• West Virginia puts forth a clear vision with a relatively simple list of accountability indicators.


  • The state includes a measure of student academic progress for elementary and middle schools that will monitor individual student growth annually.


  • West Virginia will build on its early warning system to include indicators of school quality in its accountability system.


  • To support schools, the state’s idea of identifying similar schools to share practices to support turnaround efforts may be useful to teachers and leaders as well as community partnerships. Other states may want to consider West Virginia’s strategy to implement teacher and principal academies for continued supports and professional learning targeted to student needs.


  • The state also appears to have taken stakeholder engagement seriously.




  • West Virginia’s plan assesses school and student performance using a confusing point system that ignores subgroup underperformance and achievement gaps.


  • The state also permits districts to choose their own assessments for use in the state’s growth measure. This makes it difficult to ensure quality and comparability across schools.


  • The state does not provide clear details or data about how it will treat the performance of subgroups.


  • West Virginia’s section on supporting schools does not provide adequate details on the use of evidence-based interventions.


  • The state’s exit criteria for low-performing schools are weak and lack consequences or actions, resulting in little more than what appears to be a slight tweak to the status quo for those students.



Click through the tabs on the left to see how West Virginia scored in each category.



West Virginia articulated a vision to change the state’s economic landscape by significantly increasing the percentage of graduating students who are well prepared for college and career.


The state’s vision is aligned with the state’s assessments and goals, and much of the state’s ESSA plan is designed to increase student achievement and readiness for life after high school.


West Virginia plans to award points based on student performance on state English Language Arts and mathematics assessments. Students earn 0.25 point for scoring below grade level, 0.5 point for reaching grade level but not proficiency, 1 point for proficiency at a college- and career-ready level, and 1.25 points for exceeding the college- and career-ready level.


Using this points system, West Virginia’s long-term academic goal is for all schools and all student subgroups to earn 80 percent of possible performance points by 2029-30. Under this system, it is theoretically possible for a school to improve its status rating without actually helping higher percentages of students reach college and career readiness. The state will need to monitor its data to ensure increasing percentages of students are reaching higher levels of performance, and it should ensure that it clearly communicates student and school performance to parents and other stakeholders.


West Virginia also could strengthen its plan by providing historical data to show whether its future goals are ambitious but attainable.


Aligning the state’s academic assessments with these frameworks enables West Virginia to assess student progress toward graduating ready for college and careers. The state provides disaggregated goals by student subgroups and expects faster progress for lower-performing groups.


West Virginia set a goal to increase its graduation rate to 95 percent for all students and each subgroup by the 2029-30 school year.


Although the plan includes some data about its past success in increasing graduation rates, it is unclear whether the stated target rate is ambitious and achievable. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether the state’s inclusion of a modified/alternate diploma in the four-year cohort graduation rate is consistent with the federal requirements.


The state uses the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) for English learners.


At the time of submission, the state was waiting on an additional year of data to establish its goals and interim targets.



West Virginia is planning to use four assessments: The West Virginia General Summative Assessment (WVGSA), the Dynamic Learning Maps for students with significant cognitive disabilities, the ELPA21 for English learners, and the SAT as a college readiness assessment.


It is unclear from the plan whether the state provides sufficient accommodations on those tests to English learners and students with disabilities.


For mathematics and English Language Arts, the state uses the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards.


The state proposes to use district-administered benchmark assessments that may differ from district to district.


The process for collecting this information is not yet developed and there is no clear process for establishing comparable rigor, alignment, or performance standards between these benchmarks because no data is currently available.


West Virginia defines a language other than English that is present to a significant extent as one that represents at least 50 percent of the English learner population; notably, 49 percent of the state’s English learners speak Spanish.


The plan specifies that the state provides stacked Spanish translations of each test item for mathematics, but it’s not clear what other accommodations it would offer English learners.


Further, West Virginia failed to indicate any process for testing newly arrived English learners.


West Virginia could strengthen its plan by also providing the steps it will take to ensure that it does not exceed the 1 percent cap on participation in the alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.



