State Board

November 24, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 22

State Board / State Department of Education News

A long-time educator, leader and advocate of high-quality education has been named by the West Virginia Board of Education as the new director of the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA). Susan O'Brien of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will replace Gus Penix, who is retiring after serving as the director of the OEPA for three years.

O'Brien, a native of West Virginia and former Kanawha County educator, currently serves as the deputy director of educator quality for the New Mexico Public Education System. In New Mexico, she worked with high-level staff and legislators on college and career readiness initiatives. She also has worked as a coordinator of curriculum in New Mexico during which time she implemented programs and strategies within her district that led to national recognition for one of the schools – the 2014 “Gold Medal” from U.S. News & World Report as one of America's Best High Schools.

“A team made up of board members, West Virginia Department of Education staff and other educational stakeholders considered several very strong candidates for the OEPA position,” board President Gayle Manchin said. “After careful consideration, we enthusiastically supported Ms. O'Brien for this position. She brings years of educational leadership, professional development and budgeting expertise to the table.”

The mission of the OEPA is to assist the state board, the West Virginia Legislature and the governor in establishing and maintaining a high-quality system of education performance audits. The office conducts reviews to measure the quality of education and the preparation of students based on standards and measures of student, school, and school system performance and progress.

As the state's leading education auditor, the OEPA looks for warning signs and investigates problems at individual schools and county school systems. The problems can be minor ones that are easily corrected to severe ones that require state intervention. Lawmakers created the OEPA in 1998 to assist the state in providing a thorough and efficient system of public schools.



Robert Dunlevy, a longtime member of the West Virginia Board of Education, has concluded a nine-year term on the board.

“Bob’s service to the students of West Virginia has been tremendous over the years,” board President Gayle Manchin said. “He consistently brought wisdom and a sense of fairness to his decisions as a board member. He will be greatly missed.”

During his time on the state board, Dunlevy has served as board secretary and has been an active member of the West Virginia School Building Authority and the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activity Commission.

Before his state board appointment, Dunlevy had been a member of the Ohio County Board of Education since 1985 and served as its president from 2003 to 2005. His other community involvement includes serving as the board chairman of the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, a member of the Development Council for the West Virginia University Athletic Club and a member of Wheeling Civic Center Board.

Dunlevy was a talented athlete who earned an athletic scholarship to play on WVU's football team in the position of tight end. He was a three-year letterman and, upon graduation, was a high draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys. Following a two-year career at Dallas, he played for the Wheeling Iron Man Continental Football League.



Gail Adams, an English teacher at Wheeling Park High School in Ohio County, is the 2015 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano made the announcement during a ceremony in Charleston that recognized each county teacher of the year. The event also honored earlier announced award winners, including the Paul J. Morris Character Educator of the Year, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Employee of the Year, the 2013-2014 Schools of Excellence and the 2014-2015 Premier Career and Technical Education Sites.

"It is my distinct privilege to honor such a fine group of educators in our state's public school system," Martirano said. "Their dedication to their students and their schools has made them deserving of these awards. I am confident that they are part of the solution as we work together to improve graduation, attendance and dropout rates."

Gail Adams is a 10-year veteran who received a Bachelor of Arts in secondary education from West Liberty University. As an English and Fine Arts teacher, she earned her National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Certification for Adolescence through Young Adulthood in English. She is a member of the Ohio County Schools Staff Development Council and Professional Development Schools Mentor Team for West Liberty University Student Teachers. As the assistant coach of Wheeling Park High School’s Interscholastic Forensic League, she has helped secure seven West Virginia Interscholastic Forensic League state championships. She advocates for parent involvement and believes in educating the whole family. Though many of her students have become doctors, lawyers, and teachers, her greatest joy comes from seeing her students become happy and productive in whatever field they choose.

As West Virginia's 2015 Teacher of the Year, Adams received an educational technology package valued at nearly $15,000, use of a Toyota car for a year and cash awards from Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Horace Mann Insurance.

Other finalists were: Connie Scarbrough from Upshur County; Rosetta Epifano from Marshall County; Kathi McCormick from Kanawha County; and, Brenda Omps from Hampshire County.

The Schools of Excellence are selected based on the following criteria: a rigorous and challenging curriculum; a safe and drug-free learning environment; participatory leadership; active teaching and learning; an environment that strengthens teacher skills; documented student achievement; and, the implementation of advanced and innovated programs. This year's winners are Brandywine Elementary in Pendleton County; George Washington Elementary in Putnam County; and, Maxwell Hill Elementary in Raleigh County.

The Premier Career and Technical Education Sites Award winners that were recognized are Fayette Institute of Technology in Fayette County; Putnam Career and Technical Center in Putnam County; and Spring Valley High School in Wayne County.

