CHARLESTON - The percentage of West Virginia public school students scoring at least "proficient" in reading and math only marginally increased last school year from the year before, while science proficiency dropped, according to data released by the state Department of Education on Thursday.
For the 2018-19 school year, about 46% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 39% did so in math and 33% in science.
The prior school year, 2017-18, 45% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 38% did so in math and 37% in science.
Andy Whisman, the department's director of data analysis and research, said educators and assessment experts compared test questions to the state's academic standards to determine what constitutes proficiency. He said the state ultimately decides what scores count as proficient based on that.
The state Board of Education and state Legislature have changed West Virginia's tested grade levels and subjects, and the actual tests used, several times over the past five years, limiting comparability over that time.
But last school year and the previous one, the state kept things the same: American Institutes for Research tests for reading and math in grades three through eight and in science just in grades five and eight, and the SAT college entrance exam in the subjects of reading, math and science for high school juniors.
The SAT has an evidence-based reading and writing section and a math section. Students can score between 200 and 800 on each.
A 470 on the evidence-based reading and writing section is the minimum to be considered proficient in West Virginia, while 520 is the proficiency cutoff score in math.
To earn the state's Promise Scholarship, a student, alongside meeting other requirements, must score at least 520 in math and 530 on evidence-based reading and writing and an 1,100 combined, so a student must go above the minimum in either math or evidence-based reading and writing.
To get into West Virginia University's Morgantown campus, in-state high school students must get at least a 990 on both sections combined.
If students can afford to take the SAT more times than the free test they're given as juniors, they can combine their best scores on different sections across multiple times taking the test to meet the WVU minimum. For Promise eligibility, you can try the SAT multiple times if you can afford it, but can only submit scores from one sitting.
The SAT science score, according to College Board's website, is a "cross-test score" that's "based on questions in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests that ask students to think analytically about texts and problems" in the science subject area.
Students can score from 10 to 40 on the science cross-test, with 27 being considered proficient in West Virginia.
West Virginia doesn't require students pass standardized tests - like the SAT - to advance grade levels or graduate.
In Cabell County, 48% of students scored at least proficient in reading, 39% in math and 34% in science. That's a mixed result compared to the 2017-18 year, when 48% were proficient in reading, 38% in math and 38% in science.
In Wayne County, 49% of students were proficient in reading, 40% in math and 30% in science. While reading proficiency rose from 48% last year, math (41% in 2017-18) and science scores (32% in 2017-18) fell against the year prior.
In Kanawha County last school year, 48% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 43% did so in math and 35% in science. The prior school year in Kanawha, 47% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 42% did so in math and 39% in science.
In Putnam County last school year, 56% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 53% did so in math and 40% in science. The prior school year in Putnam, 56% of students scored at least proficient in reading, while 54% did so in math and 48% in science.
To see the test scores by subject and grade level, and on the state, county and school levels, visit https://zoomwv.k12.wv.us/Dashboard and click on the "state assessment results" tab or circle.
To see the "Balanced Scorecards," visit mywvschool.org, where you can get more specifics for counties and schools by choosing a county (they're called districts) and clicking "download data set" under the bar that labels what the colors mean.
The scorecards show the department's scoring of schools based on these test scores and other factors, including attendance, the percentage of students without out-of-school suspensions, and graduation rates.