West Virginia created an accountability system that rewards student performance across a range of indicators: performance in mathematics and English Language Arts, student growth in both subjects, English language proficiency, attendance, and out-of-school suspensions.


Elementary and middle schools will be assessed based on all of these indicators. These indicators also apply to high schools, except for student growth, plus graduation rates, a measure of on-track to graduation, and postsecondary achievement.


Although each indicator is weighted equally, West Virginia argues it is ultimately prioritizing academics since there are more academic performance indicators.


The state should be commended for including suspension and attendance rates in its accountability system.


The indicator builds on West Virginia’s past work tracking and monitoring the ABCs—attendance, behavior, and credits. It has an established and successful early warning system that has helped it raise graduation rates to an all-time high. It will continue to use these student success indicators as part of its new accountability model.


There are some issues with this indicator due to how the state awards points.


The attendance measure calculates the percentage of students in all grades K-12 attending at least 90 percent of instructional days. However, this measure exempts absences due to out-of-school suspensions—a significant weakness in the indicator. The behavior measure is based on the percentage of a school’s enrollment that received zero out-of-school suspensions. Although this is a good start, the measures could still have serious unintended consequences, such as pushing schools to use other exclusionary discipline practices instead of out-of-school suspensions.


At the high school level, the progress indicator measures the percentage of students who are on track to graduate and the percentage who have earned postsecondary credits.


The on-track to graduate indicator is based on the percentage of students in ninth and 10th grade who earned at least six credits per year. It is also based on the percentage of ninth and 10th graders earning at least one credit in each of the four primary content areas: English, mathematics, science, and social studies.


The postsecondary achievement measure is based on the percentage of students achieving college readiness on one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, the completion of a credit-bearing college course with at least a “C” average, or completing four of the required courses in a West Virginia State Approved Occupational Career Technical Education program of study. This is an effective approach to measuring students’ progress early in their high school careers to help keep them on track, as well as to assessing both college and career readiness.


West Virginia includes both the four-year and the five-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.


The plan would be strengthened, however, if it gave greater weight to the four-year rate than to the five-year rate. Currently they are weighted equally.


West Virginia completely removes academic achievement as a metric in a K-12 school accountability rating.


The state does not appear to address how it will calculate performance and hold accountable other unique grade configurations of schools.



West Virginia includes in its plan measures of academic achievement and growth. There are issues, however, with how the state plans to calculate and define those measures.


West Virginia’s achievement measure is an index that gives students more credit for advancing to higher performance levels. However, it’s not clear whether the state’s Lexile and Quantile measurement scales will be fully understood by parents and educators.


As with any index like this one, it will be important for West Virginia to monitor its data to ensure it does not mask underperforming students who fail to reach grade-level standards.


West Virginia’s growth measure will assess student-level growth through assessments given at the beginning and end of the school year, but it’s troubling that these assessments will be selected by each district.


While this approach is designed to provide information about student-level progress, and the state has provided some amount of guidance to its districts, it is unclear whether the information gleaned from this measure will be high quality and aligned with state-level assessments, standards, and goals.


Permitting each district to select its own benchmark assessment makes it difficult to compare the progress indicator across the state. This decentralized approach may not result in a statewide assessment protocol that allows for statewide comparisons.



West Virginia defines a consistently underperforming subgroup as one that earns an unsatisfactory rating for all indicators for three consecutive years.


All schools with a subgroup that meets this criterion will be identified for targeted support. The plan would be strengthened if the state did not wait three years to identify schools with subgroups that chronically underperform and if it would identify schools where subgroups are particularly low-performing on achievement, growth, and graduation rates.


The state should be able to provide data about how many schools have subgroups that currently qualify for this designation.


West Virginia set its minimum subgroup size at 20 students, which is in line with many other states but could be too large given the number of small schools in the state.


According to data included in the plan, if West Virginia lowered its subgroup size to 10 students, approximately 50 percent more schools would be accountable for black students, 100 percent more for English learners, 45 percent more for students with disabilities, and nearly 200 percent more for students of multiple races.


Short of dropping the minimum to 10 students, West Virginia should consider other measures, such as using data from multiple years, to ensure that as many students as possible count in the accountability system.


