(09/14/2019)
West Virginia’s schools have a major problem with absenteeism.

More than 38 percent of schools in West Virginia did not meet a standard for student attendance, according to the annual Balanced Scorecard that was released Thursday.

That means the schools had at least 20 percent of their student population with chronic absences.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Kelli Whytsell said the absentee rate of Calhoun Schools will be released Monday to the Calhoun Board of Education, followed by public release of the latest Smarter Balanced results.

That, in turn, was calculated as students missing at least 10 percent of the time they were enrolled. Because the standard for the school year in West Virginia is 180 days, state education officials sometimes shortened their description to talk about students who missed 18 or more days of school.

Any way you describe the problem, said state schools Superintendent Steve Paine, West Virginia schools are missing the mark.

“We have more schools this year than last year, who have students who missed 18 or more days of school. That’s unfathomable. It’s not acceptable, and I’m really upset about it,” Paine said.

The percentage of schools considered to have chronically absent students in 2017-18 was 30.5 percent.

The absence rate also concerned state school board members and education officials who discussed the numbers as they were unveiled at a meeting.

The absence numbers get worse as students get older.

At the elementary level, 16 percent of students are reported as chronically absent.

At middle school, it’s 20 percent.

By high school, 24 percent

. “We have not held local school boards accountable for results,” Paine said. “If they want more flexibility, they need to step up and accept responsibility,” said state super Steve Paine.

Regular attendance could improve student performance in many other areas, Paine said.

This is the second year for Balanced Scorecard, which replaced a short-lived A through F school assessment system.

“I think there was a bit of a misnomer that Balanced Scorecard was going to be a lot easier,” Paine said.

State officials underscored that there was some improvement year over year.

For example, 32 West Virginia school districts improved their English/language arts performance.

And 34 West Virginia school districts improved their math performance.

But the bottom line was still not good.

If you count the number of schools that don’t meet the standard and then divide by the total number of schools, you find that 86 percent of West Virginia high schools don’t meet the standard for math. Sixteen percent partially meet the standard. And no high school in West Virginia fully meets or exceeds the math standard.

It’s somewhat better for English and language arts.

For that category, 14 percent of high schools do not meet the standard, 78 percent of high schools partially meet the standard and 9 percent meet the standard. No high school in West Virginia exceeds the standard for English/language arts.

“I would hope it would be understood that we’ve set some pretty rigorous standards with this accountability system,” Paine said.


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