The Paul J. Morris Character Educator of the Year Award is named after former West Virginia Board of Education member Paul Morris, who received the first Character Educator of the Year Award in 2003. Morris, who died in 2005, served on the state board for about 25 years. This year's recipient is Debra Meador, an educator from Independence High and Middle Schools in Raleigh County.

The West Virginia Board of Education School Service Personnel Employee of the Year Award honors one person, chosen from aides, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, maintenance workers, office workers and other school service personnel, for his or her contribution to the school and community. This year's winner is Gail Shrewsbury, a kindergarten instructional aide from Spanishburg Elementary School in Mercer County.



The West Virginia Board of Education voted during its November meeting in Mingo County to return Mingo County schools to full local control effective December 1. The state board originally intervened in Mingo County in 1998 and again in 2005.

Following another review by the Office of Education Performance Audits (OPEA), it was found that the county system has improved in all areas.

"I am happy to report that earlier problems have been resolved," Gus Penix, executive director of the OEPA, said. "The system is making progress with facilities, effectively managing financial resources and the local board has demonstrated professionalism, received training and gained necessary knowledge to oversee an efficient school system."

The state board voted unanimously to return control to the county school system subject to certain conditions, including a provisional transition to local control for two years. In addition, the current superintendent is to remain in the position until June 30, 2017, unless the superintendent and the Mingo County Board of Education agree mutually to terminate the contract.

"It is with great pride that the West Virginia Board of Education returns control to Mingo County Schools," Gayle Manchin, state board president, said. "This day was made possible by the tireless work of educators, parents and students as well as the great leadership and commitment by the county superintendent and county board members."

The OEPA conducted a review of the Mingo County School System in March 2013 to assess the system's progress in improving issues which resulted in a re-intervention in 2005. The OEPA cited progress in Mingo County Schools related to curriculum development, instructional programs and the school calendar. However, the OEPA reported that problems still existed in the areas of finance, personnel, facilities, transportation and the local board following policies. The most recent review in 2014 found all issues have been resolved.

"We are focused, determined and moving forward with a vision on the future," Mingo County Supt. Robert Bobbera said. "We will work hard to honor the charge put in front of us. Expect great things, because great things are happening in Mingo County Schools."



The Grant County Board of Education regained full control of its schools following a vote by the West Virginia Board of Education.

"The moment our state board intervenes in any local county a journey begins to provide guidance, professional development and training in an effort to return local control," Gayle Manchin, president of the state board, said. "We commend the Grant County school system for its hard work and dedication to making necessary improvements on behalf of the students."

The decision to return full control to the local level was based on recommendations from the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA). Previously, the state board returned decision-making powers in curriculum, policies, facilities, transportation and the school calendar. Wednesday's vote restores personnel and financial oversight to the local level.

The state board intervened in Grant County in 2009 after an OEPA review uncovered serious county board leadership problems as well as personnel and curriculum issues. The initial audit described the situation as "bleak" with students being deprived of an adequate educational system.

Since the intervention, the county has worked to address many of the issues, including irregular actions by the county board and violations of state code and state school policy.

As part of the return process, the current Grant County superintendent will remain in place until June 2016 and county board members are required to continue to exhibit good boardmanship.

During the next five years, if any of the original issues which led to intervention in Grant County arise, the board has the option of reinstalling takeover status.



Fayette County schools have moved a step closer to regaining local control. The West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously to return partial control to the county related to school policies.

In June 2014, the Office of Education Performance Audits (OPEA) returned to the county to determine the degree of compliance and progress made regarding policy deficiencies.  

“We have been working closely with Fayette County by providing guidance and support as the leadership works to correct past deficiencies,” Gayle Manchin, state board president, said. “We know the system is moving in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.”

The Fayette County school system had been under close scrutiny by the state board since 1999. In 2007, the county was placed on non-approval status, and in 2010, the state board intervened following a recommendation by the OEPA. The OEPA told the board that serious curriculum and facilities problems existed in Fayette County and it would be difficult to correct deficiencies without taking control of the entire school system.

Other progress has been made since 2010 in the areas of finance and personnel practices and functions. However, these areas of the intervention will remain in place.



The West Virginia Board of Education signed a proclamation in support of the Recommendations for Transforming School Leadership in West Virginia. This action came after a 30-day comment period during which the board reviewed nearly 70 suggestions from the public.

"I am encouraged with the number of people who took the time to review the report and offer comments regarding the crucial topic of improving school leadership," state board President Gayle Manchin said. "We received positive feedback to support moving forward with a focus on school leadership."

Imagine West Virginia's Recommendations for Transforming School Leadership paper outlines practices to update the training and roles of school administrators.

"Imagine West Virginia is delighted that the state board of education has endorsed our proposals for transforming school leadership in the state," Jack Bowman, executive director of Imagine West Virginia, said. "West Virginia's teachers and principals are deeply committed to providing quality education to our young people and we believe our recommendations should provide a solid basis for assisting them in their efforts."

