.

State Schools Superintendent Steve Paine said North Dakota recently received approval of its plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the law that sets many nationwide standardized testing requirements. He said North Dakotan school districts have approached that state “asking if they could exercise a federal provision within ESSA” allowing districts to “apply to the state to substitute a college-entrance like test — ACT, SAT — for the state assessment.”

“We have interest in West Virginia in several districts that have asked ‘Could we look at the same provision?’” Paine said. He said the federal government would have to approve this in West Virginia’s ESSA plan, which has already received federal approval, but said “I don’t think there would be any reason why they wouldn’t.”

“We are pursuing what that looks like and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that at a subsequent board meeting,” he told board members. “... It’s in the spirit of you pushing the decision-making authority to districts that they are permitted to make that application to the state.”

Board member Jim Wilson said he’s heard several principals say they’re disappointed in West Virginia’s choice of the SAT.

Allowing some county public school systems to use the ACT in place of the SAT would decrease the ability to compare test scores among high schools and counties statewide, further exacerbating the lack of comparable year-to-year, standardized test data that already exists due to past testing changes made by the board and the state Legislature.

Paine wasn’t available for comment Wednesday; during lunchtime he said he had to get to the Governor’s Mansion. There was a teacher recognition luncheon.

Vicki Shannon, the mansion’s director, said an education department employee told her the event was private but didn’t know who the worker was; board members attended the event.

As for the child nutrition manual repeal, Michele Blatt, an assistant state superintendent, said the current manual will essentially be converted into an “internal” document. She said the internal document wouldn’t require public comment periods for changes to be made to it, but said these wouldn’t be major.

The manual lays out requirements regarding the federally funded free/reduced school breakfast and lunch programs and some other programs.

Blatt said there would be no changes currently made other than bringing the manual up to date with federal requirements. The effective date listed on the repealed policy was in September of 2002.

Kristin Anderson, the education department’s executive director of communications, wrote in an email that “It is severely outdated. The content of the policy does not actually lend itself to a board policy because it contains guidance that is not subject to public comment (e.g. mandatory requirements from the federal government).”

The board generally votes on whether to approve proposed policies after a single 30-day public comment period. The policies will be posted online for comment at

~~  Ryan Quinn ~~

The West Virginia State Board of Education has operated as a “pin the tail on the donkey” bureaucratic nightmare for over a generation.

Currently, it is hard to envision any positive change in their SOP?

Try this, try that.  Change this, change that.
Continual evidence that all is being run as an experiment?
The WVBOE has no real clue what to actually do, in order to fix anything.

Money wasted. Children cheated of a good education.
Parents and taxpayers cheated.  Opportunities missed.

This is the WVBOE legacy.

Comment by State BOE - dysfunctional is an understatement?  on  04.16.2018

It is easy to see through the motive for avoiding application of the same assessment approach in all of WV’s school systems.

The powerful in control do not want to make achievement results available for voters to compare academic results among districts!

That way opportunities for more accountability in ways school systems are administered will be nipped in the bud.

Interesting isn’t it that for sports minute attention is paid to comparing performances of all kinds of teams throughout WV.

Unfortunately the strategy will be to keep voters keenly focused on sports so they will not ask questions about education spending and how children are doing in mastering subjects in our school systems.

Comment by WVDOE Disgusted  on  04.20.2018
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