September 30, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 22


By Phil Kabler

This time of year, football fans like to check the polls to see where their favorite teams are ranked. Thanks to a concerned educator, I was to put together a different kind of rankings, based on academic, not athletic, performance.

Each year about this time, the state Department of Education updates data for federal No Child Left Behind requirements, including the WESTEST 2 scores from the prior school year.

In addition to putting some of that data on a public website, the department has a private, password-protected site, intended for county school superintendents and top administrators. That site makes it easier to compare educational performance, county-by-county, and school-by-school.

Thanks to that educator, I was provided a glimpse at the private site, and was able to generate some top 10 and top 20 lists of a different kind.

Top ten best school systems in the state (based on overall proficiency scores for all grade levels for the WESTEST):

1.Putnam, 2. Monongalia, 3. Ohio, 4. Pendleton, 5. Marion, 6. Tyler, 7. Hancock, 8. Brooke, 9. Mineral, 10. Jefferson. Kanawha County was 13th, by the way.

(No real surprises there. You would expect Putnam, with its affluent suburbs, and Monongalia, home of the state university, to have high-achieving students.)

The 10 worst school systems:

1. Calhoun, 2. Fayette, 3. Barbour, 4. Roane, 5. Mingo, 6. McDowell, 7. Logan, 8. Lincoln, 9. Pleasants, 10. Hampshire.

(As the educator noted, these tend to be poorer, more rural counties, predominately in southern West Virginia. It's not surprising that several of the bottom 10 counties have been subject to takeovers by the state board.)

Since we like to rank high schools, here's a top 20 list, based on percentage of students who scored proficient for reading and language arts on WESTEST:

1. Bridgeport (76.46 percent), 2. George Washington, 3. Nitro, 4. Liberty, 5. Fairmont Senior, 6. Hurricane, 7. Morgantown, 8. Cabell Midland, 9. Westside (Wyoming County), 10. Winfield, 11. Shady Spring, 12. Parkersburg South, 13. Tyler Consolidated, 14. University, 15. Poca,16. Ripley, 17. East Fairmont, 18. Jefferson, 19. Ravenswood, 20. Elkins (51.67 percent).

The bottom 20, with the lowest percentages of students meeting standards for proficiency:

1 Mount View (22.15 percent), 2. Mount Hope (now closed), 3. Calhoun County, 4. Lewis County, 5. Burch, 6. Midland Trail, 7. Lincoln County, 8. River View (McDowell County), 9. Hampshire Senior, 10. Tug Valley, 11. Preston, 12. Philip Barbour, 13. Robert C. Byrd, 14. Logan Senior, 15. Riverside, 16. Webster County, 17. John Marshall, 18. Tygart Valley, 19. Sissonville, 20. Bluefield (37.77 percent).

The most disturbing fact in the whole report is that more than 66 percent of all high schools in the state are below standard for NCLB.

Unfortunately, the mindset of too many West Virginians is that they'd rather have their high school ranked in the top 20 for sports than for academics.

Phil Kabler is a reporter for the Charleston Gazette. Used by permission of the Charleston Gazette.