WHEELING - Standardized tests help teachers and administrators prepare students for academic achievement and success in society by evaluating student and school performance.
In West Virginia, students in third through 11th grade take the WESTEST 2 to determine whether they are making the grade in reading/language arts and mathematics.
Ohio administers the Ohio Achievement Assessment to measure what students in third through eighth grades know and can do in the areas of mathematics, reading, science, social studies and writing. The similar Ohio Graduation Tests require high school students to demonstrate proficiency in those same fields prior to graduation.
Students at Triadelphia Middle School concentrate while taking a test. Standardized tests are used in West Virginia and Ohio to evaluate students and their schools, but some educators believe additional types of assessment are needed.
"Standardized testing allows us to focus our curriculum on the skills identified by the state," Ohio County Schools Superintendent George Krelis said. "It allows us to look at them, find a strategy, and evaluate how successful we are.
"The debate on standardized testing will continue, but this is the way our schools are evaluated right now. For that reason, we do everything we can to meet the standards the West Virginia Department of Education establishes."
Do standardized tests such as the WESTEST 2 or the Ohio achievement test provide an accurate measure of a student's achievement?
Yes, but some school administrators believe they are just one way student performance must be measured. A student's overall performance also should be taken into account. Also, standardized tests don't do a good job of analyzing student's critical thinking skills and, with the importance placed on these tests through the federal No Child Left Behind initiative, it can often lead to teachers teaching to the test.
According to the West Virginia Department of Education, WESTEST 2 is "a custom-designed assessment for West Virginia students."
The individual content assessments measure a student's levels of performance on clearly defined standards and objectives and skills. Student scores are based on test questions that have been developed and aligned to the West Virginia 21st Century content standards and objectives.
Following the testing, schools that are effective are listed as achieving "Adequate Yearly Progress," or "AYP." Krelis noted that each of the 14 Ohio County Public Schools achieved "AYP." He said it is a source of pride in the school system.
"We work hard in defining the direction of instruction and helping the teachers to be prepared to prepare the students," Krelis said. "These teachers and principals work tirelessly to prepare these children for this challenge. That's why they succeed. That is why we are always among the educational leaders in West Virginia."
The Ohio Achievement Assessment is used to measure what Buckeye State students in third through eighth grades know and can do in the areas of mathematics, reading, science, social studies and writing. The similar Ohio Graduation Tests require high school students to demonstrate proficiency in those same fields prior to graduation.
The "debate" Krelis referred to includes questions about whether such high-stakes tests cause pupils to become nervous and apprehensive, which may affect their performance. Also at issue is whether additional methods of evaluation should be used to paint a more complete picture of a student's performance and ability.
Kirk Glasgow, superintendent of the Union Local School District, has said there is a move toward using a wider variety of assessment tools in Ohio. He noted officials want to use "more formative assessments" rather than "just teaching to the test."