Ohio, W.Va. schools receive ‘B-’ grade

MARTINS?FERRY?- West Virginia’s public schools are ranked ninth in the nation and Ohio’s schools are ranked 12th in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts 2013 report.

West Virginia received an overall B-minus with a score of 80.8 percent in the magazine’s “Quality Counts 2013” report released Thursday. The national grade was a C-plus, or 76.9 percent. Ohio’s overall grade was a B-minus. Its 79.6 percent score was up slightly from last year’s 79.5 percent, but Ohio fell among other states for the third straight year. It was 11th in 2012 and 10th in 2011.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education said the state continues to perform well and remains above the national average. The report examines a number of factors, including elementary reading scores, high school graduation rates, college completion rates and per-student education spending.

Though West Virginia’s overall ranking appears fairly high compared to the rest of the nation, the report gave the state an ”F” for student achievement. West Virginia State Schools Superintendent Jim Phares said student achievement is the state’s top priority and the failing grade is disturbing.

“The latest Quality Counts report reinforces the need to focus our efforts on helping county school systems increase student achievement levels by providing resources and reallocating some (West Virginia Department of Education) staff to the local and regional levels,” Phares said.

Susan Jones, director of Marshall County Schools’ Pupil Services, said Friday school officials had not yet reviewed the report and would comment after doing so.

Dianna Vargo, Ohio County Schools superintendent, said the report gives her district the opportunity to focus on its improvement strategies. She believes it is a fair report because each state is compared using the same criteria. She noted overall student achievement on the WESTEST 2 in Ohio County exceeds the state average.

“Ohio County Schools’ highly qualified teacher rates exceed the state average,” she added.

Vargo hopes for continued support statewide for technology and enhanced instruction.

Dirk Fitch, superintendent of Martins Ferry City Schools, said it is important to review such reports but noted what counts is how the data is used afterward.

”We don’t want to rest on our laurels – we always want to improve,” Fitch said.

He said the report gave Ohio’s teachers a C, but he anticipates that grade will improve because of a new evaluation system in the state. But for Ohio school districts, the most important annual report comes from the Ohio Department of Education, Fitch said. Last school year’s district report card rated Martins Ferry ”Excellent.” The latest report should be released soon and preliminary reports, he added, show Martins Ferry again will do well.

Quality Counts graded the states and the District of Columbia in six areas of policy and performance: chance for success, transition and alignment, school finance, the teaching profession, and standards, assessment and accountability.

West Virginia ranked second in the nation in school finance, receiving an A-minus, up from a C-plus and a 14th ranking in last year’s report. The national average was a C. The report attributed West Virginia’s improvement primarily to an increase in per-pupil spending to $1,074. West Virginia received an A in standards, assessment and accountability, and a B-plus in transitions and alignment, which includes early childhood education, college readiness and career readiness. The report gave the state a C-minus in an index that measures a student’s chance for success. The index looks at 13 indicators, such as high school graduation, family income and preschool and kindergarten enrollment. The national average was a C-plus.

Maryland was ranked first by the report, receiving an overall B-plus with a score of 87.5 percent. South Dakota, which received a D-plus and a score of 69.3 percent, was ranked last.