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School tests scores concern officials

December 05, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Schools officials have implemented a plan to help improve achievement test scores at Charles Town Middle School after more than 15 percent of the school's students performed below state standards on the test two years in a row, the superintendent said.

The State Department of Education requires a school to have no more than 15 percent of its students testing in the lower quartile of the Stanford 9 achievement test, Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said.

In the 1999-2000 school year, 17 percent of Charles Town Middle School's students tested in the lower quartile, Nichols said.

Last year, 16 percent of the students were testing in the lower quartile, Nichols said.

"So they were getting better each year," Nichols said.

After more than 15 percent of the students tested in the lower quartile for two years straight, the state Department of Education gave the school a "conditional accreditation," Nichols said.

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As part of the conditional accreditation, the school had to come up with a plan to bring up its test scores, Nichols said.

Charles Town Middle School's plan involves increasing remedial instruction in math and reading, said Nichols, who added he feels the school is on the right track.

Nichols said he is not greatly concerned about the situation for a couple of reasons.

First, dips in scores on the Stanford 9 achievement test happen from time to time, Nichols said.

Second, the achievement test only reflects a "snapshot" of time in a student's education, Nichols said.

Board of Education President Lori Stilley agreed, saying it is hard to tell what might have happened in a student's life the day the test was administered.

Stilley also said Stanford 9 test is not considered to be a good exam.

Several other schools in the county have had to come up with such plans after showing deficiencies in different areas, said Larry Mullin, principal at Charles Town Middle School.

"It's not a unique thing. It happens," Mullin said.

Nichols said Charles Town Middle has one of the largest school populations in the county.

"It's very overcrowded and we're trying to address that," Nichols said.

The former junior high school on High Street has a capacity for 742 students but had 852 students as of Nov. 25, Nichols said.

In the short term, Nichols said, school officials are trying some creative methods at the school to free up space. Portable classrooms are also being considered, school officials said.

In the long term, school officials are counting on a new high school to free up space in schools like Charles Town Middle, Nichols said.

If the district is successful in building a second high school, that will allow school officials to turn the newly opened ninth-grade center into a fourth middle school.

Having a fourth middle school will free up more space in Charles Town Middle School, Nichols said.

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