Manc8ins said, “We know that a strong leader sets the student success expectations and the attitude of a school community. This white paper and recommendations are important because they provide ideas to reshape educational leadership programs in the state and set the stage for meaningful changes in the way we prepare principals to step into one of the most important roles within a school. The recommendations will guide us away from the traditional mindset by asking leaders to rethink the role of school leaders."

Recommendations for a redesigned principalship include:

  1. RECOMMENDATION 1: Redesign the role of the principal from building manager to instructional leader.

    Learning and student achievement improve in schools where the principal is an instructional leader.
  2. RECOMMENDATION 2: Redesign principal preparation programs in West Virginia's institutions of higher education to align with the role of instructional leader and incorporate a strong clinical foundation.

    Transforming the school leadership will require the WVBE to adopt more stringent program approval criteria based on the new role and program elements of a rigorous clinical preparation program.
  3. RECOMMENDATION 3: Establish WVBE, or an independent authority established by the Board, with the authority to screen and approve applicants to principal preparation programs.

    Transforming school administration should include a well-designed process for selecting and approving applicants. Applicants should be screened by a committee of the WVBE based on selective criteria established by the Board. Successful completion of an approved program, assessment of competencies, and licensure would follow a similar Board approval process.
  4. RECOMMENDATION 4: Redesign the salary schedule for school administrators.

    Salary adjustment for successful completion of an approved principal preparation program should be conferred when the program participant assumes the position, not when he or she receives the credential.
  5. RECOMMENDATION 5: Adopt a career ladder for teachers; one that clearly articulates advance instructional roles and credentials, accompanying clinically-based graduate level training for each advanced credential, and corresponding salary adjustments for various clinical positions.

One attractive possibility is the creation of the position "master teacher" or "teacher leader" where good teachers are trained and assigned the additional role of assisting other teachers. These teacher leaders would be paid extra for performing this role.

The state board’s next step is determining priorities and policy that can leverage the changes in school leadership. The board's High Quality Educator Committee will address action steps going forward.



West Virginia public school students showed across the board improvement on the 2014 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) according to the College Board’s recently released Annual Student Achievement Report. In addition, state students are outperforming their peers from other states on the SAT in reading, writing and math.

The Annual Student Achievement Report showed that 2,164 public school students took the SAT.  The number reflects a seven percent decrease in the number of test takers from the previous year. The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge. It tests students’ knowledge of reading, writing and math.

“Improvement on the SAT is vital as we move forward on our quest to also improve graduation, attendance and dropout rates,” state Supt.  Michael Martirano said. “I am proud of our students and educators and I believe that as our teachers continue to implement the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives, all students will graduate from high school prepared for success in a career or in college.”

In 2014, West Virginia students increased their reading score on the SAT by six points resulting in a score of 515. That score allows state students to boast a better performance than the national reading score of 492. Public school students also scored three points higher this year on the writing portion of the exam with a score of 497. National public school students only scored 478. West Virginia students received a 503 math score compared to last year’s score of 497. The national score on math was only 501. 

More than 42 percent of public school students in West Virginia who took the SAT met the College and Career Readiness Benchmark. Among all U.S. public school test-takers, 39 percent met the benchmark.  The need to improve college and career readiness remains critical. The College Board developed the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark to help colleges and secondary school administrators, educators and policymakers identify students who are likely to be ready to take college-entry, credit-bearing courses in college and do not need remediation. The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year college GPA of B- or higher.

The College Board also released Advanced Placement (AP) scores. According to the report, 6,802 West Virginia public school students took the exam last May. The number of test takers increased by more than seven percent from the previous year. In addition, 11,314 AP exams were taken by public school students reflecting an eight percent increase from the previous year. Of the more than 11 thousand tests taken, the report noted that 4,798 were scored at a three, four or five which is accepted by most colleges for credit and/or advanced placement. That number reflects a more than eight percent improvement on test scores from 2013. However, less than seven percent of juniors and seniors who took the exam earned a score of three, four or five.  Nationally, more than 13 percent of 11th and 12th graders earned a three or higher on an AP exam. This rate remains a point of critical concern as the state continues to work to increase AP participation and performance.

“As an AP partner, our agency looks forward to working with Dr. Martirano to move the Advanced Placement program forward in our state,” Dr. Dixie Billheimer, chief executive officer of the West Virginia Center for Professional Development, said. The agency provides College Board-certified professional development to AP teachers.

Martirano is working with Billheimer and other partners including the West Virginia Board of Education, the Office of Education and the Arts, the Higher Education Policy Commission and the College Board to renew and increase the state’s commitment to a series of goals that strengthen student performance in AP.

