The Fayette County school system has made solid strides in academic achievement, according to information released at last week’s board of education meeting.

Those in attendance at the meeting were briefed on the county’s progress based on WESTEST and attendance or graduation rates.

All but one of the county’s schools — Collins Middle — achieved adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the past school year, for a 95 percent rating. In 2002-03, that number was 11 schools, or 57.69 percent. Last year, three schools, or 88 percent, did not meet AYP.

Superintendent Chris Perkins says county administrators, teachers and directors need to be recognized for “this significant improvement.”

“It shows their efforts,” he added, and a “very sustained focus on what areas need to be addressed (in the form of utilizing proven strategies and techniques).”

The improvement “has to be in the strategies, what’s working institutionally,” added Margaret Pennington, director of elementary schools and assessment. Pennington, who said the improvement started under the direction of former central office directors Nancy Keffer and Brenda Allen, stressed, “And staff development is what provides that. Institutional changes only come through staff development. That training has to be ongoing.”

Pennington said continued focus needs to be placed in areas such as writing, which will involve the utilization of a state program “Writing Road Map.” Also, attention still must be paid to improvement in areas involving special needs students.

Officials have pointed out in the past that it is harder for larger schools such as Collins to meet AYP due to its higher enrollment, meaning the school participates in more of the tested subgroups.

About 85 percent of West Virginia schools received a passing mark on the No Child Left Behind report card this year, according to state officials. According to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE), 607 of the 709 school accountable under NCLB met AYP.

Other upward trends in the state’s NCLB data includes an increase in the number of low socio-economic students who met AYP. The percentage of students meeting AYP in the low socio-economic subgroup increased from 93 percent in 2005 to 96 percent in 2006. The percentage of schools accountable for students with disabilities meeting AYP remained the same at 41 percent in 2006.

West Virginia Achieves, the state’s NCLB accountability plan, focuses on closing the achievement gap between student subgroups. All West Virginia students are required to take the West Virginia Educational Standards Test, also called WESTEST, an assessment that measures student achievement of the West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives (CSOs).

“It is a great accomplishment to meet the federal standards of NCLB and I am proud of our school administrators, teachers and students,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Meanwhile, the WVDE will work closely with the schools that missed the mark.”

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Also at the meeting:

-- Larry Coleman, former county schools superintendent, was approved as associate superintendent for the 2006-07 school year. The position was left vacant when Perkins was elevated to the superintendent post over the summer. Perkins says Coleman’s experience will be a plus.

“Knowing the operation of the school system, he can step in and fill the void,” Perkins said. “(As a former teacher, administrator and superintendent) he has a wide and vast knowledge and background of the school system.”

Coleman, who served as superintendent for 4 1?2 years ending in 2001, begins his associate duties today. Among his tasks, Perkins says, will be to help the county’s central office directors prepare a five-year plan, as well as ready the system for pending on-site school audits.

-- Board president Peggy Farmer said the meeting was probably the smoothest one the new board has had since taking over in July.

Two audience requests were geared toward renewal of a request for pay raises for service personnel and teachers. Farmer said the request will “be brought before the board in the very near future.”

The board also approved a request for $5,000 to help Oak Hill High School pay for carpet in its auditorium, and it passed Policies B-7 and B-8, related to the Fayette County Professional Staff Development Council and use of federal funds for tuition assistance, respectively.

The group voted down a proposal that would have created a lead bus driver position in each of the county’s bus centers.

The board will stage a work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 to finalize board and superintendent goals. A regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18 at the central office.

— E-mail: skeenan@fayettetribune.com

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