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Panhandle schools post mixed results on test

August 29, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Students at more than 70 percent of Eastern Panhandle schools scored higher in math or reading on West Virginia's revamped standardized achievement tests than statewide averages this spring.

But the WESTEST 2 results released last week by the West Virginia Department of Education also show only 19 of 44 schools exceeded state averages of proficiency in both subject areas.

C.W. Shipley Elementary School near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., not only scored higher, but the 221 students tested there in grades three through five notched a pair of the highest proficient percentages statewide, according to the results.

In reading, 86.6 percent of the C.W. Shipley students tested were proficient, a score that ranked 17th in the state. In math, 82.8 percent of the students tested were proficient, a score that ranked 26th in the state.

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"We're extremely proud of them," C.W. Shipley Principal Mark Osbourn said of the scores.

Statewide, about 65 percent of elementary school students tested were proficient in math and reading/language arts.

Besides C.W. Shipley, only Rosemont Elementary School in Martinsburg and Tomahawk Intermediate School near Hedgesville, W.Va., had both math and reading scores that ranked among the top 100 schools in the state.

Osbourn credited everybody working together and the "sense of community" he said surrounds C.W. Shipley for helping its students do well on the tests.

"We have good continuity all the way through," Osbourn said.

The school also has more than 100 volunteers, which includes a number of stay-at-home mothers, Osbourn said.

In his 21 years as principal, Osbourn said last year's class of fifth-graders happened to be a "once-in-a-lifetime group" of outstanding students.

Bracing for the unknown with the revamped test, Osbourn said the staff worked hard to prepare for the writing portion. He noted that kindergartners are reading and writing by the time they move onto first grade.

"Those little guys keep me here," said Osbourn, who recently began his 36th year in education.

C.W. Shipley's math score ranked below Inwood (W.Va.) Primary School, where 84.8 percent of students tested proficient, but only 35 students at the small southern Berkeley County were tested, according to the results.

Burke Street Elementary School in Martinsburg, another small Berkeley County school, ranked 27th statewide in reading with an 84.6 percent proficient score, which was compiled from 18 students tested.

While Berkeley County Schools Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto attributed the achievements to small neighborhood schools and dedicated staff, he said the school district's focus is on individual student outcomes and not so much on the school as a whole.

"It's just one indicator of a student's progress," Aliveto said.

In addition to the numbers of students tested, Aliveto said some schools have more special-education students than others, and their scores also were factored into the schools' level of proficiency.

The other elementary schools in the Eastern Panhandle to score in the top 100 in proficiency levels in math or reading were Pleasant View Elementary School in Morgan County (reading) and Bunker Hill (W.Va.) and Shepherdstown (W.Va.) elementary schools (math).

Shepherdstown and Hedgesville middle schools scored in the top 100 for reading proficiency.

While students in ninth and 10th grades took the test, high school proficiency levels posted on the Department of Education's Web site only were based on scores by 11th graders.

Juniors last year who scored highest among the region's seven high schools were from Hedgesville High School (math) in Berkeley County and Washington High School in Jefferson County (reading). Martinsburg High School edged out Hedgesville in reading among Berkeley County's three high schools.

For more information about the scores, go to http://wveis.k12.wv.us/nclb/public09/nclbmenu.cfm.

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