The SAT exam is the most popular college entrance exam for private schools and those on the East and West Coasts. Most college-bound students in the South and Midwest, including West Virginia, opt to take the ACT instead of the SAT. Both exams are accepted for consideration for the PROMISE Scholarship, West Virginia’s merit-based scholarship. The College Board oversees the SAT and the AP program.



West Virginia graduates out-performed students across the nation in English and reading according to data released by ACT. The state 2014 ACT average English score was 20.4 while the national score was 20.3. The state ACT average reading score was 21.4 compared to the average national score of 21.3.

Across the state, 11,191 of this year’s high school graduates took the ACT. Of the state’s graduating class, 65 percent took the ACT at least once. West Virginia’s composite score on the college entrance exam remained the same in 2014 at 20.6 while the national composite score increased from 20.9 to 21 over the same period of time. The states 2014 ACT average math score was 19.5 and science score was 20.6.

According to ACT’s yearly report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014, college and career readiness problems persist among U.S. high school graduates, with the majority ill-prepared for success at the next level. In West Virginia, only 19 percent of the test takers met all four of the ACT college readiness benchmarks.

ACT research shows that students who meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are more likely to persist in college and earn a degree than those who don’t. The benchmarks specify the minimum score students must earn on each of the four ACT subject tests to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher and a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area.

Sixty-eight percent of West Virginia students scored at levels indicating they were ready for freshman English courses, compared to 64 percent of students nationwide. In reading, 45 percent of state test-takers were ready for freshman courses, ranking above the national percentage of 44. Thirty-one percent of West Virginia students were college ready in math, compared to 43 percent nationally. In science, 32 percent of West Virginia students were ready, compared to a national average of 37 percent.

ACT data suggest student aspirations are high. The vast majority (95 percent) of 2014 ACT-tested graduates reported that they intend to pursue postsecondary education. The report, however, cautions that having college aspirations isn’t enough. A similar percentage (95 percent) of 2013 tested graduates aspired to higher education, but only 73 percent actually enrolled in a postsecondary institution in fall 2013.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test made up of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science, plus an optional writing test. The test is administered in all 50 states and is the predominant college entrance exam in 25 states, including West Virginia. ACT also assesses a student’s ability to succeed in college.



The West Virginia Board of Education has learned how Hancock County Schools is developing new ways of reaching and teaching students through technology. County teachers are currently developing classes for the Hancock County Cyber Academy.

The Hancock County Cyber Academy can be used by students for credit recovery, alternative learning, summer school and to remedy class scheduling conflicts.

"Too often our county was losing student population to border states like Pennsylvania because its state school system offered cyber classes," Suzan Smith, Hancock County schools superintendent, said. "Now, thanks to a Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation grant, we are able to compete and offer classes online."

"The state board is dedicated to finding ways students can learn anytime from anywhere," state board president Gayle Manchin  said. "The Hancock County Cyber Academy is another example of how the educational community is reimagining instructional time for the benefit of students."

The county system received a 120-thousand dollar Benedum grant for the first year of the three-year program. It is expected that the foundation will fund the two remaining years as well.

Eleven Hancock County teachers have started developing classes for required courses and will begin developing elective courses next year.



A representative from the Japanese Ministry of Education traveled across the state to learn more about West Virginia's school performance monitoring system. The state monitors schools through the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA).

Shota Teruya, an assistant professor from Aichi Toho University in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan, arrived in West Virginia this month to conduct research on processes for monitoring school performance. Teruya identified West Virginia as one of a few systems worldwide that accredits schools related to identified, research-based high quality standards.

"It was a great honor to host Mr. Teruya as he explored best practices across West Virginia," Gus Penix, executive director of the OEPA, said. "We have a robust school performance monitoring system that focuses on student achievement. We relish the opportunity to share information and exchange ideas."

Professor Teruya met with the West Virginia Board of Education, West Virginia Department of Education and OEPA. In addition, he visited schools in Monongalia and Taylor counties. Key areas of interest included:

Policy - Urgency for improving school performance in all West Virginia schools through policy development and implementation that focuses on continuous improvement of all schools.

Supports and Guidance - Processes for identifying lowest performing schools in West Virginia and providing diagnostic analysis of school data to inform the improvement process in those schools.

Monitoring and Accrediting - Processes for monitoring and rating all schools in West Virginia relative to the state board’s High Quality Standards, identified resource needs, best practices and compliance with state board policies and West Virginia State Code.



NOTICE: Comments, as submitted, shall be filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office and open for public inspection and copying for a period of not less than five years.

POLICY 4110 - Attendance (URL)
Pending Board Action

POLICY 1471 - Education in West Virginia's Correctional Institutions: Mission and Goals (URL)
Pending Board Action

POLICY 2520.3C - Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives for Science in West Virginia Schools (URL)
Pending Board Action

POLICY 3233 - Establishment and Operation of Regional Education Service Agencies (URL)
Pending Board Action