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Capito honors fifth-graders for excellence

June 02, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Passionate about honoring as many students for academic achievement as possible, Orchard View Intermediate School Principal Joyce Chapman admits she might need to tweak the school's academic excellence award requirements with the arrival of the state's new test this year.

"The scores are probably not going to be as good," Chapman said.

On Tuesday, Chapman, joined by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., honored 51 of about 275 fifth-graders at the Martinsburg school for earning the President's "gold seal" Awards for Educational Excellence.

The students had to reach "distinguished" or "above mastery" levels in reading/language arts and math on the 2008 version of the West Virginia Educational Standards Test (WESTEST), maintain an A grade-point average and receive a teacher recommendation.

"It's changed dramatically," Chapman said of the new WESTEST, which students took about two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, the school honored another 54 students with silver seal certificates who didn't score as high on WESTEST, but who put forth outstanding effort and commitment to learning, according to teachers who recommended they be recognized.

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All of the students received a handshake from Capito, a certificate and a letter signed by President Obama that recognized them as a President's Award winner, and a pin bearing the presidential seal.

One student, who was clearly excited about meeting Capito, told Chapman he didn't want to wash his hand.

"I shook her hand, I shook her hand," the boy told Chapman as he bounced up and down in the cafeteria afterward.

Capito, who obliged several requests for pictures with the students and their families, congratulated the students before reading a congratulatory letter from Obama.

"For all of you in the fifth grade, I wish you good luck," Capito said. "I know you've got three days of school left, but who's counting, right?"

Small hands shot up and a chorus of "me" responded to what seemed to be a question from Capito, prompting her to conclude, "Yeah, I figure you're all counting."

After the ceremony, Capito said her second visit to Orchard View brought back memories of her own children being in elementary school.

"I think it's great to congratulate success and I think it's good to encourage, and these kids are getting ready to go to middle school and that's a big step for them," Capito said.

With new problem-solving challenges incorporated in the new WESTEST, Chapman said after the ceremony that she might tweak the president's "gold seal" awards so students who might only score high in one of the subject areas can be recognized.

"My goal is to recognize as many students for their efforts as possible," Chapman said.

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