The state will factor participation rate into its achievement and progress measures.


The plan would be stronger if it included consequences for schools where participation rate fell below 95 percent, either for the school as a whole or for individual subgroups of students. 


The state does not indicate how it will address recently arrived English learners, since it left these options blank in the template.


On the plus side, the state proposes an innovative approach to ensure that the English proficiency indicator is included in as many schools as possible by incorporating its English language proficiency measure into its academic English Language Arts achievement indicator.


Given the state’s small and diffuse English learner population, this is an important proposal that other states facing a similar challenge should consider.



West Virginia will give each school a color-coded rating for each of the accountability indicators.


According to the plan, the cut points between these ratings were determined from an examination of performance data across the state. However, little data or evidence was provided.


This approach is troubling because it will create a lot of cut points determined on a relative scale, around which high-stakes decisions will be made. Furthermore, this model will likely be unclear about school performance above and below the cut points.


To identify schools for comprehensive support, West Virginia employs a tiered system that identifies schools in most dire need first, then continues to add schools to reach the 5 percent threshold with successively looser criteria.


Starting in the 2018-19 school year, the state will identify schools that score unsatisfactory on all of the indicators. If that process does not identify at least 5 percent of schools, the state will loosen its criteria to capture schools with low achievement, growth, and English language proficiency that might not be as low-performing on the other school quality measures. If that process still does not fill out the bottom 5 percent, the state will identify any schools with low achievement, growth, and English language proficiency.


Given the complexity of this process, it seems likely that West Virginia has run estimates on the number of schools it would identify in each step, but it has not provided that data in its plans.



West Virginia outlines a clear and compelling plan to provide support and technical assistance to schools identified for improvement by its accountability system.


The state will continue to provide technical assistance to schools aligned with its standards for high-quality schools, as well as a school improvement process based on the research of Project ASSIST with an adaptation to ensure the use of evidence-based interventions.


The state also plans to use its assessment of school performance to pair low-performing schools with high-performing ones with similar characteristics.


Additionally, for targeted support schools, the state will provide professional development opportunities for teachers and leaders, as well as a district administrator collaborative to work together and share successful practices.


Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, West Virginia will use a formula to allocate its 7 percent of funds set aside for school improvement activities.


However, the plan does not include sufficient information about how the state will determine how much money to allocate and to which schools.


Additionally, the state should indicate whether and how it intends to provide direct student services using the optional 3 percent of funds set aside, which provides another opportunity for the state to align school improvement activities with its statewide goals.


The plan outlines specific interventions and timelines for identified schools. However, the interventions described appear somewhat generic and often lack sufficient detail.


Without more detail, it’s challenging to provide confidence that these schools will receive the support and resources necessary to turn around.



West Virginia will allow comprehensive support schools to exit identified status if they no longer fall within the rules for identification, show an unspecified level of improvement, and provide written assurances to the state that they will continue implementing their improvement activities.


The state has similar exit criteria for targeted support schools, although those would be tailored to the particular subgroup for which the school was identified.


While these criteria could provide a solid foundation, it’s not clear what level of improvement would be sufficient or whether schools who meet the criteria would truly demonstrate sustained progress.


West Virginia’s plan would be stronger if it provided greater front-end transparency for schools about what performance they would need to demonstrate. For example, the state might tie exit criteria to goals set in a school’s strategic plan based on the original diagnostics for inclusion in that status, or to absolute standards of student growth and performance.




West Virginia’s plan describes with some detail how it will learn from its implementation efforts or modify its plan.


Many of the state’s technical assistance efforts lend themselves to sustained effort and to potentially change some of its implementation plans. The state will also use extensive surveys of parents, students, and staff of schools identified for comprehensive and targeted support.


One challenge with the plan as described, however, is that most if not all of the supports and technical assistance described appear to be directed exclusively at comprehensive and targeted support schools. It is unclear how the state will outline goals or expectations for continuous improvement in all other schools.


To strengthen its plan, the state could also put in place a formalized feedback process for schools and districts to identify barriers to implementation and improvement so that they can be addressed proactively.


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